The Rev. Marvin Neubauer is remembered by friends for his infectious sense of humor, his caring for people, desire to help with missions and love for his family.
Neubauer, 57, was serving as superintendent of the Elkhorn Valley District in the Norfolk, Nebraska, area for the Great Plains Conference of the United Methodist Church when he passed away unexpectedly Thursday, May 14. As the news of his death settled in for family, friends and colleagues, loved ones reflected on the many qualities that made Neubauer an effective pastor and administrator over more than 27 years of full-time ministry.
“He was a leader, a friend, a storyteller and a bit of a goofball – someone you wanted to sit next to at long meetings,” said the Rev. Stephanie Ahlschwede of South Gate United Methodist Church in Lincoln and one of Neubauer’s friends. “His laugh was one of the best, a chuckle that widened and grew until his whole body shook. I always looked forward to Marvin stories because of that laugh.”
Neubauer served Admire-Allen-Millers in Kansas, but much of his ministry was conducted in Nebraska, with appointments as pastor in Alliance-Lakeside, Hastings First, Bushnell-Kimball-Potter, Wahoo-Ithaca, Falls City First-Rulo and Springfield. He also served as director of Camping & Youth Ministries in the Dakotas Conference.
“Marvin had a deep interest and calling for youth ministry and camping,” said the Rev. Bill Ritter, superintendent of the Blue River District in the Lincoln area. “He served many years on the Nebraska Conference Youth Ministry Council and several different camp boards.”
In 2014, Neubauer was called by Bishop Scott J. Jones to become superintendent of the Elkhorn Valley District in northeast Nebraska. According to a story in the Papillion Times, Neubauer looked forward to the challenge of helping pastors and local congregations make disciples of Jesus Christ throughout his district, which features churches separated in some cases by great distances. But he is quoted as saying he would miss the interaction with congregation members and, especially, the youth.
Friends noted how Neubauer had a keen ability to connect with people of all personalities.
“Marvin had the ability to combine a deep curiosity and care for individuals with a passion for the larger mission field,” Ahlschwede said. “He was key to helping start community gardens in both Falls City and Springfield, and in both places it was his knowledge of the needs of the community combined with relationships with individuals that led to sustainability and success.”
Neubauer had nearly completed his first year as a district superintendent. The Rev. Dan Flanagan, superintendent of the Missouri River District in the Omaha area, said Neubauer had embraced his new role away from the local church.
“As in everything he did, I found him a quick study, with a deep desire to learn and to become effective,” Flanagan said. “He was also very creative. Serving churches in the Elkhorn Valley District, those that are miles apart, are a unique challenge. Marvin was always trying to find the best way to serve them. He loved the church. He loved his family. He loved his Lord.”
Ritter and Flanagan, with some assistance from the Rev. Lance Clay from the Prairie Rivers District in the Grand Island area, will help complete the appointive process for churches in the Elkhorn Valley District in Neubauer’s absence. Bishop Jones will appoint a new superintendent for the Elkhorn Valley District at a time that is yet to be determined.
Neubauer is survived by his wife, Sue, in Norfolk, Nebraska, and his children, Willie, Jenny and Katie.
A funeral service has been planned for 10:30 a.m. Thursday, May 21, at First United Methodist Church, 406 W. Philip, Norfolk, Nebraska. Visitation will be 4 to 7 p.m. Wednesday, May 20, at Home for Funerals at 1203 W. Norfolk Ave., Norfolk, Nebraska. Burial in Norfolk will follow the service.