Jerry Neufeld passed away peacefully at the age of 91 on Nov. 28, 2022.
For over 60 years, Jerry was a very active and beloved resident of Coeur d’Alene, Idaho
Most notably, Jerry served as the Regional Wildlife Land Manager for North Idaho Fish and Game Department. He supervised four Wildlife Management Areas including McArthur Lake, Coeur d'Alene River, Craig Mountain, and Snow Peak, as well as 9,000 acres of timberland and the regions Habitat Improvement Program.
In May, 1990, Jerry was selected as the Department Employee of the Year - an award he richly deserved. “Few employees have had such a direct impact on the fish and wildlife resources, and left more people with a positive impression of what the Idaho Department of Fish and Game is all about, than Jerry Neufeld,” said the department, at his retirement in 1990.
One of Jerry’s greatest accomplishments was the negotiation of a land exchange that created the Snow Peak Wildlife Management Area. Jerry persisted for 10 years negotiating the deal with Plum Creek Timber Company. This area now provides 12,000 acres of protected wildlife habitat, and fifty miles of roadless non- motorized trails that provide hunters, anglers, backpackers, horseback riders, and hikers access to explore this magnificent area located in the Little North Fork of the Clearwater River.
In July 1985, Jerry was responsible for establishing the nation’s first M.A.R.S.H. (Matching Aid to Restore State Habitat) Project in partnership with Ducks Unlimited, a waterfowl conservation non-profit. This restoration project took place at Ross Lake and was established to preserve and protect waterfowl habitats and population. It was one of Jerry’s proudest moments.
When the Environmental Protection Agency chose the Bunker Hill Smelter as a Superfund Site, the Department selected Jerry as its liaison to deal with the agencies involved. Using department research collected over many years, Jerry was able to document and prove beyond a doubt the link between swan die-offs and lead poisoning from mine wastes washing into the river. Clean-up still continues to this day.
Jerry worked hard, the last five years before he retired. He successfully directed major improvements at over a dozen boating and fishing access sites from Orfino to Sandpoint. He also represented the Department on five county Natural Resources Committees, as well as serving as the Department's representative on the Idaho Centennial Trail Committee. The trail is now highly popular and revered.
Jerry had another illustrious career as a collegiate and military swimming athlete. Jerry was intent on going to college at California Polytechnic State University - San Luis Obispo.
He was able to pay for his first semester after raising a baby pig and calf and selling them fully grown at auction. His next plan was to try to get a swimming scholarship. He had absolutely no prior competitive swimming experience, but he grew up swimming in the rivers and creeks in the Sacramento area and thought he’d maybe have a chance.
He talked to the swimming coach and asked if he could try-out. The coach gave him a shot and put him in a lane with some of the team. To everyone’s shock, he beat the team’s fastest swimmer.
Jerry went on to crush records at schools throughout the state over the next four years. He beat every single swimming record in his school’s history. His senior year he competed in the State championships where he set three new state college records and earned the tournament’s Most Outstanding Swimmer award.
He went on to be the first swimmer in Cal-Poly history to represent the school at the national level. He did well at the event, taking 9th in the 220, 11th in the individual medley and a 12th in the 100 yard. A four year letterman, he served as captain in 1952 and 1953. Also a top water polo player, he captained the pollo team in 1953.
Of special note, one of his relay records stood at Cal Poly for an amazing 29 years.
Jerry graduated in 1953 with a BS in Agriculture – Animal Husbandry. After graduation, he fulfilled his draft obligation and joined the United States Army, Signal Corps. He was stationed in Fort Gordon Georgia. He served as a SP-3 in Field Radio Repair. He also captained the Fort Gordon swim team and continued to see success in the pool.
After the Army, Jerry set off for an adventure working in Saigon, Vietnam for Emerson Radio Corp. He helped train the Vietnam military as well as the US Military Advisory Group in radio infrastructure and communication.
After the first radio tower was built, Jerry said he became the “ Voice of Vietnam” - as his was the first voice that was broadcast on the Saigon military radio station, saying “Testing, testing, 1-2-3.” He was very proud of that moment. Jerry left Vietnam in 1960, as he saw the conflict with North Vietnam escalating.
In the 1980’s, Jerry purchased a 36 foot wooden boat that could sleep up to nine people. He moored it in Puget Sound and had many epic adventures with his friends and family, as well as his young kids, who lived in the Seattle area at the time.
Jerry also had a few side jobs. One was building Pana Bode cedar houses. Another was purchasing real estate rental properties. And in the 60’s, he tended bar at a few local establishments, including the Iron Horse.
After retiring in 1990, Jerry had 30 more years of playing in his garden, traveling, fishing, hunting, crabbing, cooking and enjoying time with his many friends, his wonderful wife, and treasured kids and grandkids.
He was one of a kind and will be missed, and always endeared by all he knew.
Jerry was born to Harold McDowell and Eleanor (McDowell) Neufeld on Nov 22, 1931 in Arbuckle, CA.
He is survived by his children Ellen Neufeld O’Dell (Michael Leech), John O’Dell (Kirstin O’Dell), step-children Scott Smith and Karen Elam Sorbel (Michael Sorbel), Grandchildren: June, Rylee, Cassidy Dominic, Rebecca, McKenzie, and Andrew. Brother Jim Neufeld (Cindy Neufeld), and Sister Penny Neufeld Urbatsch (Gene Urbatsch),
Jerry was proceeded in death by his Mother and Father, his wife Addie Neufeld, and his siblings Edward McDowell, Cynthia Whistler, and Susan Meyers.
If you would like to be notified of the date and time of our spring-time Celebration of Life Service, please leave a message at 206-786-7685. The family would be honored to have anyone who knew Jerry to attend his memorial.