Family and Friends
" I
was born into the most remarkable and eccentric family I could possible have hoped for." ~ Maureen O'Hara

Assuming you live long enough, I figure you can't help but gather a few people in your life, and that if you live a decent life, maybe the people around you turn out to be an incredible blessing.  On this page, then, is proof positive that I'm not such a big bastard after all.

I was born into a family led by highly intelligent parents who taught my brothers and me to be gentlemen and to be life long learners.  My brothers listened. 

When I married my wife, I joined a second family of incredible people who welcomed me in with open arms and a spiritual love that had no conditions.  I have never met more giving people.

Along the way, I made great friends and, though separated by geography, we still remain close and see each other when we can.  Working in a place populated by young people has brought a few youngsters into the family.

Here, then, are My People.

The Wife

I met this sweetie in church in 1980 while I was out of the Army.  We've been married for thirty-two years.  She was a great Army wife, loves it here at VMI, and is a great mom and grandmother.  She can do anything with a computer, types about a bazillion words a minute, and likes to show off her admin skills around VMI when different agencies need help.

She is an amazing cook, keeps a comfortable home, and generally takes care of everything so I don't have to do anything.  OK, I do take out the garbage.  This is the real photographer in the family.  She has the eye.

Everyone loves Kim.


The Son

Possibly the smartest young man I know, my son is a veteran of ten years in the Army, and now works at a prominent university as the information security manager.

He has been stationed in Korea and Texas and served one tour in Iraq.  We were happy to get him home safe and sound.

He is very much a Dennis and takes after his mom in his temperament, whit, and intelligence.   He just earned his Masters Degree from Carnegie Mellon and keeps computer security straight at a major university. 

He is an amazing father to my Grandchildren.

The Daughter

This is daddy's baby.  She is a company commander at a small Army base on the east coast.  She is a graduate of MBC and earned her Masters Degree while deployed overseas.

She looks like her mom, but is just like me.  She is super smart, stubborn, argumentative, loyal to a fault, fun, and dedicated to everything she does.

She is my Paratrooper.  She served our country in Afghanistan with the 82nd, and then, after finishing her Captain's Career Course she took a little side trip to Liberia to kick the hell out of Ebola.  I got to keep Cooper her Golden Doodle.  The Army has, very recently, taken her too far away.  This makes Dad unhappy.

The Daughter-in-law

My son's wife, my new daughter-in-law, is my daughter's best friend from college (amazing how that all worked out), and my grandson adores her.  She is sweet, fun, and smart.  I have loved the match from the beginning.  The wedding was bright, warm, and beautiful, though the weather was cold and dreary.  The view of her walking down the stairs was breathtaking.

I am excited to watch them begin their life together.  She is such a sweetheart, and a great match to Jonathon's drive and intellect.  She just gave me a granddaughter who is just as beautiful and sweet as she is.  Add Blue Eyes and Blond Hair to the Neel Gene Pool.

Soon she will have to sit for a few portrait shots with me...which is how my people normally get included on this page.  But...I found this one from a day at the park.  It'll do for now.

The Grandson

This is my grandson.  We do everything together.  He's a big baseball fan but plays golf, lacrosse, football, soccer, and just about any sport. He has the temperament of a hockey player though, so watch out when playing any game with a stick.

My favorite time with the are practicing Baseball.  He can really Hit!  He must get this from his mother's side of the family.

He has recently taken up my hobby of collecting knives.  Actually, he has taken up the hobby of collecting My Knives.


The Granddaughter

Here's a sweetie for an old granddaddy.  I told my son and daughter-in-law that I wanted a granddaughter and here's what I got.  PERFECT!  This girl is the most important reason I have for retiring and staying here in Virginia.

She is the sweetest thing and already showing everyone how bright she is, her vocabulary is amazing and wit very Neel-like.

 B

My beautiful former daughter-in-law will always be my daughter.  She and my son have been best friends since high school and she was always my favorite among all his friends.

I am pleased she is the mother of my grandson.

She just finished up her graduate degree in Occupational Therapy and was immediately hired by some pretty smart folks.

 

Mom

I grew up in a household led by a hard-working railroad dad and run by a mom who enforced the rules of gentlemanly behavior, self-reliance, and fun.  My two brothers and I were taught to be life-long learners, open-minded, and respectful.  We learned to play baseball, love music, wonder at the heavens, read for enjoyment, and show grace under pressure.

I loved the days past when my friends would beg to come to Sunday dinner, knowing mom would be setting a table of southern fine cooking.  She was simply an amazing cook and entertainer.

From Mom we Neel boys got out love for nature and music.  Mom could identify trees, flowers, and birds at a distance, and she had the sweetest little soprano voice I've ever heard.

She died in 2015 after sad years of struggling with Alzheimers.

Dad

My dad was the smartest man I have ever known.  He raised his kids to question everything and and did so himself.  He was the most amazing teacher and would explain our subjects in seconds where it would take our teachers days.  My head would actually tingle as he explained things to me and taught me things.  It was magic. No subject was taboo in this man's house.  We watched every NASA launch, debated everything from ancient astronauts to "true sport," and watched hours of Lawrence Welk and Hee Haw.

After World War II Dad put himself through school and taught for a while, and then went to work for Southern Railroad.  He retired as the Supervisor of Communications for the company.

In his last years Dad taught himself to program the first computers and to read, write, and speak German.  He died in 1991 after a courageous struggle with cancer.


Big Brother

I want to be like my big brother when I grow up.  He is like dad; he can do anything and does everything well.  He is a well respected artist and art professor.

He was the perfect example for his younger brothers as we followed him through school.  My first date would have certainly been a disaster had he not called me aside, dressed me, told me I needed more money, and made me check the clock.

He still does the same things with his students and it's easy to see how much they love and respect him.

I don't get to spend nearly enough time with him.


Little Brother

Cookie was the best of the three Neel boys.  He was the musician in the family and a registered trauma nurse.  The man loved animals and volunteered his off time at the emergency animal clinic in Birmingham.  He trained hunting dogs and was an avid hunter.

He died in his own emergency room after an accidental shooting.

I miss the days we would strum along together, singing our favorite songs.

Wild Bill

My father-in-law is the consummate Southern Christian Gentleman.  He will always be my human spiritual pattern by which to live, though I know I will never measure up.  Bill was a fantastic businessman and vice president of a prominent real estate company back home.

Bill didn't even flinch when I asked him If I could marry his daughter, but he took the time to give me sound advice.  I still remember everything he said.  I believe he may have been the only one who had no reservations about me marrying Kim, or, at least he didn't let on.

The only times he has ever lost his temper with me have been on the tennis court and while playing Uno.  He is a bit competitive.

After losing the love of his life, he gave up on living.  We buried them together in 2016.

Sil

Sil (my spelling) was my spiritual mentor and bull shit monitor; I truly do not know what I will do without her edits to my life.  Sylvia never had a problem putting me in my place.

We were good friends before I even noticed her daughter; we called her Ranger Lady in those days.  She was the most supportive person in my life as I struggled with going in the Army and while I was in for my first enlistment. 

They say you should have a look at the mother if you're thinking about marrying a girl...well, there you go. 

Sil was the most thoughtful, caring and giving person I have ever known.  I never went home for a trip or had her visit without receiving a book, article, or some other reference to a subject we discussed long before.  She remembered everything. 

She was gone too soon.  Fuck Cancer.

Ryan

Ryan came into my life when a Cadet, her Brother Rat, and a mutual friend suddenly died. She graduated early and she asked me on Facebook about the situation.  I had her call me and we talked together through the sad events.  She was the only one from VMI who realized that I needed to talk about it too.  She got me off my ass and down to Barracks to do my job, instead of sitting on my ass at the house feeling sorry for myself.

Since then we've become fast friends and talk most every day.  OK, Every Day.  It's a good thing I have unlimited texting.

Ryan is smart and funny, sweet and hot tempered, total girl and tomboy...all in one tiny little package.  Happy are the days I get to play Combat Softball Pitch with her.

Internet Man

Kim met this super guy on the Internet and he has become an important part of our family.  We're traveling partners and enjoy times hanging out here in Lex and at RV parks all over in his 5th Wheel.  Trust me, this ain't no ordinary 5th Wheel. 

Next Stop, Marathon!

He is great help when I need computer help or advice or want to check out some new electronic piece of kit...he knows his stuff.  Together we just solved my problem with up-grading to Windows 10 with a Windows 7 Enterprise computer.  Next Mission--Personal Server!

ODC Keeper

I met this lovely at the Old Dominion Cotillion back when I took cadets to act as escorts for the debs.  After about 5 years, that got to be too much work and I could not get them to change their schedule to match ours, so I had to pull my support.

I haven't heard from any of the others since, but this wonderful lady has remained faithful and has become one of our closest friends.  When she needs a break from NOVA and DC, she's usually in Lex.  I like those times.

The Writer

I recently reconnected with an old high school classmates, now a prolific and well respected Southern writer.  We weren't that close in school, though she was the pianist for the male vocal group in which I sang, but in the last couple if years we've been talking over face book and it's a rare day that we don't exchange an e-mail or message.

She is so talented and I own all of her books.  I have been able to help her with her newest, which should be out in October, and I can't wait to see how she used the ideas, military ideas, that I provided.