John C. Neff, the original chief financial officer and later president and chief executive officer at Hospital Corp. of America, died Wednesday of cancer. He was 85.
A Chicago native, Neff served three years in the Army Air Force as a bombardier/navigator and completed 35 missions in B-17s with the 97th Bomb Group in Italy. For his service, he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Air Medal with three Bronze Clusters.
After earning an MBA from the University of Chicago, Neff entered the insurance business. He moved to Nashville in 1964 to become a vice president with Life & Casualty Insurance Co. In 1968, HCA co-founders Jack Massey, Thomas Frist Sr. and Tommy Frist Jr. brought Neff aboard as they created what would become the nation's largest for-profit hospital chain.
Neff initially served as CFO, guiding the rapidly growing company's financial strategy, before becoming president and CEO in 1973. Meanwhile, he joined Massey and Earl Beasley Jr. in forming Volunteer Capital Corp. in 1971. That company eventually became what is now the restaurant chain J. Alexander's Corp.
Neff resigned from HCA in 1978 to enter the administration of newly elected Governor Lamar Alexander as commissioner of Tennessee's Department of Commerce and Insurance. He held that position until 1986.
Neff then became co-founder of nursing home operator Pinnacle Care Corp., serving as chairman until he retired in 1994.
He was a trustee of Harpeth Hall School for 25 years, serving as the board's treasurer for much of his tenure. Neff served as a corporate director for Nashville City Bank and Shoney's Inc., among other enterprises.
Surviving him are his wife of 63 years, Joan Linden Neff, as well as sister Clare Elizabeth Neff and four children: Douglas, Stephen, Thomas, and Linden Ann, along with eight grandchildren.
Visitation will be held today at Belle Meade Country Club, 815 Belle Meade Blvd., from 4 to 7 p.m. A memorial service will be held at St. George's Episcopal Church, 4715 Harding Road, on Saturday, November 28, at 11 a.m. Burial services will be private.
- ALEX B FRUIN INHERITANCE TRUST; CANDACE F STEFANSIC INHERITANCE TRUST; CANDANCE F STEFANSIC INHERITANCE TRUST; FRUIN, ALEX B TRUSTEE; FRUIN ALEX B INHERITANCE TRUST; STEFANSIC, CANDACE F TRUSTEE; STEFANSIC CANDACE F INHERITANCE TRUST; STEFANSIC CANDANCE F INHERITANCE TRUST
- ROSS, BRIDGETT D
- COOKE, ETHEN LANYARD TRUSTEE; COOKE, ETHEN LEWIS ESTATE
- JACOBS, JESSICA ALEXANDRA; JACOBS, ERIKA BESS