BELLEVILLE, Ill., November 29, 2012 — After Stanley Neff died last year at age 80 in an automobile accident, his son and daughter kept his business, Neff Farm Equipment, going for six months.
But they have decided to liquidate, selling off nearly 50 years of accumulated items.
"It's the end of an era. Stanley was dedicated to what he knew and loved to do." auctioneer Brad Schaller said.
Schaller's Auction Service will sell off the farm business beginning at 9 a.m. Saturday at the company's location, 2550 Old Freeburg Road, southeast of Belleville next to the St. Clair Service Co. elevator.
They will run two rings all day to get done, Schaller said. There are some tractors, a lot of spare parts, tires, shop equipment and shop manuals to sell.
Lawrence Neff, who started working in the business in 1980, and Karen Schaefer, who worked there since 1996, said it is time to move on. So they have spent quite a bit of time carting things around and getting ready for the sale.
"Someone called to ask about books," Neff said. "'You have just a few, right?' they asked.
"I said I don't think you could get them all stacked in a pickup. He said, 'You can't have that many.' But there is almost more than a wagon load," Neff said.
Schaller said Stanley Neff was the last of the independent farm equipment dealers. He sold equipment for a long time, but he also was an expert on repairing White, Oliver and Allis-Chalmers equipment.
"He was an unbelievable man," Schaller said. "Everyone relied on him. He had a huge following. He was the guy you went to if you needed things fixed."
Schaller said he remembered Neff coming to their farm years ago and fixing their baler.
"He rode around on it and came back covered head to toe in dirt but he told us what was wrong and fixed it," Schaller said.
His loyal following showed in 1988 when White Equipment Co. pulled his new equipment dealership. At a meeting, about 250 farmers showed up to protest to a company representative. They got no satisfaction and the dealership went to Heberer Equipment, which is now defunct.
But Neff continued repairing equipment even though he no longer could sell new stuff.
The children of the family more or less grew up in the business.
"I was used to being in the shop," Lawrence Neff said. "Even before I went to kindergarten I was napping on the shop creeper."
The business began on Scheel Street in Belleville near the old elevator. In 1962 it moved to its present location.
"I can't tell you how many people thought he had come over from Germany," Schaefer said. "He had such a thick German accent. He actually was sixth generation American."
He never used a computer and had no truck with technology, she said. Everything was written on paper.
"He was old school. He used to ask, 'What happened to the simple?'" Lawrence Neff said.