- 66 years old
- Date of birth: May 3, 1949
- Place of birth:
- Date of passing: Sep 9, 2015
- Place of passing:
British Columbia, Canada
May 3, 1949 – September 9, 2015
On September 9, 2015, after a short battle with pancreatic cancer, we lost a loving husband and father, a true friend and a teacher to us all.
Dietmar was born to Isaac and Frieda Neufeld in Filadelfia, Paraguay. He moved to Canada at the age of 8, where he later met his wife, Viola Neufeld, to whom he was married to for 38 years.
Dietmar was an accomplished scholar and professor at the University of British Columbia in the Department of Classical, Near Eastern and Religious studies. He was known for his creative mind, his wit, and for his compassion for others. He was truly a lover of life, spending his free time cycling, gardening and most importantly connecting with family and friends over great conversation and great wine.
Diet leaves behind his wife, Vi, as well as his four children, Jordanna (Laine); Jessalyn (Adam); Jemina (Tyler); Joshua, and two grandchildren.
A memorial fund has been set up for Dietmar by UBC. Please see below:
Diet Neufeld was born in Paraguay, and moved to Canada at the age of eight. After studying at the University of Winnipeg, and the Mennonite Seminary, he received his Ph.D. at McGill University in 1991. Diet spent most of his academic career at UBC, attaining the rank of Full Professor. Apart from publishing numerous books and articles, he was the recipient of several richly deserved awards for teaching excellence, and he also served as President of the Canadian Society for Biblical Studies. Diet loved life, and he imparted light and life to everyone he met: his family, his friends, his students, his acquaintances—we are all a little bit diminished by his loss.
The impact of your support
Diet Neufeld’s enthusiasm and joie de vivre were contagious, and never more so than when he was teaching and inspiring students. His warmth and passion for his subject touched everyone he met, and we hope to use your donation to continue Diet’s remarkable legacy by promoting the study of Christian scriptures. On behalf of his family and the UBC Department of Classical, Near Eastern and Religious Studies, thank you.
"I have just learned of Dr. Neufeld's passing from a former UBC classmate. I am feeling shock and sadness. The last time I spoke to him was sometime in early 2008, when out of concern, I asked about his health for he looked like he had lost a lot of weight. I owe the path of my academic stint at UBC to Dr. Neufeld for it was during his class that he recommended Dr. Daum's Midrash class. As a result of taking that class, I decided to continue on to do a Master's degree in Judaic Studies at UBC. Many thanks to you Dr. Neufeld!"
"My abiding memory of Diet will be his personal commitment to his family and his personal concerns for his students and colleagues. I suspect that these convictions informed his productive scholarly publications. In perhaps his last published article he was contributing to a festschrift for our colleague Paul Mosca. Diet chose the chilling episode of the killing of 42 youths who had mocked the prophet Elisha in 2 Kings 2.23-24. When I first saw his article, I wondered whether this was in some way motivated by Diet's concern about raising his teenager children amid the episodic outbreaks of violence in Surrey. I continue to remember Diet and his family with admiration and respect."
We just heard now of Diet's passing away.
We want to tell you how sorry we are, although we haven't seen each other for many years, we will always remember your family with great fondness. I also remember the time he helped us build the jungle gym, which was very well appreciated and still remembered by all our kids. His death is a great loss.
Joyce Pickering and Antoine Loutfi"
"Dear Neufeld family,
I was so sorry to hear of Dietmar's passing. I first met Diet when I was hired to start the Co-operative Education Program in the Faculty of Arts in 1999. Right from those early days I benefited from Dietmar's progressive thinking and willingness to embrace new ideas. He was very supportive of me personally, support which meant a great deal to a younger woman like me who was new to a leadership role in Arts. Diet continued to offer informal support over the years, and most recently he participated in a focus group about ways we could help faculty members build capacity to have career conversations with students last winter. Diet enthusiastically shared his own career experiences and said if we created the seminar I had in mind, he'd encourage all of his colleagues to participate! I will miss Diet's energy and commitment to our students' experiences, and his mentorship.
With deepest sympathy,
"I've come to know Diet through his wife, Viola, with whom I had become friend when they lived in Montréal many, so many years ago. We were almost neighbours and had children of the same age. I must say that at that point, I was very envious of their relationship because they sounded, looked and were so much in love.
After so many years of being together and loving each other, I'm sure that you (Viola) must feel a terrible lost, unless his love can still stay with you and sustain you during this terrible times. This is my wish to you to your children and your loves ones, that his love may be your consolation. All my condoleances to you. Love!"
"I had some of the best conversations of my life with him when he came to Vallarta. He was a man of towering intellect, great kindness and devoid of all pretension. Requiescat in Pace, Diet."
"Hi Vi & Family,
We are so saddened to hear the news of Diet's passing.
Unfortunately we were away in Edmonton for the sudden
passing of our Dearest Friend's Husband & missed any notices.
We would have wanted to support you & your Family if we had known.
You're in our thoughts & prayers. Jim & Donna Haynes"
"After my first year teaching at UBC, Diet found out I had taken a class in stage fighting. He instantly developed this mad idea to choreograph a scene that we would play out in the first of our classes in September. I was never fully clear on the details, but I think it involved me being an unruly (older) student, and him setting me straight by punching me out or cracking a board across my head. In exchange, he promised he would come in and disrupt my classes.
We never did it, of course. But for a few years every September he would begin to describe the scheme to someone else, the familiar glint in his smiling eyes, explaining what we were going to do. I'm sorry now he never got the chance to beat me up in front of his students.
Instead, we had many wonderful lunches, or quick coffee runs, where we would talk about the department, sure, but also about his family, his love of cycling, his favourite whiskeys, or whatever else came to mind. I'm grateful for a lot that he has given me. He will be missed."
"I can hardly believe that Diet is gone. He was so full of life, energy, activity, and passion, qualities that I enjoyed regularly over the past 15 years. He could laugh at anything, be powerfully irreverent, poignantly inappropriate, and at the same time be sensitive to others and respectful of their opinions. One of a kind in so many ways and like this website says- I will miss him forever."
"Dietmar Neufeld. Father to one of my greatest friends, Jemina, and forever in my heart. I still remember the day I met the entire Neufeld clan in grade 5. I was enamoured by their love and respect for eachother. Diet was the matriarch, but it was obvious his family gave him his will and energy to power forward. I will forever remember Diet for his knowledge, his intelligence, his quick wit, his love and his admiration for everything positive and strong. My greatest memory will forever be seeing him surrounded by his lovely wife, his amazing kids and their lovely mates, and his grandchildren. Diets smile was contagious was his happiness infectious, and I promise to carry that with me wherever I may roam, down whatever road I travel. I thank you Diet, for teaching me and showing the true meaning of appreciation. You will forever be in my heart as a man I respect and adore. Rest in peace, I hope to see you again and cheers you to a very fulfilling life.
"I'll never forget my first meeting with Diet, his huge smile and his twinkling eyes. Once I became a colleague of his at UBC, I realised that he was a noble and generous soul. He definitely saw the best in people, which is not necessarily easy in the world of academia. One of my strongest memories is from a few years ago: Diet arrived in the department on a warm summer afternoon, sweating profusely. He explained that as he was cycling to UBC, a much younger cyclist had passed him. He confessed, rather wryly and self-ironically, that he couldn't resist racing to catch the cyclist, though he knew it was a bit foolish even to try, given the age difference. Diet loved life and it seems to me he lived life to the full. He is gone way too soon, but his cheerful presence will be felt for a long long time. Adam and I send our deepest sympathies to Vi and his family."
"Along with Liz Hodgson, I taught with Diet from 2000-2002 in the Arts Foundations Program at UBC, and I had intermittent conversations and contact with him after those years. He was learned, humble, accepting, encouraging -- a model teacher and colleague. In fact he once talked to us (students and colleagues) about his impressions and memories of death in Paraguay when he was a small child: how the funeral and burial in the equatorial heat had to take place very quickly, how open and public mourning was, indeed how commonplace death itself was. And yet, and yet, it came too soon to dear Diet. I hope his loved ones will accept my condolences, admiration, and prayers for comfort."
"At UBC Diet was deeply engaged with his students and his colleagues. In our conversations he often discussed these interests but my most distinctive memory is that he usually ended these encounters with a greeting for my wife. Diet and Maureen had only met twice so I am convinced this personal touch was really a reflection of the importance that Vi was in Diet's own life. Diet and his family remain in the thoughts and prayers of the community at St. Mark's on campus."
"When I think about Diet what I see in my mind is his great big smile. He was such a kind and positive person, always supportive and understanding. He was always more ready to laugh than to complain. We will miss him dearly. My condolences to Vi and the family."
"Diet was the single most important person in the formative stages of my education (in the 90s). He was kind, he was patient, he was generous, he encouraged my better impulses and checked my excesses. He and Vi were at my wedding. He was so much more than a teacher to me. I saw him only rarely after leaving Vancouver in 2000, and this news came as a terrible shock, but I will never forget his massive contribution to my life. To Diet, bene merenti."
"I've known Diet since I was a kid - he married my sister. Diet was smart, talented, courageous, inspirational, personable, caring and kind. He loved in action. His presence and influence in my life and so many others, has been huge. He injected positive energy in those around him. His love of life, sense of humour, integrity, pursuit of adventure and out of the box thinking, brought us all to life and enriched us. He was a brother to me. The grief is palpable. We love you Diet."
"Humble in life and graceful in death. Forever the teacher.
Sometimes you just get lucky and get to cross paths in life with someone you otherwise wouldn't have had the chance to meet. Randomly buying a house on a street we didn't know how lucky we would get.
Having an opportunity to say goodbye 3 weeks ago was certainly special and thank you Ed for sharing that memory.
I look back on over a decade of memories and am flooded by all things big and small. All the impromptu gatherings and those a little more formal. All of them filled with memory of great conversations. I will remember a man who appreciated his life. Someone who always flashed a mega watt smile and greeted you warmly. Someone who you just looked forward to seeing.
The strength he showed in the end was matched by Vi and their children. When they say the measure of a man is his family...I am sure he felt like a very lucky man.
We know we were certainly lucky to call Diet our friend. Gone far too soon, but someone we will never forget."
"Dieter and Vi have been our neighbors for many years. Speaking for ourselves and our neighborhood, we were all so appreciative and grateful when Dieter was able to come back from the hospital to visit and say goodbye to us all when he knew he only had a short time left.
Dieter has always made each and every one of us feel special but when he made the painful journey home to share his very precious time with all of us - that was way too much to expect.
We will cherish all the years as well as those few hours that day with Dieter, Vi and their extraordinary family. The image of him on his patio beside his chiminea, in his shades while sucking on his stogie will always be burned in our minds.
Thank you to a true friend and wonderful man that we were so lucky just to have known and shared wine with.
One last thing from my brother Ken who lives in our neighborhood and who would wave to Diet as he joyously pedaled by every morning at 6:30 AM doing his daily 10K ride. Ken said "I always wished ...If I could only be a little bit like that guy."
Well, I think Dieter-Man rubbed off a little bit on us all and as a result I believe we all today strive to enjoy life to the fullest as he did.
Thank you Diet."
"Prof. Neufeld was a tremendous influence on my emerging liberal Christian theological beliefs. He was an excellent lecturer and he always made extra time for his students. I will always remember our lively and formative conversations with this warm and erudite scholar. My heartfelt condolences to his family and friends."
"Diet was one of those people who lit up a room when he entered. I knew him primarily from the Context Group. He was always gracious, kind, and incredibly open. I had a chance to stay at Vi and his home one year. I was invited to give a paper at UBC and he graciously had me stay since I was a student and was low on funds. His mastery at gardening and his love of carpentry were apparent throughout his home. He spoke fondly of his family and was gracious enough to offer me clothes when my bags were lost. The world has lost a great light. I will miss him dearly."
"I taught with Diet in the Arts Foundations program at UBC, and he was a delight to know: unassuming, funny, supportive, enthusiastic, unpretentious about his vast knowledge. I always felt that Diet treated us all as equals, even when he had much more institutional status than we did. I can't believe he's gone so quickly; we will miss him dearly."
"Dietmar was a primary purveyor of positive energy in the department of CNERS. He seemed always ready with a smile and a joke. I saw him in the graduate reading room one day, asked how he was, and he said "I'm looking to get into some trouble," and flashed a big smile. I liked his style, and he will be missed."
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