Mark Neely, who ran the Mt. Moriah Neely’s for about 20 years, died Sunday night at his home. He was 55.
Neely loved three things: His children, music and his dogs.
“He always had those big dogs — shepherds, rotties,” said his brother, Tony Neely. “I’d ask him, ‘Man, don’t you get tired of them?’ But he’d say no, he loved them. Because of that, we, his brothers, all called him ‘Big Dog.'”
“He had heart problems and we assume that was what caused it,” Tony Neely said.
n 1988, four of five Neely brothers, nephews of Memphis barbecue legend Jim Neely of Neely’s Interstate Bar-B-Q, opened Neely’s Bar-B-Que on Madison. Two years later, they moved to the spot on Jefferson where Sunrise is now, and in 1992 opened the Mt. Moriah location with Mark and Tony Neely at the helm. Brothers Pat and Gaelen stayed at Jefferson and the youngest brother, Chris, was not in the barbecue business.
“I worked side-by-side with him every day for 12 years, until I left to open my place in Nashville,” Tony Neely said.
The Neely brothers grew up around Whitehaven and Westwood, went to Melrose High School and worked off and on for their uncle learning the family business. They pooled as much money as they could get together to start their own place. The business closed in 2012, but not until the family became established nationally with the Food Network show “Down Home with the Neelys” starring Pat and Gina Neely, with frequent appearances by the brothers.
Tony Neely said that while Mr. Neely was his younger brother, he taught him valuable lessons.
“Way back before people were ever talking about work-life balance, Mark knew about it,” he said. “He always wanted to run his business, but not at the expense of not being around his kids. He made it a point to find the right spot.”
Besides his brothers, Tony Neely and Pat Neely of Atlanta and Gaelen Neely and Chris Neely of Memphis, Mr. Neely is survived by three children, Lauren Neely, Leah Neely and David Neely, all of Memphis. Funeral arrangements are pending.
Courtesy of The Commerical Appeal