Posted by Rosemary Clark
Spotlight on Fred Neufeld
Interviewed by Rosemary Clark
After 40 years in Rotary, what motivates an individual to continue to participate in the Friday luncheon meetings of the Rotary Club of Guelph?  Ask Fred Neufeld, who was introduced to the Club in 1978 by John Brubacher who had joined five years earlier.  A quiet, unassuming gentleman, Fred finds the meetings educational, inspiring and energizing and he enjoys the camaraderie of his Rotarian family.   He attends the meetings regularly and walks about a mile each way from his condo in downtown Guelph to the Italian Canadian Club as part of his exercise routine.  Over his 40 years in Rotary, Fred has been a member of the Board of Directors, served on a number of committees, and was assistant treasurer with the daunting task of collecting membership dues.
Fred is a first generation Canadian of Russian decent who emigrated to Canada from the Ukraine at the age of five with his parents, two brothers, and two sisters, one his twin.  They settled in St. Pierre, Manitoba where his parents farmed.  Times were tough through the Great Depression and after a few years, the family moved to Ontario and settled in Kitchener where his father found work in a factory.  The children attended Maple Grove School, a one-room school with about 25 students in grades one to eight in the country near Cambridge.  The most difficult part of school was learning to speak English as their native language was German.  Fred took a lot of teasing at school because his twin sister was taller than him for a number of years.  However he did catch up and overtook her in height as they became young adults.  In his early years Fred enjoyed hockey and skating.  By the age of 16 Fred had completed grade 10 at Kitchener Collegiate Institute but had to leave school to go to work to earn some money delivering groceries.
Soon Fred was ready for a change and in 1948 began his banking career in Kitchener at a branch of the Dominion Bank at the corner of King and Frederick Streets.  One of his initial duties as a junior employee was to deliver and pick up “drafts” from area stores - loan notes the owners signed to obtain merchandise from suppliers.  Seven years later the bank merged with the Bank of Toronto to become the Toronto Dominion Bank.  As Fred progressed in his career he was transferred to London (Ontario) and opened new branches of the TD Bank throughout southwestern Ontario, and in fact, during this time was responsible for 23 branches.
From a Mennonite background, Fred and his family were deeply involved with his church.  There he met Ingrid and they were married in 1957.  As Fred continued to work at the bank, the manager advised him that if he wished to progress in his career, he should further his education.  Now with his wife and a young son to look after, Fred acted on the advice and began night school classes and studied on weekends while putting in a full day at the bank every weekday.  He received his Grade 12 high school diploma with honours.  As an adult student, again Fred enrolled in night school, this time at Wilfrid Laurier University.  His professors were very happy to have some “experienced” students (there were six others) in the classes and Fred received excellent marks.  He was completely dedicated to his night and weekend routine of studies, and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree 15 years later in 1972.  By this time the family had grown to two boys and two girls.  Fred was impressed with the wonderful support he received from his family as well as from the Bank and the University.
Fred spent two and a half years in Europe setting up a program for the Mennonite Central Committee.  He developed the Menno Trail which catered to young church workers while they were on furlough from their church duties.  The Neufeld family – four children and their spouses, and now 15 grandchildren camped throughout Canada and the United States for 40 years.  Cape Cod was a favourite.
Fred and Ingrid started Silver Lake Camp for girls near Sauble Beach on Lake Huron.  Ingrid was leader of the camp for many years, and although Ingrid passed away suddenly in 2016, the camp continues to thrive due to her marvellous leadership and guidance over the years.
Fred believes that some of his best advice was from a Grade 9 teacher who told him to buy a house, which he did (more than once).  In addition to being a member of Rotary, Fred is a member of the Guelph Wellington Men s Club.  Along with walking to Rotary meetings, Fred has an intense exercise routine which keeps him fit and trim.
Sad to say, Fred has decided to resign from Rotary effective December 31, 2018, due to increasing deafness and inability to hear the speakers. Fred has been a quiet and steady member and volunteer over the years and his gentle humour and smile will be missed by all. Thanks for sharing your story, Fred.