Union Pines agriculture teacher Zachary McNeill will be remembered for channeling his passion for the outdoors into everything he did.
Just days after completing his second year at Union Pines, McNeill died on Saturday in an automobile accident in Chatham County. He was 25.
McNeill, a graduate of N.C. State University, was also the advisor for the school’s Future Farmers of America chapter. Union Pines was his first teaching assignment.
“He was a young, energetic educator who loved his students and had a passion for helping them understand and develop a love for horticulture,” said Union Pines Principal Andy McCormick.
The Moore County Board of Education acknowledged McNeill, his family, and friends in a moment of silence during its meeting on Monday. Board member Stacey Caldwell remembered McNeil for the unbridled joy he brought to his vocation.
“It was truly sad to hear about the passing of a wonderful teacher at Union Pines High School,” she said. “Even though Zach only taught in Moore County for two years, I know he has made lasting impressions on his students and his colleagues.”
An avid outdoorsman who approached the subject of horticulture with unfeigned enthusiasm, McNeill was noted by his colleagues for relating just as well with students.
“Working very close with him, I saw his passion for teaching and his love for his students,” said Melanie Lee, Union Pines’ career development counselor. “I made weekly trips to the greenhouse to see the wonderful things they were doing for our school. He was a great educator and I will miss his smiling face.”
His involvement with Union Pines extended beyond the classroom — and greenhouse — walls and beyond the hours spent supervising FFA activities after school. McNeill regularly marshaled groups of students for other outdoor tasks, like sprucing up the campus in preparation for graduation exercises.
“He never told anybody ‘no;’ he was always willing to help out,” said McCormick. “All the landscaping around the school, he took that on with his class.”
McNeill is survived by his parents Penny Parker McNeill and Rodney L. McNeill, his fiancee, three siblings, and grandparents. A memorial service will be held at 3 p.m. Wednesday at St. Francis Anglican Church, 1089 Wilkins Drive in Sanford.
His family has requested memorial contributions for Union Pines’ FFA Scholarship program, which can be sent to the school at 1981 Union Church Rd, Cameron, NC 28326.
Contact Mary Kate Murphy at (910) 693-2479 or email@example.com.