Eight Bells: Robert Neff

Published on October 13th, 2019

Robert James Neff

Robert James Neff passed away October 1 at the age of 79 in Laramie, WY. Bob was born June 28, 1940, the first child of two born to James Julius Neff and Florence M. Neff (Sis) of Altoona, PA.

Bob graduated in 1964 from Parks Air College, St. Louis, MO with a Mechanical (Aeronautical) Engineering Degree. In 1965, Bob started work for McDonnell Aircraft, which in 1967 became McDonnell Douglas, where he worked on the F-4 Phantom II.

Bob contributed to the development of two other notable aircraft, the Black Hawk helicopter and the B2 stealth bomber. In 1997, Bob began consulting for Kawasaki Rail Car in Yonkers, NY. Utilizing his aerospace quality and reliability knowledge, Bob applied the same approach to the subway trains for New York City Transit.

In 2009, Bob began work for Louis T. Klauder as a subject matter expert in reliability and maintainability engineering. Bob never officially retired from the work he loved; however, Bob and Mary Ellen semi-retired to Ft. Laramie, WY in 2004 and eventually, with the help of daughter Lorie, made their modest ranch their full-time residence in 2016.

Throughout the late 1960s and early 70s Bob found time to race motorcycles. He was successful in endurance time trials and early motocross. Bob was one of the earliest riders to wear a full-face mask helmet, which won him the nickname “Moon Man” in local papers. He also was the only rider to keep the brake light wired, allowing his children to easily find him on the race track.

By the mid-70s, Bob’s children were getting to the age where mini-bikes might become an interest, so he retired the old leathers and boots for a 1977 Catalina 22. In 1979, Bob and Mary Ellen purchased a Flying Scot for use on Carlyle Lake in Illinois. Later that year, along with son Dan as crew, they won the Challenger division of the Flying Scot North American Championships.

In 1987, Bob and Mary Ellen established a lifelong commitment to the Flying Scot sailing community by opening a marina for Flying Scots on the Chesapeake (now owned by son David). Beginning in 1991, Bob held the position of Chief Measurer for the Flying Scot Class. For the next 27 years, he insured the class measurement rules were kept fair for all competitors.

His brother David Irving Neff preceded Bob in death at the early age of 17 as a result of an unfortunate accident. Bob is survived by his loving wife of 53 years, Mary Ellen Neff, 76, his children Lorie Rachel Neff, Daniel James Neff, David Anthony Neff, and six grandchildren.

A Memorial Service will be held Tuesday October 29, 2019 at the Ft. Laramie Presbyterian Church at 220 Laramie Ave, Fort Laramie, WY 82212, where a memorial will start at 11:00 followed by lunch. A second family and friends gathering to celebrate Bob’s life will be held on June 28, 2020 at Selby Bay Sailing Center, Edgewater, MD 21037.

In lieu of flowers, contributions/donations can be made in Bob’s name to the Western Nebraska Art Center. Visit http://www.thewnac.com/about-membership and click, To Join or Renew Membership. Under Additional Information, enter MaryEllenNeff@gmail.com as the email address. For more information about the art center visit http://www.thewnac.com/welcome or call the Art Center at 308-632-2226.

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