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Mount Sinai Obituaries and Services » Benjamin S. Neufeld
September 5, 1926 - March 28, 2020
Benjamin Simon Neufeld passed away on Friday night at the age of 93. He was a wonderful father to Ellis Neufeld of Memphis, Sophie Neufeld Wright of Warrenton, VA and a devoted husband to Dr. Elizabeth (nee Fondal) Neufeld of Los Angeles. He had suffered from a few years of declining physical health from congestive heart failure, and from the consequences of some falls, but he maintained until the end a sharp mind and also his most endearing trait – of telling long stories.
He was born in the Bronx in 1926 to Michael and Jeanne (nee Frankel) Neufeld, and he grew up in New York and Baltimore. He served in the army in Germany as a Corporal in the Quartermasters Corps at the end of WWII. He attended Virginia Military Institute and the University of Maine, before receiving his undergraduate degree from New York University, and he went on to receive a master’s degree at University of California, Berkeley in the 1950s.
During the Korean war he was stationed near Baltimore, while Liz was working at Johns Hopkins as a research technician. Setting a 40 year pattern, where Liz moved for school and career, he came along as supportive spouse: To Berkeley where they were in graduate school in the ‘50s, to Bethesda in 1963 when she started her own lab at NIH, then to Los Angeles in 1984 as she became Chair of Biological Chemistry at UCLA, where they remained. His enduring legacy will be that he was way ahead of his time as a modern man of the second half of the 20th century, subsuming his career to hers at each turn. When her science career flourished and he accompanied her to international science meetings, he would often go on the sponsored “wives’ tour” of host cities. No doubt he told charming stories to the other scientists’ spouses, virtually all women.
He held many jobs including Baltimore taxi driver and World Book salesman. He worked for county and city governments in California in the late 50s. In the 60s he was executive secretary for the National Council on Agricultural Life and Labor, a farm labor lobbying group. In the 70s and early 80s he worked for the federal government on equitable distribution of health resources. Downsizing from a house to a senior living facility in 2018, his file cabinets were found to be stuffed with drawers full of committee reports and monographs from that era on establishment of single-payer healthcare systems – an idea that precedes current politicians by decades. He took early retirement from the Federal government in the Reagan administration, and in California in 1985 at age 59 essentially started a second career. He completed a master’s degree in Non-profit Administration at the University of Judaism in LA, and then worked for decades as a volunteer on Veterans’ Health issues and for the Jewish Social Service agency in Los Angeles. When he purchased a burial plot in 2016, he listed his usual occupation as “Public Health Administrator.”
Idealism fueled his work in and out of government. He was a passionate supporter of liberal political causes and delighted in teaching his children by example. He believed in political action. He was proud to have used parliamentary procedures to keep a Communist faction from taking over the American Veterans Committee in the late 40s, and was proud that his son became a student government parliamentarian. He testified at County Council meetings, served on state regulatory boards in Maryland, wrote letters, and tutored in the early years of Head Start in the 60s.
Ben Neufeld is survived by his wife, Elizabeth, children Ellis and Sophie, and grandchildren Tom and Anna.