Over 1,000 show up to honor Neuenschwander at auction

Authored by Jim Langham on Sep 17, 2012

The sound of auctioneers could be heard echoing around the barn and sheds of the Phil Neuenschwander property on Saturday. Crowds of people from around the county jammed together to examine ponies, thousands of tools and other farm heirlooms and to examine items for sale on the farm they had occupied since May of 1947.
Their children, Judy, Patti, Cheryl and Thomas (deceased) were born and raised on the property. Thousands of family experiences with children, eight grandchildren and 14 great grandchildren were cutting sentimental grooves in Leona Neuenschwander's memories on Saturday. Phil sat in a cart and watched silently as a lifetime of treasures were sold and dispensed. It was a day of mixed feelings, with concerns from aging being dispensed, but disposing of items that represented priceless memories.
These days, Phil and Leona are living in Swiss Village, but the seeds that they have sown in the community around them are more in number than all of those in the area about to be harvested from local fields.
Among those are the fact that Phil was in charge of the auction at the Adams County 4-H Fair for 50 years, was a recipient of innumerable awards and expressions of praise and the operation of the Reppert School of Auctioneering, along with Ron Chaffee, prior to the purchase by Dennis Kruse of Auburn.
In addition, Neuenschwander served as grand marshal of the 4-H Parade and the Swiss Days Parade.
In each 4-H auction, Leona always sat by his side because of their mutual enjoyment of the kids and the animals.
Ron King, representing Heartland Auction and Realty, credited Neuenschwander for his ambition to attend auctioneering school in 1995.
"I helped him with several auctions; he is the greatest mentor anyone could ever have. I have known him my whole life," said King.
When asked what he believed made Neuenschwander such a successful auctioneer, King replied, "Honesty, he was trusted by everyone. He had integrity, something you can't buy. There have been many auctioneers in the area stop by and give greetings today. Something we all felt in the county, with respect, was what Phil says is what goes."
King said that at his last count, between 1,000 and 1,200 people had come to the auction.
"That says a bunch," said King. "When 1,000 people come together for an auction like this, there's got to be something about that person. People were here out of interest in attending the auction, but even more so to show respect for Phil. "
King recalls that at the time when he (King) founded the Farmer's Produce Market, he invited Neuenschwander to initiate the business by selling the first item ever sold at the market.
King said that he would never forget the day that Neuenschwander sold half a house. He noted that a home, which came in two sections, was being delivered to his home sales in Decatur. Half of the home was involved in an accident during delivery, so King invited Neuenschwander to do an "only" in his career by selling the other half house.
Leona said that she and Neuenschwander made the decision to locate at the rural Berne farm because it was the perfect location.
"It was close to town, but it was pleasant and quiet," said Leona. "We always enjoyed the country. He did auctioning his whole life because he enjoyed it and he enjoyed people. When he was a kid at home, they always said that he was already selling stuff."
Leona smiles as she notes that she and her husband will be celebrating their 66th wedding anniversary this weekend. They were married on Sept. 22, 1946.
Leona said on Saturday that she was amazed by the crowd and the prices that some items were bringing, especially their well-known dinner bell.
On Saturday, said Leona, there were lots of tools, all kinds, small and large and four ponies, but there was a day when they were known around the county for their enjoyment of horses and ponies and for the times they would be seen giving rides to their family members and neighbors and friends.
"We had a three-seated surrey, one-seated buggy, pony carts, and a two-seated and one-seated sleigh," said Neuenschwander.
She noted that her husband especially enjoyed his collections, such as 45 Farmall tractors and hundreds of tools, including lots of shovels, hammers and axes.
While her husband was enjoying the outdoors, Leona was embroidering quilts, 13 in all. She also made tablecloths and baby bids. Outside, she enjoyed gardening and planting flowers around their property.
Saturday afternoon, Phil sat close by the auction ring and watched it all happen. His mind was still thinking, auctioneer, as he commented, "pony markets are slow: stuff is cheap, but other stuff makes up for it.
"I can't believe it," said Neuenschwander in relation to the auction and sale.
Neuenschwander said that he started auctioning in 1945 and continued until his last auction three years ago.
"We have loved this place," said Leona. "We enjoyed being here. It was great watching our family members grow up here. We had a lot of steak dinners with the family. Every fall we had three steak dinners with friends."
Leona said that for many years, Neuenschwander cooked a large steak dinner for local Rotary members, as well as family members.
"He always did Delmonico steaks," said Leona. "Sometimes he would have 100 steaks on grill. He just loved doing that.
"I liked it all," said Phil on Saturday. "I liked the people, I liked the farms and I loved going to the fairs."

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