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Author, historian, columnist Rob Neufeld dies from ALS
Sunday, 03 November 2019 13:42

From Staff Reports

Local author, historian and columnist Rob Neufeld died at age 65 on Oct. 20 of ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis), aka Lou Gerhig’s Disease.

Despite being bed-ridden with ALS toward the end, and battling the debilitating disease since April 2018, Neufeld still wrote a local history column that appeared each Monday on Page A3 of the Asheville Citizen Times by dictating the copy. 

He also continued — until his death — working on a narrative poem for the stage.

The WNC Historical Society honored him in August with an outstanding achievement award for highlighting mountain history.

Asheville television station WLOS (News 13) noted in an Aug. 19 story on Neufeld, “He’s been a columnist for the Asheville Citizen-Times since 1999, enlightening readers about history in the mountains that might have otherwise been forgotten.”

Neufeld was quoted by WLOS as saying, “And writing is my salvation. Absolutely a lifesaver. If I couldn’t write, what would I do?”

Citizen Times columnist John Boyle noted in an Oct. 23 story (following Neufeld’s death) that “Neufeld was a New York City transplant who came to Asheville with (Bev) Robertson in 1988, shortly after they married, for a job with the Buncombe County Library system. Neufeld and Robertson, who is director of the Mars Hill University Library, raised their two sons here, Henry, 29, and Nathan, 27.”

Further, Boyle wrote, “The couple met while getting their master’s degrees in library science at Columbia University in New York City. Neufeld held degrees from Swarthmore College and Columbia, but he came to love his adopted mountains like a native.

“He especially enjoyed hearing from locals he wrote about who appreciated his deep research and writing style.”

The ACT quoted Robertson, Neufeld’s wife, as saying of his research and writing on local history, “It really gave him joy. He loved this area, he loved the people here. He was just a curious guy, so that was always behind it from the get-go.”

The newspaper also noted that “Mountain native Jim Buchanan, an association board member and former Citizens Times editor and columnist, said Neufeld’s legacy will ‘live on due to the quality of his character.

“‘Perhaps more important, and I suspect he would’ve agreed with this statement, the legacy of many, many individuals and an entire culture will live on thanks to his careful and diligent chronicling of the people, places and events of these mountains,’Buchanan said. ‘He carefully distilled and bottled them, and we’ll forever be able to take a sip when the mood strikes us.’”

Neufeld also was the author of four books, two of local interest and two collaborations with novelist Gail Godwin.

His two local-interest books, published in 2007 and 2008, respectively, are “A Popular History of Western North Carolina: Mountains, Heroes & Hootnoggers (American Chronicles)” and “Asheville River Arts District.” 

A memorial service will be held for Neufeld in spring 2020.



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