A God Thing… Reading to Wildon Neely


Sometimes when you get a God thing, it’s a good reason to really listen. Our sweet Aunt Carole Swinford had one of those God’s tugs at her heart and sent me this message.

Hope you are well. I would like to ask you to do something but if you are too busy or prefer not to then I will completely understand and still love you forever. I keep telling myself that it’s too much to ask but it keeps nagging me thus I think it’s a God thing. I have a dear friend from my church that was moved to Millennium Health Facility for rehab. His name is Wildon Neely and he is 94 years old.  Mr. Neely is the most Godly man I know. I was thinking about something I could do for him, I decided to give him your children’s book, I Love You Sideways. He lost a son a few years ago to cancer and his son Randy Neely is his main caregiver. I believe your book would bless him. Now for the big part of this favor. I hope that you could deliver it and meet him. I believe you would be greatly blessed by the experience. He was to be moved today and Randy said he may in rehab for a couple of weeks.

Carole checked with the family for permission. Late into the night she wrote the following description of Mr. Neely:

neely-caroleLetterWith Carole’s heart receiving a God message Suzi and I couldn’t help but respond.

We love Carole. She has always been there for us. She too shines a beautiful light with love and beauty to all who know her. So I told Carole that I would try and visit before the day was over. Well the day came and went and I didn’t get there. But on the second day I too felt that God thing when you need to just stop and listen… God wants us to meet and know this dear man.

Carole had requested I read I Love You Sideways to Mr. Neely. Keep in mind, this is a children’s book that so far I have read to elementary students. Mr. Neely is 94 years old. But Carole thought the book was fitting because it’s a father and son conversation. In it the little boy asks his father the simple question, “Dad when do you love me more?” and ends with a father’s loving response.

We arrived at Millennium on Sunday afternoon. As we entered the facility, we could hear those good old church hymns being sung. Down the long hallway we began our search for Mr. Neely. We step around the yellow caution signs as staff clean and mop the hallways. Finally we reached room 114, Mr. Neely peacefully in his bed. We were warmly greeted by his son, Randy Neely, daughter, Dean West, and son-in-law, Claude West.

Carole had already asked the family if it would be okay if Suzi and I could come by and read to Mr. Neely.  We asked if it would be okay to take a few pictures. We wanted to capture a nice one for Carole. After spending a little time meeting Mr. Neely and hearing bits and pieces of his beautiful life and serving in the Navy, I was awestruck at what an incredible man we were honored to be meeting that day. Mr. Neely was married 69 years to his wife Alda Towry Neely. Sadly, his wife Alda, his son Gary Neely, and his grandson Cary West had all passed away within the last three years. His kids spoke highly of their father.  It was just a sweet conversation among all of us.

I told Mr. Neely about Carole, of how much he inspired her, and how much she looked up to him as a Godly model. He was truly touched.  I explained that Carole purchased one of our books as a get-well gift and she asked me to deliver it in person. I told him, “After hearing what an incredible man you are to so many I couldn’t pass this chance.”

So reading I did, and I was doing pretty good until I got to “Tony’s Teachable Thought” located on the very last page of the book. Suzi knew when my lip started shaking I was going to probably lose it and lose it I did. Sometimes I just get too emotional. Well, most of the time I get too emotional. That’s just me.

As I broke down finishing the book, Mr. Neely with his kind heart and soul comforted me. “God bless you son,” he said and held my hand.  

Never did I know that in just six hours Mr. Neely would pass away.


As you look at the pictures I hope you see the heart of a beautiful man. I was honored to meet Mr. Neely.


neely-collageThe following is borrowed from the funeral program:

Daddy left very detailed hand-written instructions concerning his last wishes. On one page of his instructions he wrote:

I want my funeral to be a celebration. See! I have run the race and now I have reached my goal. Praise the Lord! I am now in the Promised Land and I hope to see each of you there some day. I have sent up spiritual material there for more than sixty-two years. My mansion is now complete, so the Good Lord has called me home to see and enjoy my new dwelling place. Revelations 21:4 says, “Go shall wipe away all tears from your eyes; and there shall be no more death; nether sorrow, nor crying. Neither shall there be any more pain.” So! Please prepare yourself to join me there some day. Amen.

What a wonderful legacy he left to us all.

Leave us comment and share your thoughts. Did you know Mr. Neely?
Do you have a special someone like Mr. Neely in your life?

Blessings and remember, your life is beautiful when you love it out.

Tony & Suzi McGehee

Christi Cuckler - April 17, 2014 - 10:09 pm

I knew Mr. Neely my whole life. As I look out at the church from the choir loft every Sunday, I can still see him sitting in his pew. Such a wonderful man!

Suzi - April 17, 2014 - 10:27 pm

Thanks for sharing Christi! 🙂

Sonia Bradford - April 18, 2014 - 2:40 pm

I had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Neely through doing theater with his son, Randy. Randy shared much of this story with me the day after his father passed. Thank you for your obedience to go minister to him and to take pictures that will be cherished by the family. He was a unique man, always ready with a joke, and always ready to attempt to get a Roll Tide out of anyone that wasn’t a Bama fan. He will be missed but leaves an amazing legacy behind.

Sharon Womack - April 18, 2014 - 5:10 pm

What a blessing Mr. Neely was! God’s love just poured out of him. When he said “Did you know I love the Lord and I love you?” you knew him meant it. I have never witnessed a more precious sight than this amazing man at the alter with my son. It was all he could do to kneel there with him, but I believe he had a God tug and knew that was where he needed to be. Thomas says he believes he is sharing peppermints in heaven and he says he will carry a part of Mr.Neely with him always so they can share Thomas walk with the Lord.

Suzi - April 18, 2014 - 9:54 pm

Sonia – We are honored to have shared time with Mr Neely and captured a moment for the family. We believe Randy and his sister Dean also have their dad’s way of making others feel special too 🙂

Sharon – Tell Thomas that we love the idea of Mr. Neely sharing peppermints in heaven. That’s the sweetest thought!

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