“Holy God, We Praise Thy Name” for the life of Harry Dean Neufeld (84) 9-13-34 to 7-24-2019, born in a farm house in the Sand Hills near Inman, KS to Abe and Agnes (Doerksen) Neufeld, the second of six children.
This song, a favorite, represented the many years Harry sang in the Mennonite Men’s Chorus, and was one of the last songs he sang to Medical Center staff days before he died- as he was determined to not let his cancer define him.
Always a strong and inquisitive student, Harry had a thirst for adventure which propelled him from raising Russian watermelons during the Great Depression to his first experience with mental health work at Brook Lane Farm in Maryland, and then to over two years of Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) work in Paraguay.
Harry’s fluency in Spanish, his curiosity, penchant for remembering facts and faces, and positive attitude enabled him to engage in one of his greatest joys-relating to people in all walks of life. He loved the diversity of the human experience and also treasured his Low German roots. A conversation in his mother-tongue, Plattdeutsch, never failed to put a twinkle in his eye. “Nah yo, dahn lot va daut zou.”
While a student at Bethel College, Harry married Donna Kaufman, June 13, 1959 and together they earned Masters Degrees in Social Work from Washington University in St. Louis. Harry’s concern for others led to a 34-year career in Social Work at Prairie View Mental Health Clinic. Harry also enjoyed opportunities to contribute to the church and broader community- as a youth group sponsor, city council member, MCC meat canner, Community Play School board member, and a volunteer with Health Ministries and the homeless shelter. A regular blood donor, he was a member of the “100 Pint Club”. Although Harry valued service, justice, and conflict resolution, his friends can attest that these values did not prevent him from trying to beat them on the golf course with his garage-sale clubs.
For 52 years, home base was North Newton, close to extended family, where Harry and Donna nurtured their two children in a family marked by love, music and adventure. Harry’s gentle demeanor, sense of humor, and devotion to family led to many treasured experiences, from singing “Nun ist sie Erschienen” with the grandkids at Kidron, to Halloween costume construction, to family motor scooter rides around town. He is greatly loved.
Harry and Donna celebrated 60 years of marriage this June on an Alaskan cruise with their kids and grandkids– an indelible family memory and a fitting last adventure for Harry.
“Anatevka”, the last song Harry sang in the hospital, encapsulates much: his passion for travel, his connections to people, his love of musicals, and his sojourn to ancestral roots in Europe, Holland, Russia, and Poland. This farewell song illuminates the pathos of a departure from his earthly homeland and the sadness felt by his survivors: wife Donna; daughter Kristi (Jonathan) Neufeld, Lawrence; son Scott (MaryBeth) Neufeld-Wall, St. Louis; and grandchildren Maya, Olivia, Sadie and Nathaniel; siblings Elsie Miller, Leana (Orval) Regier, Irma (Don) Gerbrandt, Naomi Neufeld, Paul (Barbara) Neufeld, and brother-in-law Arlan Kaufman; and many nieces and nephews.
A memorial service will be January 3, 2020 at Bethel College Mennonite Church, North Newton, KS. Memorials may be sent to MCC, PO Box 500, Akron PA 17501 and New Hope Shelter, 900 W Broadway St. Bldg. 7, Newton KS 67114.