Geneseean of the Year: Jim Neider
This is one of a series of articles highlighting the winners of the Genesee County Chamber of Commerce awards for 2012. The awards gala is Saturday evening at the Clarion Hotel.
From 1968-70, James Neider served in the Army and was stationed in Germany. Today he is a retired elementary school teacher whose greatest satisfaction is serving the veterans of Genesee County.
His tireless efforts and devotion to his cause have earned him the honor of the Genesee County Chamber of Commerce’s selection as one of two 2012 Genesseans of the Year (Lois Gerace is also being honored).
Jim, who’s a member of Vietnam Veterans of America, knows firsthand that sometimes the toughest tasks are also the most rewarding. In his case, he is deeply moved by the appreciation of veterans’ families when their fallen heroes are given a proper funeral.
“They get their honors, they get their taps and they get their American flag," Neider said. "A lot of times it’s people we know. I’ve been the pallbearer for a number of friends. It’s tough. I’m proud of getting veterans the help they need.”
As with many volunteers, his involvement in veterans’ causes started out casually.
Initially, it was exclusively through the American Legion, which he joined somewhat hastily after being approached by a commander at a meeting of local magistrates. (Neider was a Town of Batavia justice in the mid-‘80s.)
He went to one Legion meeting, then four, and more.
“My father, who died when I was 13, was very much involved in things and he always said if you’re going to live in a community, you’ve got to give back to it…I realized that those of us who came back whole and alive were obligated to help those who didn’t and that sort of got me on this path.”
Neider, a long-time Batavian, expanded his volunteerism after retiring from 30 years of teaching fifth- and sixth-graders.
He wondered what he should do with the rest of his life and it turns out the married father of two grown daughters found plenty to keep him busy.
One Memorial Day, Hal Kreter was swamped with observance rites and Jim helped out. Kreter is a retired Marine Corps master sargeant and director of the local Veterans Services Center.
“That’s how I first got involved in (doing veterans’ funerals)– and it just sort of took off.”
He has served in many capacities for the Genesee County American Legion, Glenn S. Loomis American Legion Post #332, the Genesee Veterans Support Network, and played a significant role in resurrecting the Joint Veterans Council, which in turn led to the creation of a Joint Veterans Honor Guard.
In addition, he is a liaison working with federal officials in the plan to bring a National Veterans Cemetery to Western New York, specifically Pembroke.
“Genesee County is the most veteran-friendly county in New York State,” he says proudly. “We’re the only county in the state that has a VA Medical Center, a Veterans Home and an assisted living facility on the same grounds.”
Add to that a Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Clinic and a Women’s Health Clinic and it’s clear that vets are highly valued here.
At this point in his life, he’s 66 years old, his greatest desire is more participation by younger men and women, veterans and non-veterans alike, in support of those who served and are serving our country.
The veterans who currently advocate for the issues that affect their lives are getting older and more people need to step up and carry the torch, Neider said.
“If the younger veterans don’t get involved, they may not have the benefits that we have as older veterans. Those benefits aren’t carved in stone."
Well done Mr. Neider! You were my 5th grade teacher at Alexander, nice to see good people get honored.