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.