Cover photo for Richard Neff's Obituary
Richard Neff Profile Photo
1937 Richard 2012

Richard Neff

June 11, 1937 — March 17, 2012

Richard Reno Neff ("Rick" to his family and many friends) passed away on March 17, 2012, at the age of 74. Rick was a folk musician, businessman, Unitarian-Universalist minister and reference librarian. In recent years, he was the author and publisher of "Rick's Journal," an e-newsletter for family and friends on politics, philosophy, art, and economics.

He was born in the Bronx, NY, on June 11, 1937, to Mary Himoff and Earl Reno, and lived there until he was nine. His mother later married Walter S. Neff, who adopted him. The family moved to Chicago in 1947, where Rick attended the Dewey Lab School of the University of Chicago. Rick entered the University as a freshman at the age of 16, but left when he was 18, to travel, work odd jobs, and write and perform folk music. During this time, Rick wrote, among other songs, a version of "John Riley," a traditional song that was recorded by The Byrds on their "Fifth Dimension" album.

During his 20s, Rick worked at the Monroe Company in Chicago. In the 1960s, he was active in the civil rights movement, joining in the Selma-Montgomery march with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

In 1966, after two early marriages ended in divorce, he married Joan Mahoney. They moved to Berkeley, CA, where Rick attended Thomas Starr King Seminary and became a Unitarian-Universalist minister. While in Berkeley, Rick and Joan had a son, Joshua Michael, in 1969. In 1971, they had a second son, Jeremy Daniel, after moving to Farmington, MI, where Rick took his first post as a minister.

Rick and Joan divorced in 1975. In 1976, Rick married Kathryn Price, and they relocated to Flushing, NY, where Rick became minister of a Unitarian-Universalist church. In 1979, they moved to Joliet, IL, where Rick assumed the ministership of another Unitarian-Universalist congregation. In 1986, Rick and Kathryn moved to West Orange, NJ, where Rick assumed the ministership of another church. While in New Jersey, his marriage to Kathryn ended.

In 1993, Rick retired from the ministry. At the age of 56, decided to begin a new career: he attended library school at Rutgers University, where he earned his MLS in 1997. He subsequently worked in and managed libraries in Livingston, Butler and Linden, NJ.

Rick loved working as a librarian, but health problems forced him to retire in 2002. After that, he lived in Lake Wylie, South Carolina, from 2003-2008. He moved to Overland Park, Kansas, in 2008, where he lived until his death.

He is survived by a brother, Alan Neff, in Chicago; two cousins, Susan Burns and William Forbes of Kathmandu, Nepal; his sons Joshua and Jeremy; three grandchildren, Morgan Rowena Neff, August Levi Neff, and Hazel May Neff; and numerous friends and former congregants around the country, who will miss him and his distinctive Journal.

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