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WWII Veteran Neely Reflects on time at Tennessee Wesleyan

WWII Veteran Neely Reflects on time at Tennessee Wesleyan

Mr Neely celebrates his 100th birthday Photo courtesy WCSC

Forrest Neeley, a World War II veteran and Tennessee Wesleyan alumnus, recently celebrated his 100th birthday.

A native of Detroit, Neeley spent most of his childhood in nearby Copperhill, Tennessee, and reflects fondly on his time at Tennessee Wesleyan.

“I call Copperhill home, which is where I spent most of my childhood. Growing up, I had friends that attended Tennessee Wesleyan and they spoke very highly of the school, it was affordable, and Athens was a very pleasant place to be. It sounded like a place I wanted to be, and I really enjoyed my time at TWC.”

However, his time at Tennessee Wesleyan was interrupted by service to his country. From 1942-1946, Neeley’s time was spent in the armed forces serving in the United States Navy. In December 1942, he withdrew from Tennessee Wesleyan and began flight training in Millington, Tennessee, near Memphis, and attended flight school at the University of Georgia.

Mr Neely Navy photo courtesy WCSC

“They tried to kill us,” Neeley said with a laugh, recognizing they were pushing them to make them stronger. “I left Tennessee Wesleyan weighing 147. After training, I was up to 195 pounds, and it was all muscle, there was no gut.”

His service included flying and mechanic work, mostly in the Philippines before returning home.

Looking back, being a mechanic may have saved his life.

“Many of my friends that served in combat did not make it home,” he said.

When he returned home, he also returned to Tennessee Wesleyan to complete his degree.

“As I look back on it, it was a joyful time and I have fond memories of Tennessee Wesleyan. I am so glad to hear it is doing well, growing, and continuing to serve students,” said Neely.

Mr Neelys photo from the 1948 Nocatula Yearbook

After graduation from Tennessee Wesleyan, which was as junior college at the time, he earned a degree from the University of Georgia and then returned to Athens working in a few jobs, including banking, and designing implements at a local industry. He later built houses in and around the Charleston, South Carolina area, and today, he lives on the beach with his daughter in a house he built. His other daughter has a beach home one block away and resides in Athens, GA.

“I’ve been blessed,” was a comment heard many times during the conversation. Blessed to grow up in East Tennessee, to attend Tennessee Wesleyan, to serve his country, get married and have a family, and live a blessed life now with his daughter and still, at one hundred years old, feel as good mentally and physically as he does.

He hopes to return to campus soon to see the many improvements and changes over the last 80 years since he graduated.