Anthony and Trinas Neely work together and play together.
The Swansea couple are All-State insurance agents and agency owners. His office is in Swansea; hers in Fairview Heights.
Not bad, considering Trinas (pronounced tre-NACE) didn’t want anything to do with Anthony at first.
“We met in May 1996,” said Anthony. “I met her at Mount Zion Baptist Church in East St. Louis. I was sitting down in church next to a buddy of mine who had invited me. I saw this pretty lady on my left. I didn’t go up to her, but noticed she had a daughter. The next Sunday I went up and introduced myself to her and her daughter. I didn’t get anywhere.”
Trinas remembered Anthony from Lincoln High School. She had been a sophomore when Anthony was a senior.
“He was a little arrogant,” said Trinas, 47. “All the girls kind of flocked to him. I thought, ‘Wow, what did they see in him?’”
“I was in sports,” said Anthony, 49. “I ran track. I was just a very popular guy. We had a group called The Top Ten that generated revenue. It made money for us. I sold Snickers and blow pops. That was my idea.”
When Anthony didn’t get anywhere with Trinas at church, it was also his idea to drive alongside her.
“He pulled me over,” said Trinas. “I knew exactly who he was.”
Anthony wasn’t about to give up. He asked if he could call Trinas. The beginning of their relationship was rocky.
“She wouldn’t open up to me,” said Anthony, who at the time was 29 or 30 and ready to settle down. “It was a roller coaster till I told her I was done and to give me a call when she decided I was the guy she wanted to be with. She called a couple days later and said, ‘You are the guy. Let’s go for it.’ We got engaged four months later.”
They married the next year on Sept. 6, 1997.
Trinas admitted she really didn’t know Anthony in high school. “Perception had me not like him.”
But that all changed.
“He was a straightforward guy. He knew what he wanted out of life. I got on board with him. I always thought he was a handsome guy. His personality grew on me, and I love him to death now.”
Both had children — Trinas, a daughter, and Anthony, three daughters.
“We figured that was enough,” said Trinas.
Now, they have four grandchildren.
When they met, Anthony was a claims adjustor for State Farm. Trinas worked in payroll at Anheuser-Busch credit union. He had a degree in business administration and financial management. She had a degree in social work. He went into the insurance business for himself and encouraged Trinas to join him. Later, he went into the car industry, owning a small dealership in East St. Louis from 2004 to 2014. Now, they’re both with All-State. They combine on marketing efforts, but don’t compete.
“He has his customers. I have mine,” said Trinas. “We just try to get our piece of the pie in this market. I can call and bounce things off of him.”
Both like working with customers.
“I enjoy educating people on insurance,” said Anthony, “helping someone cover their assets, provide them with all the insurance they need. I get a rush when I sell a policy.”
Trinas has a different take.
“They don’t have to buy insurance from me, but if they leave with some knowledge, I am OK with that, as long as you know what insurance means.”
Trinas uses her social work knowledge in the insurance business.
“I do a lot of consultation with customers in the office.”
“She’s been a blessing to me,” said Anthony. “A lot of things I have questions about, most of the time, she has the answers.”
As long as they’re at the office.
“I am still excited about work when I get home,” he said. “She likes to leave All-State problems at the office. I know not to talk to her between 7 and 9.”
“He wants to pillow talk about All-State,” said Trinas. “I do not. I listen with one ear and look at TV. It’s my time, my meditation.”
The Neelys attend church together, like movies and look forward to island vacations. This June, they will take a family cruise to the Bahamas.
Trinas enjoys cooking. “I cook five days a week. That relaxes me. It takes my mind off everything. Tonight for dinner, I am thinking about tilapia. He has to have potatoes.”
“On Thanksgiving, she cooks for the whole family,” said Anthony.
“We go to Georgetown, Kentucky, where my daughter Tamyra lives,” said Trinas. “She helps cook, too. I think I missed my calling.”
Anthony plans to cook crab legs for the first time this month. But they didn’t cook Monday.
“It was my birthday,” said Anthony. “We went to Ruth Chris. I forgot how well of a steak they prepare.”
Valentine’s Day plans? “We are going to a concert together,” said Anthony, “an old school (R&B and rap music) concert, artists we grew up with in our 20s — Jodeci, Slick Rick, Doug E. Fresh, SWV, Bobby Brown — at Chaifetz Arena.”
His best quality? “He’s a giving person. On his birthday, he gave me a card.”
Her best quality? “She’s tender to me. She makes sure I get what I need. She cooks for me. She has my back. I have her support.”
What makes their marriage work?
“Once you know it’s not about you; it’s about the other person,” said Anthony, “that’s a successful marriage.”