Neil grew up in King Williams Town, SA in a British home for children. At the age of 14, he moved to Cape Town, SA with his mother and began is work-life as a courier for a local Jeweler. He moved with his mother to Bulawayo in Rhodesia at the age of 17. This is where he met his first wife, the mother of his first 3 children (Sharon, David, and Michelle). This is also where he found a lifelong interest in fitness and weight training. At the young age of 21, Neil oversaw an electrical and appliance warehouse. He then transitioned his career in sales for Gallo Records. Neil traveled to and from 5 neighboring countries selling LP records. He fondly told stories of a competitor who became his good friend. Neil had many exciting experiences on the road, and he drove millions of miles doing this job. During his time in Bulawayo, Neil was involved in the Church of Christ where he was a faith leader and missionary to bush tribes. Neil also made recordings of the native African folk songs for Gallo Records.
Neil was very proud of his military service, which was required of all young men in Rhodesia. Neil was well respected during his military career, leading and training troops. He was very proud of being a member of The Guard of Honor in the 2nd Battalion of the Royal Rhodesian Regiment in 1957. Neil was called upon to give the dismissal march commands when Queen Elizabeth visited Bulawayo. Neil earned many military service medals, notably the African General Service campaign medal for the Mau Mau Uprising in Kenya (1952-1956). Neil’s rank was Sargent Major when he retired in 1973 from the Rhodesian Army. Neil always enjoyed recounting his stories of being in the bush.
Salisbury & Johannesburg
Neil’s family moved to Salisbury, Rhodesia when he was promoted at Gallo Records. Neil and his wife owned a record shop called Musique Boutique that also sold coffee and pancakes. This shop was very successful attributed to Neil’s many years in the record business. In 1973 he moved with his wife and youngest daughter to Johannesburg, SA to escape the Rhodesian bush war. Ultimately the downfall of that country in 1980, now named Zimbabwe. In Johannesburg, Neil was general manager at Electric Centre from 1975 to 1981. Neil went on several overseas buying trips to import goods for this store.
Move to the USA
In 1981 the family immigrated to the United States. Landing in Gadsden, Alabama then ended up in Austin, Texas. During this time Neil held several management positions with electric supply and lighting companies: Mayer Electric, Lights Fantastic, Lighting Inc. In 1985 Neil opened Shades of Light in Austin, which operated until 1988. Neil moved to Brady’s Distinctive Lighting and eventually he purchased Parsons Lighting in 1992 and renamed it Tipler’s Lamp Shop. Neil operated Tipler’s Lamp Shop from Whit Hanks at 6th and Baylor. Then he moved to his own free-standing store at 1204 West 5th Street in 1997. Neil’s lamp shop became a well-known iconic Austin business. His customers described his shop as a museum, and it became a destination for visitors. Neil loved his work and enjoyed helping his customers. His easy-going, friendly demeanor and charming accent gained many fans. Folks would come in just to listen to him talk about his adventures back in Africa. Neil Tipler was bold but gentle, tough but kind, a straight shooter, and always an English Gentleman. Neil maintained his fitness throughout his life. He enjoyed running and weight training up into his early 80’s.
Austin was Neil’s home for the last 38 years of his life. He spent 30 years of that time lighting up the lives of his customers at Tipler’s Lamp Shop. Neil collected beautiful, unique items, a variety to every taste. Neil was unsurpassed in the quality of work he provided. But he couldn’t do that without the dedication of his staff. For the past 20 years, Les Marling has been working right by Neil’s side. As well as the expert wood craftsman, George Svihla. Their craft is at risk of being a dying art when knowledge and experience have gone. This is where Neil found his loving wife, a match made in heaven.
Neil is survived by his loving wife, Tammy and their son Colin; His loyal employee and friend Les Marling and wife Gloria; His children Sharon, David, and Michelle; His grandchildren Daniel, Carla, Nicholas, Lisa, Laura, Michael, Deanna, Jason, Hayley, Steele, Aliyah, Leilani, and Christopher; His great-grandchildren Emma, Blanca, Mikaela, Elliene, Ryli, and Jack.
A strong, quiet man with an interesting South African accent. That accent and his stories of adventures in his native South Africa and Rhodesia drew people to him. Most people wanted to listen to his voice and his stories. Some came for his advice and counsel about life. Neil was respected for his vast knowledge in the lighting business as well as his perseverance through his own life experiences. Neil was determined and self-disciplined. He liked routine and order, but he also had patience and tolerance. Neil was chuffed that his reputation of being tough and serious preceded him wherever he went. The other side of Neil was a man with a great sense of humor, sometimes not fully understood. He could throw people off guard and make you think. Neil could also be silly and goofy just to make you laugh. He was well-liked, even loved by many who met him. Who was this mysterious man with a different vocabulary, sometimes different language? Neil was a self-made, self-educated man. He was always working to improve himself. He did whatever it took to achieve the desired results. Even at the cost of his own self-sacrifice. Neil overcame numerous struggles throughout his life but maintained a positive outlook through the end. Neil lived by the maxim of the three monkeys, see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil. Neil’s character was impressive, his duty admirable, his humor memorable, his approach unfathomable. Neil Tipler was a wonderful human being who will be greatly missed by those who had the honor of meeting him. Neil didn’t like fuss and never wanted to be a burden. He is saying this is all too much. But I know he is secretly smiling. I could go on and on speaking about how wonderful I think Neil is, but I will leave you all to cherish your own memories of Neil Tipler.
A memorial service for Neil will be held Sunday, February 6, 2022, at 12:00 PM at Cook-Walden Funeral Home, 6100 North Lamar Boulevard, Austin, Texas 78752, followed by a reception from 12:30 PM to 2:30 PM.
Fond memories and expressions of sympathy may be shared at www.cookwaldenfuneralhome.com for the Tipler family.