obit template2018-11-29T12:10:12+00:00

Randall Allan

Neff, Randall A. (Randy)

Randy Neff, 67, died at home in Milwaukee February 1 of lung cancer. He was comforted by his dog Blake and his loving husband John.

Born in Los Angeles in 1952, Randy and his family moved to Bryan, Ohio in the late fifties. He attended Wittenberg University, and went on to receive a Masters Degree in Social Work from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

At the core of his professional career were several decades with the Milwaukee County Behavioral Health Division. As a psychiatric social worker, he worked with inpatients, and staffed several of the community outpatient clinics. He ended his stint with MCBHD as Director of Education and Training, a role that brought him a great sense of pride and satisfaction. After leaving that position, he worked at Pathfinders for Runaways as Training Coordinator. At Kano Psychotherapy, the private practice he shared with his friend and colleague Cathy Arney, his work focused on gay men coming out late in life, and on male survivors of sexual abuse.

Randy had a host of other interests: camping, travel, print making, knitting, gardening, mid-century modern architecture, politics, tinkering, figuring things out. His happiest retirement moments were spent at his cabin on the bluffs of the Mississippi River in DeSoto WI, where his ashes will reside.

He’ll be remembered by friends and loved ones for his relentless positivity, his sense of joy, wonder and curiosity, for his sense of humor (bad puns and dad jokes included), and for his deep belief in the ethical obligations of being human: self-respect, respect for others, and sticking up for the underdog.

After diagnosis a year ago, he embraced every twist and turn of recommended treatment. But in the end, when options ran out, he leaned into the journey. Though there were many difficult days which he faced with great courage, he was adamant that his death not be described in military terms. “Don’t say I lost a battle, say I walked a path.”

“My life’s work,” he said recently, “has been to help break down the barriers that have stopped people from telling the truth about who they are- as gay men, as survivors of abuse, or as individuals coping with mental illness. Perhaps I can play a small part in speaking the truth about death, and helping others to face the end of life with the honesty and strength I have seen again and again in the courage of those who allowed me to walk alongside them in their journeys.”

Randy is survived by his husband and partner of 42 years, John Eklund; by his brother Donald Neff of Portland, Oregon; by friends and family across the country; and by hundreds of clients whose lives he touched over the course of his long career.

Randy asked that financial donations in his name go to the Wisconsin Humane Society, and that memorials in the form of time and energy go to the social justice organization of your choosing.

A gathering in memory of Randy will be held at Hubbard Park Lodge in Shorewood, 3565 N. Morris Blvd, on Sunday, February 23 from 3-6pm.

Past Comments

Don Neff

I could not have asked for a better brother. I admired him for his compassion and respected him for his honesty and forthright manner. He was an extrovert, and his ability to talk with anybody from any walk of life always amazed me. I enjoyed him immensely. His sense of humor was legendary. We both loved the outdoors and had so many adventures camping, hiking, and kayaking. He even took me sailing once. How he managed to keep the sailboat upright in that sudden and strong wind I’ll never know. We had visited Disneyland as kids, and we returned for a visit some 40 years later, just the two of us, probably the only two people in the park without kids in tow. He supported me without hesitation through the many road bumps of life I experienced – we all experienced. I loved him dearly – still do. Randy’s legacy will live on in me, in John, in his extended family of friends and colleagues, and in the hundreds of clients he served over the years. He was my best friend.

Jay Cosgrove

All kind thoughts coming from one of John E.’s touch-down spots here in New Haven, and Yale University Press. Though we didn’t know Randy, we felt connection through our friend and colleague John, and send our deepest and heartfelt condolences.

Bob Miklo and Matt Lage

Randy was a warm and welcoming soul. We enjoyed John and Randy’s visits to Iowa City and our visit to their cabin in DeSoto, Wisconsin. John, our sincerest feelings for you. Bob and Matt


I first met Randy around 1983 when he and John hired me to help clean their apartment on Milwaukee’s East Side. This was clearly a favor to a girl who was saving money for college and international travel. John and I worked together at Schwartz Bookstore in the Grand Ave. Mall. They were a model for me of what a good relationship could be, something I had never witnessed. Randy was warm and kind every time we met. Heartfelt condolences to you all.

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