After graduating from Canfield High School in 1935, Bob went to The Ohio State University, graduating in 1939 with a Bachelor of Science from the College of Commerce. Among other honors, he was president of the freshman class and a member of Romophos, a sophomore-class men’s honorary society.
Most importantly, OSU is where he met his lifelong friend and companion, Maxine Alice Dwiggins, whom he married on Dec. 21, 1940, in Toronto, Ohio.
After graduation, Bob worked in sales for the Sheaffer Pen Company at Fort Madison, Iowa. He served as territorial manager for central Ohio and parts of West Virginia, Pennsylvania and Maryland.
In December of 1941, he applied for a naval commission. It was granted in June 1942 and was one of the earliest in the nation. Bob served three and a half years as a naval officer in World War II. Duty took the newlyweds to Norfolk, Va., where Bob served as instructor teaching aircraft recognition. He ended his Navy career as a lieutenant in charge of all classroom instruction at the U.S. Navy Training Center in Sampson, N.Y., where 25,000 recruits were trained each session.
After the war, Bob and Maxine moved to Canfield to make their permanent residence until the early 1980s, when they became Florida residents and established a winter home at Sea Fields Club in Delray Beach. Canfield continued to be their summer home.
After World War II, Bob resumed work with the Sheaffer Pen Company and in 1950 purchased Marshall’s, a gift store in Columbus. During this period, he also began his career as a land developer. Between 1941 and 1949, with his father and brother Richard, he developed Callahan Road and North Hillside Drive in Canfield.
In 1950, he incorporated his own business, Neff Land Company. He eventually headed five land development corporations in Ohio and Florida. His developments featured home sites such as Sleepy Hollow Drive, where his family lived for many years. He developed 14 streets and 1,904 acres of land.
Among other achievements, Robert was one of Mahoning County’s earliest Eagle Scouts. In 1932, he became the tenth Eagle in the county. He headed a proxy battle at Farmers National Bank of Canfield in 1974 to preserve it as an independent, locally-owned bank. He presented testimony to congressional committees to ensure the signing of the first U.S. strip-mine reclamation legislation. President Carter invited him to a White House Rose Garden Ceremony to witness the signing of the legislation in 1977. In 1999, he served as Grand Marshall in Canfield’s Fourth of July Parade. Forever up to a challenge, he won the Florida State Shuffleboard Championship at the age of 80.
Among his many gifts to the community were his donation of the Eagle Cabin at Camp Stambaugh for the Boy Scouts, the purchasing of the building and grounds for the War Vet Museum and funding for various Village Green Park projects, including several Ohio State Historical markers.
At 95 years of age, he still had many projects in progress. The latest was starting an arboretum of native trees on the Abbey Delray grounds. In April, an avocado tree was the first planted. He was working on the continued development of Delray’s historical walk and over-seeing the installation and dedication of six new state historical markers, one in Ohio and five in Delray. In October, he was going to be honored at Delray’s 100th anniversary celebration.
Robert served on the board of Campfire Girls and was former chairman of Camp Kiwatani in Ellsworth. He was a lifelong member of the Canfield United Methodist Church. Among other memberships, he belonged to the American Legion, Rotary Club, Elks Club, Canfield Historical Society, Canfield Heritage Foundation, Delray Beach Historical Society, Gyro Club, Salem Golf Club and Inner Circle Golf Club in Delray.
Traveling was a favorite activity. He was able to visit all of the seven continents but Antarctica. Hunting and fishing were of great interest to Bob. He fished throughout North America and in the Aegean Sea, the Nile River in Uganda and in the lakes of Kenya. He caught rainbow trout in New Zealand and salmon in Alaska. Many elk-hunting seasons were spent in Idaho, Colorado and Wyoming. Ohio Camp near Emporium, Pa., was a favorite place to enjoy nature. Robert always enjoyed life to the fullest and always looked forward to more.
He leaves his 94-year-old wife, Maxine, with whom he celebrated a 70th wedding anniversary in 2010; three daughters, Jennifer Neff of Canfield, Holly (Gordon) Broom of Edwardsville, Ill.; and Candace Neff of Lantana, Fla.
He also leaves seven treasured grandchildren: Mary Alexis (Hank) Mathews, of Louisville, Ky., George Fiffick (Chandler) of Chicago, Ill., Max (Amy) Fiffick of Kernersville, N.C., Ben (Amy) Broom of Fortville, Ind., Becky Broom of Delray Beach, Fla., Joe (Jessica) Broom of Frisco, Colo., and Anastasia Neff of Lantana, Fla. His eight great-grandchildren will miss him greatly. They are Aaron, Joan and Adam Mathews; Sam and Isabella Fiffick; and Grace, Max and Claire Broom. He is also survived by his sister-in-law, Gwen (Richard) Neff of Jackson, as well as a large extended family and many friends. His nephew Bruce (Clara) Neff resides in Canfield.
Besides his parents and an infant son, three brothers preceded him in death: Charles (Evelyn), Edward (Martha) and Richard (Gwen). The family descended from pioneer settlers in the Western Reserve, and they spent most of their lives in the village. Ancestors Conrad and Magdalena Weaver Neff, who settled in Canfield in 1804, built a log home on U.S. 224 now known as the Loghurst Museum. Their great-grandmothers were from the early Canfield families of Kline, Wilson and Sanzenbacher. The Noll family emigrated from Western Pennsylvania to the Mahoning Valley after the Civil War. They were prominent in the growth of the steel industry. After 11 years of research, Robert completed a Neff family history book for future generations to enjoy.
Respecting the wishes of the deceased, the family suggests that in lieu of flowers, it would be an honor to have contributions in his memory be made to the Canfield Historical Society at P.O. Box 3, Canfield, OH 44406; Canfield Heritage Foundation at P.O. Box 411, Canfield; Delray Beach Historical Society, 3 NE 1st St., Delray Beach, FL 33444; Canfield United Methodist Church; or the charity of your choice.
On Friday, July 29, an 11:30 a.m. graveside ceremony will be held at the Canfield Village Cemetery. Lunch will follow at the Canfield Methodist Church. Casual attire, please.
The Neff family has entrusted the arrangements of their loved one to the Wasko Funeral Home in Campbell. Visit www.waskofamily.com to send the Neff family condolences.
ROBERT HUDSON NEFF