Joachim Neckere was born in 1936, in Wittenburg, a town in eastern Europe in a country known then as Bessarabia. The area was part of a settlement of German farmers and artisans who were invited in by Russian Empress Catherine the Great to repopulate the area as a buffer state against the Ottoman Empire. Bessarabia was largely autonomous, with German schools, churches, and language until after WWII, when it reverted to direct Russian control.
When WWII broke out, many of the German population loaded up their possessions in horse- pulled wagons and headed east to avoid the oncoming Russian troops. His mother and two other children were in such a wagon, since his father had been conscripted by the German army. Joe took care of the horses. As the family crossed the Dnieper River Joe turned ten years old. Along the way he was briefly lost among escaping refugees and taken in by another family. He was captured by a Russian motorcyclist and escaped, and he and his mother often scrounged for food. After stops in Poland and southern Germany the entire family was billeted in two rooms with a family in Buchen, west Germany.
His father, reunited with the family that now totaled five, decided to emigrate to the United States under the auspices of the Lutheran church. They settled in Kulm, North Dakota, where Joe attended high school, learned English, and graduated as the valedictorian of his class. He attended Jamestown College in Jamestown, North Dakota, and after graduation he was drafted. Joe served in the US Army as an NCO finance officer in Korea after which he worked at the Great American Insurance Company in Chicago.
In 1963 he married Esther Giedt, and the two of them recently celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary.
In 1964 Joe was accepted into graduate school at the University of lowa, where he earned a master's degree in Statistics. He was hired by the US Bureau of the Census, and later worked for the new Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, where he became the Director of the Program Research and Surveys Division. He retired with 42 years of government service.
He loved his family and his job (and they loved him), and often remarked how grateful he was for the opportunities he had. After retirement, he took grandchildren to and from school and helped them with homework (after stopping for occasional treats).
He is survived by his wife Esther, his two daughters Barbara Holmes (Edward) and Susan Pilch (Mark) and his five grandchildren: David, Emily and Katherine Holmes and Jayne and Mason Pilch. He also leaves behind three sisters: Matilda Schmett of Las Vegas, NV; Erna Neuhausen of Lake Forest, CA; Rosmarie Bairelof Boise, ID; and several nephews.
Und meine Seele spannte weit ihre Flügel aus, flog durch die stillen Lande, als flöge sie nach Haus…
Joseph von Eichendorff