WOODLAWN — More than 100 friends and relatives of Ralph Mcneal — who was killed Saturday along a route Chicago Public Schools had designated as a Safe Passage route just a day earlier — gathered Monday to remember him as funny guy who loved to dance.
And some said they hoped the media attention the death of Mcneal, an Amtrak employee and father of three, has attracted will help fight the violence plaguing the city.
Known as "Cubby," Mcneal, 54, was shot and killed on the 2900 block of South State Street on Saturday night along with a 26-year-old man who was hit multiple times and survived.
Mcneal was simply "in the wrong place at the wrong time," said his sister Meredetise Wilson, 51.
Earlier Monday, more than a dozen family members gathered at Wilson's Woodlawn house to remember "Cubby," who gave his nieces, nephews and cousins nicknames like "Big Red," "Hamburger," "Hustler" and "Skeet."
Mcneal dubbed a niece, Kenya Wilson, "Green Onions."
According to his family, and evidenced by several videos, Mcneal loved to dance and make friends laugh.
"He was the leader out of his crowd," Meredetise Wilson said. "Everybody followed Cubby."
"I'm not dealing with [his death] too good," she said of her brother, who was born in Little Rock, Ark., and raised in Chicago. "I'm just hurt — I laugh every now and then, but I'm hurt."
A custodian for Amtrak for the past six years, Mcneal often hung out on the block where he was killed, even though he lived on the 5200 block of South Indiana Avenue, relatives said.
They said Mcneal was among a small group of men standing outside when a man approached in a car. That man targeted the 26-year-old man, who was involved in a domestic dispute.
After firing at the crowd, the shooter stood over the 26-year-old and shot him several times.
The shooting came as a surprise to the mostly middle-aged, working-class men who frequent the Douglas block where Mcneal was killed. One man estimated it had been more than five years since the last murder; another suspects it must have been "the younger generation."
"We're older guys here," he said. "We're not on that stuff."
Kenya Wilson said she hopes her uncle's death helps focus attention on murder in Chicago.
"If that's what it takes," she said.