Peter Neufeld faced his battle with pancreatic cancer as he faced all obstacles; with grace, courage, determination and optimism.
His concern, as always, was for others, and he maintained his gentle sense of humour throughout diagnosis, treatment and his final journey home.
Born in Foxwarren, Manitoba in 1937, he moved with his family to Leamington, Ont. a year later. He grew up in St. Catharine’s where met his wife, Anne, in the youth group at the United Mennonite Church. Peter worked in construction until 1961, when he applied for a job as a salesman at H.J. Heinz. By the time he left the company 32 years later, he was vice president of sales for Heinz Canada.
As a result of his promotion to district manager, he and his family were transferred to Markham in 1969. Several years ago Peter and Anne moved to Ballantrae and joined the congregation at EastRidge Church, where he learned about the church’s work in Igoma, Tanzania and told Pastor Lou Geense he would like to help out.
He embarked on his first trip to Igoma in 2003 and, using his vision and business acumen, spearheaded the establishment of the Stouffville Igoma Partnership that same year. As chairman of SIP, he returned three times, at his own expense, and became a beloved friend and champion of the community. He was especially proud of SIP’s work in establishing the Urafike Health Clinic, which now offers round-the-clock care to residents.
Back at home in Ballantrae, he continued to raise funds, recruit volunteers and organize new initiatives until the end of his life. His impact on those he met was evident in the huge crowd who attended his funeral on Jan. 9 at EastRidge Church and in the heartfelt tributes offered by family and friends.
Peter’s granddaughter Kristin Pali paid tribute to her beloved Opa by reading an essay she wrote when she was in grade 10, citing Peter as her greatest role model. Her moving eulogy brought tears to everyone’s eyes, and encapsulated beautifully her grandfather’s gentleness, sense of fun and enormous kindness to others.
Whitchurch-Stouffville has lost a remarkable man whose compassion, humility and infectious laughter will be missed by everyone whose lives he touched. Peter leaves his wife of 50 years, Anne; daughters Lorraine and husband Gordon Gilbert, Judy and husband Joe Pali, and son Peter and wife Terri Neufeld. He also leaves his beloved grandchildren Kristin, Gabrielle, Dane, Jared, Georgia, Chloe and Marcus.
Donations to the Stouffville Igoma Partnership in Peter’s memory would be greatly appreciated by the family. For more information visit www.sipartnership.org or pick up a form at the Stouffville train station on Main Street.
Compassionate, great family man, a free spirit, and an asset to the community. That is how those who knew Peter Neufeld describe him.
Mr. Neufeld died Monday at his home in Ballantrae, after fighting a courageous battle with liver cancer. He was 71.
“Whatever comes, I’m fine,” Lou Geense, lead pastor of East Ridge Evangelical Church said of Mr. Neufeld’s reaction to his Nov. 2008 diagnosis. Last January, Mr. Neufeld was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, which he beat.
Mr. Geense and Mr. Neufeld met six years ago, “but I feel like I’ve known him my whole life.” Shortly, thereafter, Mr. Neufeld accompanied Mr. Geense on one of his African trips. That trip, according to Mr. Geense “just changed him completely”.
When the two men were in Tanzania, Mr. Neufeld’s business sense kicked in, which is how the Stouffville Igoma Partnership was created.
Before he retired in 1993, Mr. Neufeld was the vice-president of sales at the H.J. Heinz Company.
“He had a soft spot for people and a business mind and somehow made those things work together,” Mr. Geense said.
Mr. Neufeld subsequently became the chairperson of the Igoma project.
Although Whitchurch-Stouffville Mayor Wayne Emmerson crossed paths with Mr. Neufeld on occasion, it wasn’t until Mr. Neufeld approached council about initiating a partnership with the Igoma project five years ago, did Mr. Emmerson really get to know Mr. Neufeld.
“He’s (been) a true gentleman and kind human being and a great asset to our community,” Mr. Emmerson said.
So important was the Stouffville-Igoma project to Mr. Neufeld, that according to Mr. Geense “to the end, he was constantly talking about Igoma.”
So well loved is Mr. Neufeld that the church received hundreds of e-mails of condolence from all over North America and Tanzania. One of those e-mails, which came from someone who met Mr. Neufeld last year, read: “Never have I loved anyone so deeply, so quickly.”
The church from which Igoma’s work is administered from – the Tanzania Missionary Revival Church – will have three days of mourning and conduct their own memorial service.
“He has a fairly wide influence on people; more than we realized,” Mr. Geense said.
Mr. Neufeld leaves behind his wife of 50 years, Anne Neufeld. He was also the father of Lorraine and husband Gordon Gilbert, Judy and husband Joe Pali, and Peter and wife Terri Neufeld. He leaves seven grandchildren, Kristin, Gabrielle, Dane, Jared, Georgia, Chloe and Marcus.
Friends and family are invited to a visitation tonight (Thursday, Jan. 8), from 2-4 and 7-9 p.m. at Chapel Ridge Funeral Home, 8911 Woodbine Avenue, in Markham.
The funeral will be held Friday at 11 a.m. at EastRidge Evangelical Church, 12485 Tenth Line, Stouffville.
In lieu of flowers, donations to the Stouffville-Igoma Partnership would be greatly appreciated. For more information, go to www.sipartnership.org.