My heart was broken when I learned that a new Christmas Wish friend had passed away yesterday. He was simply something special with a heart of gold.

Barb Birgy

Neal James is known as “The Banjo Man” on Animal Planet’s “The Call of the Wildman”, but he's so much more than that!

One thing is certain, he's gone way too soon at the age of 55 and had so much more to give. Through the years he's been in and out of the hospital with cardiac issues and passed away peacefully yesterday of natural causes.

Last summer he came to Friday After 5 for a Christmas Wish fundraiser. He played his banjo, he sang, took pictures and signed autographs. When asked if he would be willing to make this appearance, Neal said, "anything for the kids". He also said that he would be willing to help Christmas Wish again, in the future, if his schedule permitted. He was a very giving man and will be missed.

My husband just loved hanging out with Neal and told him that he needed to try this HUGE BBQ topped potato from the Tri-R-Tips food truck. Chris talked to Nicholas Rose, the owner, and made it happen. The look on Neal's face was priceless and he loved it!

Barb Birgy

The sad announcement was made yesterday afternoon on his Facebook Page.

On his Facebook Page the tributes have been pouring in. I thought this was perfectly written about Neal, "In his spirit, be kind, loving and genuine." This was how he lived.

Neal James - The Banjo Man Facebook Page

His kindness and music will be missed. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends.