The literary community lost a longtime friend and supporter this week with the passing of Rob Neufeld. The beloved author and historian was sixty-five.
A veteran columnist for The Asheville Citizen-Times, Rob continued writing his “Visiting the Past” column up until the week he died.
He was diagnosed with ALS in the summer of 2018 but remained productive, focusing not only on his newspaper stories but also on a narrative poem for the stage, which he excerpted on his website, The Read on WNC.
The Read on WNC was, for many years, the go-to place for arts news in and around Western North Carolina. Rob’s interests were far-ranging and included not only history and writing but music and the performing arts. The Read on WNC served as an aggregate for upcoming events and a forum for others to create and share ideas in community.
“The thing Iâ€™m most proud of is being able to tell people’s stories and making the connection to that time, and putting their lives in historical context,” Rob said. “Mostly I did that by focusing on peopleâ€™s lives, so that people know what itâ€™s like living another personâ€™s reality.”
Author of six books and the editor of two volumes of the journals of Gail Godwin, Rob was genuinely liked and admired by all who knew and worked with him. He was an enthusiastic attendee and instructor at past NCWN Fall Conferences, serving as a panelist for conversations about “Authors in Appalachia” and “Brave New Media” in 2011, and even introducing this then-newbie communications director to a fancy but easy-to-use video recording device.
From a recent write-up in The Citizen-Times:
In August, the Western North Carolina Historical Association unanimously voted Neufeld the recipient of its 2019 Outstanding Achievement Award. He became the 66th winner, joining luminaries including author and poet Fred Chappell; and Doug Orr, president emeritus of Warren Wilson College.
There will be a memorial service for Rob in the Spring of 2020.