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John ‘Rusty’ Neff

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John "Rusty" Neff

John “Rusty” Neff

On Wednesday, Feb. 28, John Neff passed at Friends Care Center after a very brief illness.  He was 72, had just had two hips replaced and was looking forward to a long and mobile life. He had been a long-term resident of the village, first coming here in the 1960s to watch Shakespeare plays at the Antioch Amphitheater.

John grew up on a farm in Greenville, Ohio, graduated high school there and took a degree from the General Motors Institute in Flint, Mich.  He worked for the Antioch College engineering department, providing technical support and teaching dulcimer-making with Dean Kimball. He moved into a technical support role with the science area before taking a job as a robotics engineer in the Vernay Laboratories production facility. He married Lisa Hauck and moved with her to China, working with Sprague Electric while Lisa pursued her studies. Returning from China, he took a job with Techneglass in Columbus from which he retired.  He and Lisa were divorced.

Never one to do anything by halves, John avidly pursued gardening, building and flying radio-controlled model airplanes, fly fishing and old west fast draw target shooting — joining the Single Action Shooting Society under the alias “Dusty Rusty.” He made musical instruments, specializing in dulcimers, guitars and mandolas, and played old time music with friends.  In the mid ’70s he built a battery-powered car, The Electric Neff, in which he zoomed silently around town to shop and visit friends.  

Most mornings he could be seen drinking coffee with friends at Dino’s or enjoying breakfast at the Emporium. He had an awesome way of caring about people in his life, and everyone who knew him loved him.  

John is survived by the love of his life for 19 years, Deborah Fugett, and his longtime friend Joe Ayres, both of Yellow Springs, and by his brother Gerald (and Betsy) Neff, of San Diego, niece Kimi and her family of Peru, and cousins in Ohio.

John donated his body to medical science. There will be a memorial gathering to celebrate John’s life, to be announced in a future edition of the News.


6 Responses to “John ‘Rusty’ Neff”

  1. Who knows what made me think about Rusty today…was not expecting to find he had departed this earth. So sad. We dated in the early 70s after i graduated from UDayton, and i have many fond memories of him, his house, his two cats, and those long-ago days in Yellow Springs…another era. RIP, Rusty.


    Rusty and I were classmates at GMI in 1968. Although most of us were pretty straight laced “white shirt & black necktie” types back then , Rusty was the class free spirit, the closest thing at GM to a hippie.
    After classes and during what little free time we had Rusty and I would hang around the school lab and craft shops. Rusty wanted a mandolin so he and I built one in the wood shop. My most memorable “Rusty” experience was he and I riding double on my brand new 1967 Norton Atlas in a very wet rain soaked trip from Flint to Yellow Springs.
    Rest in peace ole’ buddy.

  3. Rusty was a much better friend to my brother Joe Ayres of Yellow Springs. I do not think I met him when I was a student at Antioch, except possibly at some musical events.

  4. Stephen Cooper says:

    I took Rusty’s Dulcimer workshop,and woke up from dream this morning for some reason thinking of his Neffmobile,and googled to this page.Rusty was for me an Amazing individual that stood out at a time,when Antioch and YellowSprings was replete with Such.I am thankful,even now.

  5. Rex Walton says:

    I was friends with John “Rusty” Neff when we both went to General Motors Institute in Flint, MI in the mid 60s – Rusty’s love for the music of Bob Dylan, and many others, was evident and helped bring me from a small-town Nebraska kid to a fuller understanding of the big and getting-bigger world — we both stayed across the street from school in an old 2 story house that had been converted to a “Rabbit-Warren” of tiny and tinier rooms — but it was home … I have tried in the past to find Rusty, and now — I find that he has passed on …

  6. Andy Voda says:

    Rusty was just one of those people that I always fondly remember, including that car too! Back in the 70s, I remember needing some sort of help in making an animation stand that I was concocting in the film department. And nothing in my half-baked plans phased him a bit. He took to the work like it was the most important thing on his plate. He felt like an kind older brother to me. Even after being gone from town for years, and suddenly encountering him on the street, he remembered me and chatted with me like we’d last seen each other only a few days before. He’s one of the kindest people I’ve known around Yellow Springs and I’m shocked to discover he’s gone.

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