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Thursday, September 28, 2023
Friend and adventurer, Liam Neumann taught others to live for today
Liam Neumann and his dog Brody were two peas in a pod. He brought him on his travels to Africa and lost his life trying to save him from a raft. SUPPLIED

He lived like tomorrow was no promise and each day was a gift. 

Niagara-on-the-Lake native Liam Neumann leaves behind the legacy of a fiery hopeful who was always trying to change the world. He was 34.

And his family and friends remember the fire-haired ginger as a happy-go-lucky globetrotter who marched to the beat of his own drum.

Waiting for the call on Tuesday afternoon to see if a body found in Twelve Mile Creek was that of her missing son, Barbara Worthy said what she’s been saying since he vanished June 25.

“I’m breaking.” 

Worthy has described the loss of her son as “a horror movie that doesn’t stop.”

A body pulled from the creek on Canada Day was identified as Neumann 10 days later. 

Worthy was frustrated by the long wait, saying her son should have been easily identified by the surgical screws in his head, the result of a snowboarding accident he had when he was 14.

His lifelong friend, Jordan Meyer, said his memory of the accident was “foggy,” but he remembers that Neumann needed a steel plate and a couple of screws put in to repair a skull fracture. 

“He was a tough kid, man.”

Funeral arrangements are being handled by Morgan Funeral Home in NOTL.

In conversations with The Lake Report, Worthy could only speak for a few minutes before breaking into tears.

In her own words, she “can’t quite grasp it all yet.”

“He was always an adventurer. We travelled everywhere together, and he was my best travel partner ever.” 

Meyer said Neumann and Worthy had just returned from a two-week trip to British Columbia where they were visiting family.

He was “fearless,” Worthy and Meyer agree. 

Neumann moved to the Ivory Coast in West Africa after graduating from the University of Waterloo in 2016 with a master’s in international development.

While overseas, he worked for the African Development Bank Group to deliver safe food and clean drinking water to vulnerable communities, Meyer said.

“He was always out there just trying to make the world a better place.”

Neumann returned to Canada just before the start of the pandemic after contracting malaria, Meyer said.

In the months leading up to his death, he was between jobs and living on his own in an apartment in St. Catharines.

Neumann and Meyer grew up close friends right out of the crib.

The two often played on the same sports teams and attended the same schools, first Parliament Oak and then Niagara District Secondary School.

After graduating high school, Meyer had his first of four children and Neumann went to the University of Guelph to get his undergraduate degree in international development.

They didn’t talk too much about Neumann’s professional life as they got older, but Connor Crickmore, who also grew up with Neumann, said he was one smart cookie. 

“He was really smart and definitely demonstrated that at Guelph University,” Crickmore said in an email. 

He pointed out that Neumann was on the dean’s list at Guelph.

Crickmore remembers growing up and hanging around town with Neumann.

“He was always trying to make others around him smile and laugh,” he said.

Meyer and Worthy said the same of the ginger go-getter. 

In a moment of levity, Worthy described her son as a “good-bad boy” and “extremely funny.”

For Meyer, there was something about the relationship between the mother and son he’ll never forget.

“I’m gonna miss him for his mom,” Meyer said, recalling “the way that she would smile when he walked into the room.” 

“I got four kids. When they walk into the room my eyes light up too.” 

Meyer feels a connection to Worthy as well, describing her as his “second mom.”

When he was about nine, Meyer’s parents got divorced and he took shelter from the turmoil at Neumann’s home.  

“It was nice. It was comforting to have someone like Liam,” he said. “He knew how it was and how it felt.”

Worthy and her husband Ron Neumann had divorced when the boys were about five, Meyer said.

Meyer remembers most how they bonded over sports, spending hours playing basketball together.

“He always won. He was way better,” he said. 

In 2000, before they went off to high school, they played on a hockey team together and won a tournament in Buffalo, with Meyer on defence and Neumann playing forward.

“This is going back like 23 years, right,” Meyer said, guessing he was about 12 at the time.

Over the last seven years, Neumann had been inseparable from his dog Brody and the day he went missing, he was rafting with Brody in the St. Catharines creek.

They came upon rough waters where the creek bends near Hillcrest Avenue in St. Catharines. 

After paddling toward shore and climbing out, Meyer said Neumann got out to pull the raft the rest of the way.

In the process he lost the raft and slipped in trying to retrieve the raft and his dog. 

“He loved his dog more than the world,” Meyer said. “They travelled all over the world.” 

When Neumann moved to West Africa after university, Brody went with him.

Like Neumann, Brody is a “feisty” little guy, protective of his companion.

Meyer said he’d heard stories of Brody scaring off crocodiles and lions while the two camped out in Africa.

“They just had such a great connection.” 

Meyer said you learn a lot about yourself when someone you care about dies.

“Tomorrow isn’t promised. Live today, for today,” he said.

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