The pieces that bind a small town

Word arrives from the “little town by the lake” — Hendricks, Minnesota — today that Bob Neff, the longtime Methodist pastor in town died overnight.

Every town needs a Bob Neff and for many years, every little town in Minnesota had one.

Perhaps you know the type. Steve Hemmingsen, who filmed this story of Neff telling his tale, wrote in 2012 that Neff picked up along town roads, went on mission trips to Haiti, coordinated spiritual care at the local hospice, changed the “sometimes inspirational” message on the town’s greeting sign, and chased pigs that got away from the local farms.

Update: The obituary:

Robert Allen Neff was born at home to Martha (Schindler) Neff and Charles Neff on July 8, 1933. He grew up in McClusky, N.D., attended elementary and high school. Bob started working at the young age of 11, delivering telegrams during WWII. He had four brothers and two sisters. Church was an important part of the lives of this family. After graduation he joined the Navy and proudly served his country during the Korean War as a radio technician.

Upon completing his Navy days, he continued his education at N.D. University and it was in a chemistry class there that he met his future wife, Bonnie Ungerecht. They were married June 9, 1957 and made their first home in Fresno, California where Bob completed his bachelor’s degree in education. Their first son, Kevin, was born in Fresno. Bob’s first teaching job was in Victorville, CA, where their daughter Sandy was born. In 1966, they moved to Plains, MT to another teaching job, where they welcomed their third child, Robert. Bob also completed his studies for administration and in 1969 moved to Melstone MT where he was superintendent of a small town school. In 1974 they moved to Northome, MN where Bonnie had grown up. Bob was high school principal there. At the various locations, he coached boys’ and girls’ basketball, girls’ volleyball, and track, was a scoutmaster for the Boy Scouts, active in American Legion, Lions Club in Plains, and later Kiwaniis in Hendricks, MN. At Northome they had a hobby farm, raising sheep and their children. Bob was inspired to shepherd human ‘sheep’ and in 1986 decided to go into the ministry. He attended Garrett Seminary and was a pastor for most of his remaining years. After serving the United Methodist Church in Northome, he and Bonnie moved to Hendricks, MN. He served churches in Hendricks, Ivanhoe, Lake Benton and Walnut Grove, trying to retire a couple of times, but always returning to the pulpit, preaching the word (sometimes too long on a Sunday morning), until he was diagnosed with cancer in June 2012. He continued preaching for another year, then he and Bonnie moved back to Plains where their daughter lived as he battled cancer for his remaining time on earth.

Bob and Bonnie enjoyed each place where they lived; camping and hiking in the mountains of California, hunting elk in Montana, backpacking in Glacier, canoeing in the waters of Minnesota. Bob was devoted to his family, helping the people around him, and serving his Lord. He enjoyed joshing with his friends, working for Hospice, doing community work, and having his children and grandchildren around him. He had a passion for the people of Haiti and made several mission trips there, so in lieu of flowers, please make a donation to HSOP, Haiti Solar Oven Project. Thank you.

Preceding him in death were his parents, two sisters, Dorothy and Janet, and one brother, Don. Surviving Bob is his wife of 57 years, children: Kevin (Carol) , St. Paul, MN; Sandra Jirasko, Paradise, MT; Robert J. (Toni) Neff, Lake Zurich, Il; three brothers: LaVerne, Williston, ND, Harold, Bismarck, ND, and Richard, Spokane, WA.

Bob left his old, worn-out body October 8, 2014 at the age of 81 1/4 years to receive a new body and share with old friends in praising their Lord. Memorial services will be held in Hendricks, MN at Grace U.M.C. at 1:00 P.M. with visitation beginning at 11:00 A.M. He will be missed by family and friends on this earth.