Local News

Family Tries to Move On After Dad's Death

Posted November 8, 2007 7:34 p.m. EST
Updated November 8, 2007 11:09 p.m. EST

— It has been a tumultuous week for a Wendell family: They welcomed a second child into the world one night, only to grieve the death of the new father, John, on the next night.

Rexana – now a widow and mother of two – says her family is trying to take their first steps forward after an ordeal they said no one should have to go through.

"It's up and down. One minute, we're all laughing, and the next minute, we're all crying," Joan Bailey, Rexana's mother, said.

John Neyland spent Halloween night at Rex Hospital to see Rexana give birth to their second son, Hudson. He worked one of his three jobs the next day and headed straight from work to see his wife and newborn.

Leaving around 11 p.m., Neyland apparently fell asleep while driving east on U.S. 64 Business just east of Knightdale, state troopers said. His 2003 Nissan sport utility vehicle ran off the road and hit a tree.

When a nurse and hospital chaplain woke Rexana a few hours later, she first thought something had happened to her newborn. When she realized it was John who was in trouble, Rexana "said everything at that point kind of went in slow motion," Baily said.

John's death left a huge void behind for her and their oldest son, 2-year-old Memphis, Rexana said. But she aims to live out John's motto: Family First.

"You give to the kids first, and if you have to eat peanut butter, that's fine," Bailey said.

Three days before he died, John and Rexana talked about getting life insurance policies to keep the family's future secure. They never had the chance to finalize those plans, though, Bailey said.

"They realized that if something happened to him, John, as the big bread-winner of the family, that it was going to be difficult," Bailey.

The family held a memorial service for John on Monday, and Rexana said in a written statement that "well wishes and prayers" have helped sustain them so far.

The Neyland Children's Fund has been set up in memory of John. All donations will go to support Memphis and Hudson. Contributions can be made at any Bank of America location.

"We greatly appreciate the caring support we have received from everyone," Rexana said. "As time begins to heal these very raw wounds, we hope that you all will continue to keep our family in your thoughts and prayers."