In Memory of




Obituary for Neil R. Celley

Neil R. Celley, October 24, 1927 - October 24, 2019. At the age of 92, Neil passed away peacefully at St. Joseph Mercy Hospital surrounded by his family. Born in Eveleth, Minnesota to Vienna and David Celley, Neil excelled in every sport but ice hockey was his passion. Neil was the last surviving member of the first Minnesota high school ice hockey championship team for which he played the entire championship game defeating Thief River Falls 4 to 3. After graduating from high school, Vic Heyliger recruited Neil to come to the University of Michigan. World War II interrupted his academic career where he served in the U.S. Army as part of the occupation force in Japan from August 1946 through December 1947. Upon completion of his honorable service, in January 1948 the United States Olympic committee selected Neil to be a team member of the U.S. Olympic amateur ice hockey team for the games in Saint Moritz, Switzerland. However, he did not play as the U.S. also sent a second team of paid professionals who were ultimately chosen to skate in the tournament. From 1948 - 1951 Neil completed his academics and played left wing for the University of Michigan where he set a seasonal scoring record of 40 goals and 39 assists not surpassed until 1977, was selected as an All-American, and was an esteemed member and Most Valuable Player of the 1951 National Collegiate Athletic Association national championship team. After graduation, he married his U of M sweetheart, and Ann Arbor native, Virginia Zeeb. He then skated for 9 days with the Detroit Red Wings until he was offered the positions as Head Coach of the Denver University hockey team and golf team. During his relatively short tenure from 1951 - 1956 as the Denver University hockey coach he had an impressive winning average of .649 (82W, 43L, 6T). Following his departure from Denver University, Neil returned to Ann Arbor to earn his Master of Arts Degree and accepted a position with the Chelsea School District then Bloomfield Hills Michigan School District. At Bloomfield Hills he shaped the lives of many young adults as a High School Counselor. He established the ice hockey program and coached from 1967 to 1984. Neil had many god given talents including the ability to make the child in everyone smile and laugh at a moments notice. With this talent he chose to finish his career as an elementary school physical education teacher. Upon retirement, Neil renewed his interest in golf where he had three witnessed holes in one and one unwitnessed. He and Virginia traveled to the warm climate of Panama City Beach, Florida where he would golf and paint many lovely water colors overlooking the cooling breeze of the ocean. He was a loving husband, father, dotting grandfather, role model to generations of athletes and students, and friend to many wherever he went. Neil lived a full life on his own terms.

Neil was pre-deceased by his eldest son, Todd, and survived by his wife Virginia, daughter Marsha Kalember, grand daughters Kristin and Karin and his youngest son, Michael.

Memorial services are scheduled for 1:00 pm, Saturday, December 7, 2019 at Nie Family Funeral Home located at 3767 W. Liberty Road, Ann Arbor, MI 48103, where you may visit with the family 1 hour prior to the service.