In Memory

Erik Neuhaus

Erik Neuhaus

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07/05/12 02:05 AM #1    

Richard Keith

I had the great fortune to enjoy Eric's friendship, beginning perhaps sometime in junior year at Southwest, in an otherwise generally barren and forbidding social landscape. He was sardonic, keenly intelligent, staunchly anti-authoritarian-- therefore worthy of trust. He read Nietzsche for pleasure.... He had an appetite for adventure and relished being out in the woods. One frigid winter night we jumped into an impromptu camping trip to somewhere on the fringe of town. He had a Davie Crockett moment and decided we must try to ignite match heads by shooting at the tips with a .22 rifle we brought with us. Looking back at it, I'm amazed at what a good shot he was. He succeeded in igniting several of the matches with his shots. I think I had some minor success but he was the ace. Such an excursion was typical of Eric's interest in and zest for life. Through junior and senior year and summer vacations we continued to join forces and meander in pursuit of outings and adventures.

If I had thought to consider the question, I would have readily declared that Eric made a significant difference in my life merely in presenting his friendship at a crucial point in that life. However, in recent years an even more remarkable aspect of my association with him came into focus. Part of my junior and all of my senior year I lived alone in my family house. Approaching graduation I considered my college choices. Dartmouth seemed appealing for some reason but in an odd moment of clarity I woke up to the distasteful burden of student loan debt and rejected it out of hand. I was left with a choice between University of Missouri in Columbia or UMKC. I leaned toward staying in town to attend the local college. Remarkably, Eric challenged me about that plan. "If you stay in the town where you grew up and went to high school, you'll go stale and you'll miss out on all kinds of adventures and new pathways." The memory of details of that ongoing conversation has faded away but I distinctly remember Eric one late summer day picking me up in his car and matter-of-factly driving me to Columbia, taking me to University registration. In the context of our easygoing familiarity at the time I must have accepted this remarkable guidance and support simply as part of the landscape. But in distant retrospect I am almost stunned by the maturity, insight and wisdom displayed by a guy who was just graduating from high school. More than any other detail, this episode stands as testament to the splendid character and casual generosity of spirit of my friend Eric Neuhaus. 

My decision, urged by Eric, to leave town to attend college opened countless new doorways and friendships for me. Eric remained a principal anchor of home for me in Kansas City and we had more adventures and shared outings and gatherings in the following years on the occasions when I passed through town. Eventually we fell out of contact. Years ago I tried to locate him again and hit a dead end when I found an unlisted number for him. I bided my time and assumed I would one day cross his path again and relish our reunion.

In recent years, news of the loss of one of the friends I had gained by leaving for college in Columbia started me on a path of recollection. I asked myself by what pathways had I arrived at what now seems such a rich life, part of which richness lived in the past and forward into the present was reflected in that newly lost friend. Working backward in time I found myself at that pivotal moment when Eric drove me to Columbia. I recognized the profound difference he made in my life. Eric's attention and effort on my behalf shaped my life immensely. It was a great sorrow to recently learn of his death. Seventeen years ago is far too early to die. If anyone knows of the circumstances, please consider presenting them in these comments. If you are surviving friend or family, please receive for Eric my profound gratitude for his friendship and the tremendous beneficial difference he made in my life. Thank you, Eric, for your friendship.

Richard Keith    


08/06/12 11:57 AM #2    

Larry Garrett

If there was a Hunter S. Thompson at Southwest, Erik was it.  Somehow, between passes from The Trail and The Blaze, we managed to find a way to leave school around lunch just about every day.  We'd go to his house and listen to Rubber Soul and talk about books, film, philosophy, you name it, pretty much anything other than school.  He was, in my insular world, a bona fide wild man and I suspect he never stopped living that way.  Richard, seems that I heard he passed away in New Mexico, but I heard no other details.  

08/06/12 03:00 PM #3    

Neil Shapiro

I was going to post something about Erik last week; as usual Garrett beat me to it. I remember cutting out at lunchtime on a fairly regular basis with both Erik & Larry Garrett, & listening to Jonathan Winters & Tom Lehrer. Erik was a uniquely free spirit, & one of my major regrets is that I lost track of him.

03/31/17 12:16 PM #4    

John Daily

Well, you guys beat to the punch by about  5 years, but here's my two cents about Erik, our beloved friend.

Ronnie Sandhaus introduced me to Erik one day at band practice.  The rest of the band used to joke about how the last part of their names were the same, the "Haus" brothers.  Erik became one of us, except he wasn't on stage.  When we could afford it, we put Erik on the payroll.  He was invaluable helpinig us from here to there.  He came to most of our practices and gigs, traveled with us, and at one point financed/produced some demo recordings of orignal songs at Damon Sound with the shakey money he gathered from his brief part-time job at Shakey's Pizza.  Erik was a bonafide raconteur.  He introduced me to existentialism, Frank Zappa, beat poetry, and Don Jenkins.  I agree with the Hunter S. Thompson comparison.   Erik and I went to see Antonioni's Blow-Up about ten times because we could watch the Yardbirds' Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page rock "The Train Kept a Rollin' All Night Long" plus I now realize Erik saw his future as a trendy photographer.  That could have been Erik's theme song, except he unfortunately didn't get to roll as long as many of us would have preferred.  I know he was happy before he suffered that tragic fall off the ladder in his garage in Arizona.  He was making it as a phtographer.

The night we all graduated, Erik and I hung together making jokes and waiting our turn.  I remember he goose-stepped the stage.  That's our guy.

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