A 1955 graduate of what was then Canisius College with a degree in physics, Hugh Neeson spent his entire career at Bell Aerospace in Niagara Falls, retiring in 1999 as a vice president and general manager of the plant in Wheatfield. But it was probably his volunteer work outside Bell that are his greatest contributions to Western New York. A lifelong student of aerospace history, Hugh was a founder of the Niagara Aerospace Museum and spent many years on the board and as its curator.
Hugh was instrumental in bringing a Bell P-39, “Miss Lend Lease”, back to Western New York and the museum after its discovery in a lake in the Russia decades after serving in World War II. He was a past president and long-time board member of the Aero Club of Buffalo and also served as president of the Lawrence D. Bell Chapter of the Air Force Association. His contributions to local aerospace were recognized in 2005 with his induction into the Niagara Frontier Aviation and Space Hall of Fame, joining the ranks of Glenn Curtiss, Larry Bell and Reuben Fleet, all of whom founded major aircraft companies. After his induction he served many years on the nominating committee of the Hall of Fame, lending his extensive knowledge of Bell programs and personnel to identifying and vetting new inductees.
Possibly the contribution to Western New York aerospace history of which he was most proud was his book on Bell Aerospace, “Larry Bell’s Legacy”, on which he completed a second edition in 2022. Truly an example of a life well lived, Hugh was cheerful and optimistic right up to his final days.