Marking a love of history and the shore - A Coastal Star: Delray Beach

A Coastal Star

Robert Hudson Neff’s first ocean/coastal experience was a car trip to Florida in 1920 when he was a small boy. That trip to Miami from Ohio with his parents and two older brothers took nine days. The family camped along the way. Upon their arrival his mother recorded their experiences in a journal — and sought medical treatment for a bad case of mosquito bites!

The family spent about a year in Miami. Neff never forgot his fascination with tropical Florida or his desire to “get back to the tropics.”

As an adult, Neff commuted to the Melbourne area for about 10 years when he was developing home sites on the barrier island. He bought the land from one of William Gleason’s grandsons. (Gleason was a post-Civil War land speculator on the Florida coast.) During that period Neff enjoyed surf and deep-sea fishing.

In Delray Beach, Neff and his family lived seasonally at Sea Fields Club beginning in the early 1970s. During 35 winters there, he and a neighbor walked the beach almost every evening for exercise.

Besides his love of fishing and the beach, Neff has a special interest in historic markers. He and his family have placed nine markers in their hometown of Canfield, Ohio. Now in his 90s, Neff has spent the last year arranging to have historic markers placed locally on the barrier island. Two have been installed in Delray Beach: one at the east end of Bay Street and one in front of the First Presbyterian Church. He is now working with the Delray Beach Historical Society on a Historic Sites Beach Walk brochure, and has plans to place additional markers in cooperation with local historical societies.

Robert Neff was nominated to be a Coastal Star by Dorothy Patterson, archivist at the Delray Beach Historical Society.

“When I first met Mr. Neff, he was holding a book of memories that had been compiled by his daughter Jennifer. On the front was a handsome photograph of himself in his Navy officer’s uniform during World War II.” All of the memorabilia in the book came from his Navy days, Patterson said.

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