Instead, the 59-year-old moved to Cleveland with wife, Jeanette, and became busier than ever before.
Neaton is currently on the board of the Bradley County Credit Union, on the board of the Cleveland First Church of the Nazarene, the vice president of the board of the Bradley Initiative Credit Union, does free financial counseling as a public service and also serves as a notary public.
He rides his bicycle 20 miles a day, four to five days a week, helps his wife with her lifelike doll business, does bookkeeping, shopping and, as an only child with living parents, travels to Maryland to care for them every six weeks.
Asked why he is willing to cram so much into his supposedly “retired” life, Neaton laughed and said, “It doesn’t bother me. I enjoy it. I don’t let circumstances control me.”
Explaining what brought him and his wife to Cleveland, Neaton said, “Both my kids graduated from Lee University. They both lived here for a while. One moved to Pensacola, Fla., the other moved to Athens with our three grandkids. Being close to them makes a difference. We see them a lot, so that keeps us busy.”
Not only is Neaton an active grandparent, he helps his wife with her lifelike newborn baby doll business, adding, “I do the bookkeeping and computer part of it. I also do the shopping as well as handle the finances of the house.”
Surprisingly, Neaton has had more than 500 surgical procedures due to skin cancer, including melanoma, the most serious kind of skin cancer.
“I don’t have the normal stuff. I’m going for radiation treatment today,” he said. “They took three out of my head at once. They just took melanoma out of my chest. I’m not allowed to be under fluorescent lights. That’s how bad the situation is. But I don’t look at life like that. I can’t live that way. I have a very, very positive attitude. I can’t let it get to me. I won’t let my circumstances control me. I just won’t let it happen.
“I’m the head usher at my church — So I go to church sometimes with bandages all over me, swollen all over my face, and I just joke about it! I don’t let it get to me. I read a lot, I do free Christian financial counseling. I’m a notary, I do that for free. I purposely got it just to do it for free. I help a lot of people but I refuse to take payment. Someone says, ‘Hey, here’s $20.’ I say, ‘Look! If you’re going to pay me I’m not going to help you. The Lord has blessed me. I don’t want money to do whatever I do.’”
With aging parents who need his support, Neaton not only manages to find the time and energy to be there for them, but says he is happy to do so.
“I’m an only child — both my parents are still alive,” he said. “My father is in bad health. So I drive up to Frederick, Md., about every six weeks, 550 miles. But that doesn’t bother me. I love my parents. I’d do anything for them.”
Neaton said he understands if some people want to sit and watch television all day because they’re tired or have had several operations. “That’s fine, but that’s not me,” he said. “I like to stay busy.”
The Neatons have two grown daughters, ages 36 and 32, and three grandchildren, all girls.
“They took three out of my head at once. They just took melanoma out of my chest. I’m not allowed to be under fluorescent lights. That’s how bad the situation is. But I don’t look at life like that. I can’t live that way. I have a very, very positive attitude. I can’t let it get to me. I won’t let my circumstances control me. I just won’t let it happen.” — James Neaton