By Starrla Cray
WINSTED, MN In his 65 years of life, Dr. James (Jim) Neff of Winsted brought smiles to the faces of countless people through his dentistry, his ministry, and his community service.
Jim passed away Tuesday of cancer, but his legacy shines bright in the hearts of those who knew him.
“You could call on him any time,” said retired Winsted pharmacist Ken Kremer.
From canoeing in the Boundary Waters to playing in a Winsted bridge club together, Ken and Jim shared many happy times.
“We really and truly treasured his friendship,” said Ken’s wife, Evonne. “Our kids grew up together.”
Jim has two daughters (Carla and Patricia), and two sons (Brian and Sid).
“He was an amazing father,” Patricia said. “He loved me though all my mistakes and all my joys he did that for all of his kids.”
Patricia describes her dad as a very non-judgemental person who showed compassion not only to his family, but also to people in the community.
Jim and his first wife, Norma, came to Winsted many years ago, after researching 50 cities in Minnesota and Wisconsin.
Jim quickly made his mark in Winsted, co-founding the Winsted Karate Club, serving on the board of directors at St. Mary’s and at Mayer Lutheran High School, operating Winsted Gentle Dental, and much more.
After Norma passed away in 1997, Jim continued to give of himself. He accepted a nomination as vice president of the Winsted Area Chamber of Commerce, where his future wife, Mary, was president.
The couple was married in 1999 and, together, they looked for ways to spread joy to those around them.
“[The Neffs] are respected business and community leaders, and because of their many contributions, have made Winsted a better place to live,” Winsted’s Tom Ollig noted in a Nov. 29, 2010 Herald Journal article. That year, the Neffs had been selected as grand marshals of the Winsted Winter Festival Christmas parade.
Jim and Brett Monson, office manager at Winsted Gentle Dental, started each day at the clinic in prayer, and Jim often donated his services to those who couldn’t afford dental care. According to Monson, Jim’s influence helped strengthen the faiths of many staff members.
Jim and Mary’s outreach also extended abroad. Their mission trips to the Philippines, Honduras, and Guatemala provided medical and dental services while sharing the love of Christ.
During one trip to Chaxa, a primitive village in Guatemala, the mission team conducted a four-day dental clinic, resulting in 64 fillings, 55 extractions, six surgeries, nine cleanings, fluoride treatments, and oral hygiene instructions. In addition, they treated one mule bite, one deep machete cut to the hand, and performed two general health checkups.
For more than a decade, Jim served on the board of directors of VVMI (Vernacular Video Missions International), which spreads the Gospel message to foreign countries in their native languages.
Jim’s adventurous spirit extended to physical activity, as well. He became a scuba diver in the late 1960s, and he and Mary loved going for morning swims in Lake Mary as part of their training. Places they’ve dived include: off the coast of Belize, Costa Rica, Honduras, the Caymen Islands, Jamaica, and several lakes in Wisconsin and Minnesota.
Jim also kept fit by cross-country skiing, biking, and kayaking.
More details about Jim’s life appear on the Aug. 19 obituary page of the Herald Journal.
Several additional stories about Jim can be found at www.herald-journal.com. Select “news” then “archive” from the pull-down menu at the top left corner, and type in “Jim Neff.”