Spectators filling the bleachers for a Neoga High School basketball game often heard a familiar cheer.
“Give me an ‘N’!” it would begin. Eventually, David “Bucky” Carpenter, dubbed a Neoga super fan, would have the entire crowd spelling out “Neoga” right along with him.
The stands at Neoga girls and boys basketball games won’t be quite the same. Carpenter died Jan. 4 at HSHS St. Anthony’s Memorial Hospital at the age of 72.
The Neoga Community Unit School District No. 3 released a statement on its Facebook page on Monday, announcing Carpenter’s passing.
“Neoga Unit No. 3 athletic teams lost another of its most faithful supporters. No longer will we hear the famous ‘Give me an N, Give me an E’ cheer from his favorite seat at center court. We know the referees’ jobs will be much more difficult without Bucky’s advice from time to time, the post read.
“We know our players and coaches will miss his constant support. After a recent loss at the Monticello Tournament, Bucky was heard telling the girls basketball team that they should be proud of their effort. Thanks, Bucky, for your unwavering support of our kids and coaches.”
Carpenter’s love for Neoga athletics earned him the title No. 1 super fan. The Neoga Booster Club named both Carpenter and the late Mary Sur Neoga Super Fans and presented both with a shirt with their new titles on them during last year’s basketball season.
Seth James, the student support/504 coordinator for Neoga and assistant coach for the girls basketball team, described Carpenter as a biased hometown fan, “in the best sort of way.” James described Carpenter’s passion for Neoga athletics as unconditional.
“Games won’t be the same simply because we’ll miss his presence, and iconic ‘Give me an ‘N’ cheer. Others will step in and try — and have tried — to keep his cheer up, but it won’t be the same,” James said.
“It’s been a hard year for us in terms of losing key people in our fan base,” he added. “First, we lost Ms. Sur, our long time scorekeeper, back in the fall and now, Mr. Carpenter. They were at the forefront of the folks we would consider our biggest sports fans. It’s just so surprising to lose both of them this close together.”
James recalled moments after each ball game when Carpenter would enthusiastically catch him just to shake his hand and chat. He said that Carpenter would support both the girls and boys teams equally and would give the players positive words following a game, whether they won or lost.
James said Carpenter was not related to any of the players and attended the games simply because he loved the competition and above all, the players.
One of those players that Carpenter always supported was Neoga graduate Jillian Deters of Neoga. The 24-year-old knew Carpenter from her time as a basketball and volleyball athlete at the high school.
Deters said she and other athletes will always be grateful for Carpenter’s unwavering spirit and how he always had a smile for the players, win or lose.
“I think some of the best memories of being a Neoga Indians athlete, not only for me, but all athletes that went through the program involve Bucky and his cheerful and uplifting spirit,” Deters said. “Bucky never missed a game. Whether it was a home game or an away game, Bucky was there with a big smile on his face. He was so personable and knew each athlete by name, going up to them to give a pat on the back and a ‘good job.’”
Deters said Carpenter’s constant positive and cheerful attitude was contagious, spreading to everyone he came in contact with. She said she knows Carpenter will be greatly missed by the entire community.
Carpenter’s love for Neoga athletics was equal to his love for his country. Carpenter was a United States Army Vietnam veteran and a member of the Neoga American Legion Post 458 and VFW Post 4325.
James said one of his most recent memories of Carpenter was at Neoga schools’ Veterans Day program in fall 2019.
“Recently, one thing I’ll remember most is that at our Veterans Day program, we were able to recognize him with a video interview for going on an Honor Flight to Washington, D.C. for his service in Vietnam. He was so touched by the student letters and having the chance to share about his service and experience on the trip,” James said.
An obituary published in the Jan. 7 edition of the Effingham Daily News, said Carpenter was also an avid gardener who loved planting strawberries. He retired from General Electric after 42 years and was a member of the Mattoon Moose Lodge 803.
He is survived by his wife of 44 years, Connie, of Neoga, brother James Carpenter of Effingham and several nieces and nephews. Memorials in Carpenter’s name are suggested to go to the Neoga Booster Club or the Neoga American Legion.
James said the Neoga sports community and beyond will forever cherish Carpenter and never forget the love and kindness he brought to every sporting event.
“I believe our sports community will always remember his unconditional passion and enthusiasm for the community, teams and players the most,” James said.