Red Level mourns boys

Published 12:28 am Saturday, May 14, 2011

Red Level High School football players wait on the field for the arrival of their fallen teammate, Levi Neal, at his funeral yesterday. His number, 58, was painted at midfield. Neal and his best friend, Evan Carpenter, died in a wreck last weekend.

Even the heavens wept Friday as the two Red Level teens killed in last weekend’s tragic traffic accident near Baker, Fla., were laid to rest.

Michael Levi Neal, the 15-year-old son of Michael and Donna Neal, and his best friend, Evan Carpenter, the 14-year-old son of Dena and Steve Padgett and Anthony and Sarah Carpenter, both died from injuries sustained in the wreck.

Neal’s service was held at 1 p.m. at the Red Level High School stadium, where Neal’s number, 68, had been painted at midfield.

“This is a time for unity, a time to draw strength from each other,” said the Rev. Richard Moss said. “It’s times like this that we ask you Lord to give us peace as we celebrate the life of Michael Levi Neal.”

Moss said the boy was devoted first to his parents, then to the University of Alabama. He shared an email sent by UA coach Nick Saban with the crowd.

“This is a sad time for all of us,” Saban’s email read. “We’ve lost a friend and an avid Crimson Tide fan.”

Moss explained how Saban compared the Neals’ loss with that of the Crimson Tide’s following news of the sudden passing of Tide player Aaron Douglas on Thursday.

“We’ve both received some sad news,” the email read. “Lives left too early. It’s painful for all of us – a tragic loss. The Crimson Tide conveys its deepest sympathies on your loss. Like Aaron Douglas, Levi Neal may be gone, but he will not be forgotten.”

As Moss finished the letter, sobs could be heard throughout the stadium.

He went on to describe Neal as a “star son, a star athlete and a star spiritually.”

“If there is one thing we all take away from this day, it’s this – this young man is in a better place.”

As the service concluded, the majority of the participants hurried through the rain to attend Carpenter’s 3 p.m. service at Foreman Funeral Home in Andalusia. Anthony Carpenter delivered the eulogy for his son to a standing-room-only crowd.

Carpenter said he remembers his son’s handsome smile and cute laugh.

“Evan loved the outdoors – fishing canoeing, hunting,” Anthony Carpenter said. “His favorite color was blue. Except when he was hunting, it was camo.”

Carpenter said he hoped people saw the boy’s passing as a “wakeup call.”

“Let’s not let Evan’s nor Levi’s passing be for no reason,” he said. “It’s a wakeup call – It’s God’s way of calling for our attention.

“I’m so honored to be the daddy of such an outstanding young man,” he said.

Pastor Robert Canant said that though the deaths of Evan and Levi are tragic, God is in control, and He controls all.

“Evan chose the path to follow God,” Canant said. “God had a place for him. I would rather know my son was in heaven than know he turned away and wound up in hell. It was great to have a friend you could die with.”