Boise lost one of its best and brightest last week with the passing of Phil Neville. After a courageous struggle against a particularly insidious form of cancer, Phil's body finally gave out, but his spirit will always be with us. He was a man of many talents, though never one to blow his own horn. I first met Phil and his wife Kathleen through their restaurant, Neville and Neville. As a chef, Phil had a particular flair for tuna, simply prepared and always perfect. People still talk about his Jamaican Jerk Chicken. More recently, he was involved in the wine business, putting together a remarkable list at Bardenay—one that should serve as the model for all restaurants.
Phil was the glue that held our wine panel together, the one constant, but more than that, he was our hero. Not one to talk about his problems, it was difficult to find out exactly how he was doing. He never seemed to let the cancer, or the intense treatments, get him down. If he had a chemo session at 2 p.m., he'd still make the tasting at 4 p.m. And through it all he continued to play and coach hockey. In a world where most role models leave a lot to be desired, you couldn't wish for one better than Phil Neville.
Phil wasn't much for small talk, but when he had something to say, you were wise to listen. And when he asked you how you were doing, he wasn't looking for some pat answer, he really wanted to know. He always seemed to have a smile on his face, and his quick wit and delicious sense of humor always left one on yours, as well. At his restaurant, copies of Punch sat next to copies of sports magazines.
Phil lived life his way, and what an extraordinary way it was. His lifestyle never made him rich in money, but he had a wealth of friends, more than any other man I know. And there were a multitude of reasons why so many people liked him. He was a true gentleman, the real deal, a man who lived life to the fullest. You are invited to pay tribute to Phil this Sunday, May 16 starting at 3 p.m. at Bardenay ( 610 Grove Street) when we'll all drink a glass of wine to his memory.