Patricia Neal, Hero on the Homefront

Tony- and Oscar-winning actress Patricia Neal, who died Aug. 8 at age 84, left a legacy with films from Hud to The Homecoming. The molasses-voiced woman who triumphed over health troubles and personal tragedy also had strong ties to Knoxville:

• Neal was born in the coal mining town of Packard, Ky., but moved to Knoxville at age 3 when her father became transportation manager for South Coal & Coke Co.

• She graduated from Knoxville High School in 1943, then attended Northwestern for two years before striking out for quick success on Broadway

• While married to kids’ book mastermind Roald Dahl, Neal suffered three strokes in 1965 during her pregnancy with their fifth child

• Her subsequent rehabilitation inspired Fort Sanders Regional Medical Center to dedicate the Patricia Neal Rehabilitation Center on Clinch Avenue in her honor in 1978. It has 73 beds, and serves nearly 1,000 stroke, spinal cord, and brain-injury inpatients annually.

• The PNRC’s Patricia Neal Innovative Recreation Cooperative was created in 1994, and has the state’s first adaptive water-skiing, parasailing, golf, and marksmanship programs to its credit.

• On May 6, 2005, precisely 40 years to the day she suffered her strokes, Neal entered PNRC for two weeks to recover from numerous surgeries and related complications

• The Patricia Neal Golf Classic, a Tennessee PGA sanctioned pro/am event, has raised more than $3 million for PNRC in 25 years. This year’s is Monday, August 16, at Holston Hills Country Club.

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