Theodore (Ted) Neff passed away peacefully at University Retirement Center in Davis on February 1, 2017 at the age of 97. Ted was born in Marion, Ohio and attended Otterbein University, where he met his wife-to-be Almena Innerst (Mena). In 1947, after their son was born, the family moved to California to be closer to Almena’s family, and Ted pursued his career in education. He was a teacher, principal and administrator at schools in Costa Mesa and Palos Verdes.
In 1964 Ted and family moved to Davis so that Ted could go to work in the State Department of Education. His assignment was to the brand-new Bureau of Intergroup Relations, whose formidable task was to identify and remediate racial segregation in public schools across California. It was here that Ted found some of his most rewarding work.
He worked tirelessly through the 1960s and ’70s, up and down the state, working with school districts, school boards, parents and teachers to bring about schools that were racially and ethnically balanced. He was the principal author of many important desegregation plans throughout the state, from large school districts such as Oakland and Berkeley down to small rural districts, and even Indian reservations. The bureau’s work was so effective and innovative that in 1970 Ted was invited to Washington, D.C., for a one-year loan to the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare where he shared his experience and expertise at the federal level. He was saddened by the bureaucracy which prevented him from achieving all of his goals in this area.
Ted’s entire life, and the lives of his family and many others, were marked by his passionate and steadfast commitment to nonviolence, peace and social justice, and opposition to capital punishment. During World War II Ted was a conscientious objector who served — instead of in the armed services — at a Civilian Conservation Corps doing hard labor, and then later at a school for mentally disabled adults.
He was appointed one of the Field Secretaries of FCNL in 1980. He continued working with the organization for many years and attend the Annual Meeting in 1989 as a General Committee Member.
He spent countless hours throughout his life volunteering in organizations and groups dedicated to peace and justice. And it was not without sacrifice. During the McCarthy era in the 1950s, he was fired from his position as a school principal in Costa Mesa because the school board learned of his membership in an interfaith peace group, Fellowship of Reconciliation, as well as his efforts to secure housing for minorities in Orange County neighborhoods. On many Saturdays, back when his health permitted, he could be found faithfully attending the silent peace vigil in Davis organized by the Davis Friends Meeting. He also lobbied for many years against gun violence and capital punishment at both the state and federal levels.
Ted is survived by his wife, Paula Neff; son, Michael Neff (Carol); daughter, Cathy Neff; grandchildren Aaron Neff, Annaliese Neff Giordano (Tony), Megyn Neff, Laura Neff (Sarah), Emily Neff; and great-grandson Jonathan Giordano. He was preceded in death by his first wife Almena Neff, son Timothy Neff and daughter-in-law Deborah Neff.