GREENVILLE — Tim Nealeigh of Greenville has been recognized by the Ohio House of Representatives of the 113rd General Assembly on his “superb performance in the 2019 Great Darke County Fair.”
His certificate, received in the mail recently reads: “You have demonstrated exemplary initiative, enthusiasm and perseverance in developing and sharing your skills and, as a result, you were awarded rosettes for your reproduction dress and your crocheted bed/lady/bassinet entries at this year’s Great Darke County Fair. Your unwavering commitment to excellence has earned you a reputation as a truly gifted Ohioan, and you are deserving of high praise.”
The certificate was signed by House District 84 Speaker Rep. Larry Householder and Rep. Susan Manchester, representativly.
Nealeigh, who retired from teaching at Tri-Village in 2003, said he has been entering projects in the Domestic Arts Department at the county fair for at least 10 years.
The first year he showed, he displayed an 1868 historic wedding gown, which netted him a rosette, best of show and a people’s choice awards.
“One year I did not get any rosetttes, and there were three times I received two rosettes,” Nealeigh said.
What happens to all of the items he has made?
“They’re all still here,” he said in his current dining room.
He and wife Katheleen are planning on downsizing and have purchased another home in Greenville. So, they’re not sure what all they are going to be able to take there as it is one-fourth the size of their home now.
His basic learning skills, he said, were taught to him by his mother, Ellen (Dohme) Nealeigh; other ones he has learned on his own.
“Mom knitted and crocheted and did embroidery and made lots of clothes,” he said. “I learned by watching her. I didn’t start knitting or crocheting until 1967. I learned to knit by using two pencils because I didn’t have knitting needles. The first thing I knitted was a two-color dress for Katheleen.”
He said he was was in high school in 1958 when he made himself a pair of pajamas.
“I did it with no pattern or not knowing what to do,” he said. “And, it worked. My first real sewing was in 1968 when Katheleen was pregnant with our son and first child. She was sewing a maternity dress on an old treadle sewing machine. I sat down and finished it. and made the rest of her maternity clothes. Once I started, she gave it up.”
He said all of the dresses he makes have to fit his wife, since she gave him permission to do so.
“Sometimes, she tells me when she needs a new dress for an event, and I make her one,” said Nealeigh, a 1961 graduate of Greenville High School.
His specialty, he said, are probably the historic costumes. He said depending on the historical period he’s working, it sometimes takes three to six weeks to finish one garment.
“With history clothes, any stitching that shows is done by hand,” he explained. “The interior seams that don’t show are done by machine. At events, they’re picky about it being authentic. The clothes get adjudicated at these events. They want to present the reality of the clothing.”
So, that means research is on Nealeigh’s agenda.
“For historic purposes I have to research the outfits…what undergarments were used and the particlar fit,” he said. “Historical garments are real restrictive. Katheleen can’t raise her arms while wearing one of these dresses. One of the reasons I don’t do historical clothes for other people is because they want it comfortable and they’re not to be made that way.”
He said his first dress for the fair consisted of all the underclothing and a hoop plus an underdress, overdress and a bodice.
“I copied from authentic museum pieces of 1968,” he said. “I have a book an English woman made and am allowed to copy from the English museum. I have to enlarge her patterns. In essence, I make my own patterns.”
Nealeigh said another skill of his is crocheting and noted that he made a whole series of dolls in historic clothing.
He said he only enters his items in the Darke County Fair.
He has also made clothes for his two children and two grandchildren.
The Nealeighs had been going to 16 historic weekends events all over the East Coast and into Indiana. Three years ago, they cut that down to four events.
“We were hired originally to do the French lace merchant because I also do bobbin lace workings,” he said.”It took me and hour and a half to get dressed as Monsieur LeFarceur DeVillerte, complete with makeup, and powder, then I demonstrated lace making, encouraging poor people to learn to make lace. I quit doing that because setup was a big problem with carpet, chandeliers, tools, table and chairs and china we took along with us. Set up required eight hours to get ready and five hours to take it down. We arrived a day early to set up and left the next morning to come back. We quit doing that six years ago.”
Then, he said he became Timothy, the Irish linen worker, an indentured servant owned by Widow Tobin.
“Monsieur’s name meant ‘trickster from Greenville,’ and was always elegant and clever, while Timothy was dirty and had bad teeth and scurvy,” Nealeigh said. “He was a mess. It was great fun as much as being Monsieur. We did all the processes of making linen, from raw flax plant to spinning it into linen and then weaving it on a loom. We retired that on Labor Day this year.”
Nealeigh said he has been doing this sewing even before he retired from teaching French at Tri-Village for 24 years.
What has been his favorite project? “I always say, ‘It will be the next one.’”
Also the son of Dan Nealeigh Jr., he has four brothers three still living and a sister.
He received his bachelor of arts in French in 1964 from Miami University and started his master’s work at Wright State University but never finished because he and his wife took part in the Fulbright Teachers Exchange in West Africa for a year.
During that teacher exchange, he taught English and she set up an English-speaking program for adults.
After the upcoming move to their new home, Nealeigh said he will continue making clothing and attending some events.
“I always take a sedan chair from the early 1820s-’30s,” he said. “I built one that is six feet high, 2 feet wide and 2 inches deep and gave it to Jane Austin Society in Virginia. I will still be in charge of the sedan chair there, taking people around the grounds or use it for people posing for photographs.”
Nealeigh, who teaches music at St. Mary’s School in Greenville one day a week, has also been choir director for St. Louis Catholic Church in North Star for 46 years.
Asked if he is also mechanically or technically inclined, Nealeigh responded, “I can figure out the mechanics of things but I’m not a mechanic per se. I understand how things work. The one thing I don’t have is computer skills; they have no moving parts.”
However, he did teach computers at Tri-Village for several years in the early 1990s before he went to West Africa.
“But, when we came back computers advanced so much I had no idea what was going on.”
Nealeigh met his wife, the former Kathleen Grennan of Brooklyn, N.Y. while they were both teaching in a high school in Woodstock, Ill., where the movie “Groundhog” was filmed.
Contact Staff Writer Linda Moody at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (937)569-4315 ext. 1749. Read more news, features and sports at DarkeCountyMedia.com.