by Joanna Morris from The Northern Echo:
One of the UK’s oldest men with Down syndrome is today (Monday December 23) celebrating his 70th birthday.
Micky Neal will be surrounded with family and friends as he enjoys a tea party at his supported accommodation in Darlington.
The birthday is a significant milestone for Mr Neal and his family, who never expected to see him outlive his devoted parents, Ruth and Tom.
The eldest of five children, he was brought up in a time when Down syndrome sufferers were usually institutionalised and expected to die at a young age.
His mother Ruth refused to put him into a home and he was brought up alongside his siblings in a supportive and loving family – something his brothers and sisters feel has contributed to his long and happy life.
His brother Chris Neal and sisters Rosetta Forster, Fiona Neal and Debbie Allinson said he has brought them “nothing but joy” over the years.
Mrs Allinson said: “People with Down syndrome are no different to anybody else, they are loving people who have feelings and the same needs as anybody else.”
Despite the onset of dementia and his advancing age, Mr Neal is still a lively character who is known for his practical jokes.
Mrs Forster said: “He is always playing tricks. At the home he’s in, he’s left banana skins outside the office doors.
“He has a great sense of humour, he loves Ant and Dec and Carry On films.”