World War II hero, long time City of Falls Church resident and community activist, including as president of the Friends of the W&OD Trail, Roger Neighborgall died Tuesday on his 93rd birthday after a short illness.
Neighborgall was hospitalized following a bad fall in late July and had moved from the hospital to a residential rehab facility where three and a half weeks ago he developed severe stomach pains and was diagnosed with age related systemic dysfunction exacerbated by the inactivity associated with the slow process of his physical therapy and recovery from the injury, according to his daughter Christa Hyland writing on a Caring Bridge website, and was subsequently under hospice care.
Neighborgall was always an active participant in Falls Church Veterans Day and Memorial Day services and was the Grand Marshal of the Memorial Day Parade in 2006. He ran unsuccessfully for a Falls Church City Council seat in the 1990s.
He was a member of the U.S. Army Rangers 5th Ranger Battalion that crossed the English Channel on D-Day and tasked with scaling a 100-foot cliff near the Pointe Du Hoc promontory so that they could get to the Germans’ big guns. He later fought in the Battle of the Bulge, where he met Gen. George Patton, and won a Silver Star for his heroism.
He was born on September 13, 1923 in Garrett, Indiana. He was a freshman at Duke University when Pearl Harbor was bombed and the enrolled in the 69th Division of 5th Ranger Battalion that same year at age 18.
In a statement submitted to the News-Press Wednesday on Neighborgall’s passing, Falls Church City Council member David Snyder said, “With Roger’s passing, the world and the nation have lost a genuine hero, who with his comrades, risked all and changed history for the good. We in Falls Church have lost one of our greatest, most esteemed and most selfless citizens who served our community in so many ways.”
Neighborgall continued to play tennis into his 90s, and was president of the Northern Virginia Tennis League. He told Adam Bernstein of the Washington Post in a 2005 interview that, having spent his entire career in marketing, “the thought of retirement baffles him.”
After the war, he gained a college degree and was employed by the American Car and Foundry for 10 years where he ended up in technical marketing as a vice president of the company, followed by employment with a firm for which he traveled around the U.S. before he located to Northern Virginia in the 1960s.
He was continuing in the last decade as vice president of Noesis, an engineering firm and defense contractor in Arlington and was president of the Ranger Battalions Association of World War II with a membership of surviving Ranger veterans of about 300.
Up to this year, as president of the Friends of the W&OD Trail, he made frequent appearances before the Falls Church City Council to announce events and fundraisers and to MC at W&OD events.
According to the Bernstein article, after decades of rarely discussing his wartime experiences, it was Neighborgall’s wife Linda, also an outspoken community activist in Falls Church who also ran unsuccessfully for public office, who convinced him to attend ceremonies honoring the 60th anniversary of D-Day held in France in 2004. His hero’s welcome there prompted him to tell his war stories to students and civic associations. He also shared his stories with the History Channel.