Thursday, June 28, 2007

SPORTS>>Age – not a factor

By Master Sgt. Jay Bryant
314th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

It started 40 years ago. She’d get up at 5 am, and would walk with her 75-pound pet German Sheppard dog from her neighborhood in North Little Rock to McCain Mall and then back home without stopping.

Willie Mae Neely was born four blocks from her current home in North Little Rock. She said that she has never had any serious health problems and that she simply enjoys exercising, being mobile and helping folks.

“One day I woke up and I felt like going for a walk, so I did – I’ve never looked back since then,” she said with a big smile.
Neely works out three days a week at the base fitness center by lifting weights using the Nautilus equipment to gain body strength and stamina.

Her workout includes performing two sets of at least 20 repetitions on each of the 17 pieces of gym equipment. She then goes upstairs and rides the stationary bicycle for 30 minutes. She has been coming to the base fitness center for more than 20 years and has no plans of stopping any time soon.

Oh, by the way, Willie Mae Neely is 80 years old.

She said that, in addition to working out at the gym, she takes care of a very moderate sized garden in her back yard. She grows mustard and collard greens, okra, green peppers, cucumbers, squash and cantaloupe. She also cans fruit, beans, peaches, green beans and tomatoes. And, she makes her own jelly and pickles.

“I have three deep freezers in my house and all three are full,” she said enthusiastically. “If anyone needs food, I can and will feed them,” she said.

She said that although she does eat healthy, she still likes to eat good foods like ice cream, pound cake and other baked goods.

“I maintain my body weight of 158 pounds and I try not let it get higher than that,” she said. “When I see it rising to 160 or more, I cut back on my eating and work out even harder at the gym.”

Neely said that being healthy enables her to be mobile and to get around so that she can do things she likes, like taking care of her husband and helping to raise her 12-year-old grandson.

“I have buried quite a few of my family members," Neely said. “I took care of my son for eight months when he had a tumor on his brain and cancer on both lungs. He died in April 2004,” she said.

“Four months later, my husband had a heart attack. I have been taking care of him ever since.

“I also took on the responsibility of helping care for my grandson. He is a handfull, but I can handle him too," she said.
“She is simply an amazing woman,” said 67-year-old retired Air Force member Tracy Nieser.

“There is a bunch of us senior citizens who come here to the gym three times a week to stay fit, but she is the main one who is always here, no matter what,” he said. “She and I swap recipes and she has a great sense of humor,” he said. “She is awesome.”

Echoing those statements, retired Air Force member Robert Radford, 53, said, “She is truly an inspiration. I just hope I’m in as good as shape as she is when I reach her age.”

Personal hair stylist and 20-year friend Robert Stencil said, “At age 80, there is nothing she cannot and will not do. She is one of the most outstanding senior citizens I have ever met in my life."

“Through God’s grace, I have been blessed with good health” she said. “I feel He wants me to use that good health to help others.

“I have been an active member of my church, 8th Street Baptist Church in Little Rock for over 50 years and the Lord has blessed me in many ways,” Neely said.

“As long as He enables me to get up every morning, take my walk, get my workout in at the gym and be able to take care of others, that’s what I will do,” she said smiling.

“She helps people at her church, she feeds strangers and she takes care of children or anyone who needs a helping hand.” Stencil added, “If there is such a thing as having a heart of gold, then she surely has it.”

Neely said that she does not want anything in return for the good deeds she does. She said that God is the reason she is able to do everything, so all of the praise and glory goes to him.


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