Joseph A. Neff of Zanesville, a retired minister, departed this life Sunday, February 24, 2019 with the hope and anticipation of an eternal home with God.
He was born October 17, 1929 to Claude Clifford Neff (1881-1965) and Marie Davis Neff. His childhood home was U.S. Lock #10 at Zanesville, and he attended Pioneer School. When he was growing up, towboats with barges of sand, gravel and coal traveled through the canal and Lock #10 day and night. The Muskingum River was also known for swimming, and drownings. In one of his newspaper devotions, he made mention of a man he saved from drowning. He added, “There are both good and bad in our generation; if nations or individuals get into sin over their heads, they are in extreme danger of drowning.”
He was a veteran of the US Marine Corps Air Wing, leaving the corps in his fifth year upon returning from the Korean War in 1952. In the late 1940’s, Neff and squadron served on the aircraft carriers Midway, Roosevelt, Leyte and the Palau. He was Honor Guard in 1948 for the return of Orville Wright’s Kitty Hawk Flyer to the U.S. after a 20 year absence. He served in the corps in various ways throughout the world and as a staff NCO. On a day in March of 1962 he was in an Ohio highway patrol car leading a parade in New Concord for a fellow marine, John Glenn, who had just orbited earth.
After working as an executive for a corporation in New York City, he served as minister at area churches of Christ, beginning his work with the Woodlawn congregation in Zanesville. He also served as minister in Pennsville, Huntington, Cambridge and McConnelsville- where he labored for a total of 23 years as their minister and as an elder.
Joe delivered thousands of sermons, lectures and devotions from pulpits, radio stations and newspapers. He was known for his daily Dial-A-Devotion programs, weekly newspaper columns and weekly radio programs. While at Cambridge, his Dial-A-Devotion program received upwards of 23,000 calls a year. He humbly dedicated his life to serving the Lord and all people, spending countless hours visiting the sick in hospitals and care facilities. Upon his retirement, The General Assembly of the Ohio Senate honored him by extending special recognition.
He was known to say, “Soon we will take our last flight, that flight from here to eternity.” He has done so, with ardent hope and sincere prayer that everyone may come to love more deeply the Lord--He who spake as never man spake.
Joe authored this prayer as his final devotion: “Our Father who art in heaven, Hallowed be Thy name. Thou art great in goodness and good in greatness, for the heavens declare Thy majesty and Thy glory, and the firmament showeth Thy handiwork.
We thank Thee for every new day and every night of rest, for every bite of food and every thread of clothing, for all that we have and all that we enjoy, for Thy inestimable love and the gift of Thy son Jesus who is the Christ.
We thank Thee for the freedom available in Christ, freedom from sin and the consequence of sin. We thank Thee for the freedom to worship in spirit and in truth. And for that freedom that is so often bathed in the blood of the heroic, and washed in the tears of loved ones, while the brave memories of those we once knew are locked away in a secret room of the heart.
We thank Thee for the gift of memory, such as the memory of childhood home where we played and laughed, learned and grew. And though that home is far in the past for many of us, we are indeed thankful that we may have an eternal home with Thee through Christ.
We acknowledge that we live in a fallen world, where pain and suffering and death exist. But when we open the Book Though has written telling us about Thyself and about man, and about Jesus Thy Son, and about what Thou created in the beginning, and what is Thy ultimate goal man is to strive for, it is then we are certain that this world of suffering and disharmony is not Thy will. Thus, we thank Thee for the plan of salvation, and the church, and the glory it anticipates.
We pray for the elderly, may they have fond memories of other days when life was fresh in Thy service. And we pray for the children, that they may always be free to run in the fields, and have birthday parties with Christian parents. And we pray for the young men and women, may they have their dreams of two becoming one, and as husband and wife building precious memories in Thy service. It is our prayer that the blessed spirit of Thy Son dominate the thoughts and purpose of people in every home in every nation, that there be peace on earth and goodwill toward all mankind.
Bless those who are ill, restoring them to health. Bless those on the western slope of life, removing their pains and discomforts. Comfort those who are bereaved, as we remember that because of the victory of Jesus for his people, it is not goodbye but only a space in our togetherness. Bless each one with health, comfort and peace. And Father, we pray for mercy and not justice, as we beseech Thee to forgive us our sins and save us in heaven. In the lovely name of Jesus Thy Son we pray. Amen.”
We end his obituary as he ended thousands of his daily Dial-A-Devotions: “Thank you for calling, and may God bless you always.”
Joseph A. Neff is survived by three sons: Jim (Debby) of Cambridge, Steve (Kathy) of Florida and John (Teresa), and also the grandchildren, nieces, nephews and cousins.
In addition to his parents, he was preceded in death by his devoted wife of 55 years, Patricia Timms Neff (1932-2006), two sisters, Clara Ann and Naomi Ruth, one brother, Meredith, and his father-in-law and mother-in-law, Kenneth and Virginia Timms.
Keeping with his wishes, there will be no calling hours or funeral service. A graveside ceremony will be held 2:00pm Tuesday, February 26th at McConnelsville Cemetery, McConnelsville, Ohio, with Evangelist Randy Baker officiating. Memorial contributions may be made to the Seventh Street Church of Christ in McConnelsville, Ohio. Miller-Huck in McConnelsville is entrusted with arrangements.