Few of those who observed the elderly schoolmaster, day after day, realized what a colourful, one might even say, what a dramatic life his had been!
Doctor Neumann was an Austrian. Like so many young men today, the young Richard Neumann had to serve his period of service in the army, but it was the army of the Emperor Franz Joseph, head of the Austro-Hungarian empire, and the uniform was not the dull monotonous khaki or field grey of today, but the smart, colourful uniform of the pre-nineteen hundred and fourteen years.
He seems to have been a very strong, vigorous young man, It is said that once, when he had been thrown to the ground and when the wheels of a lorry were passing over his chest, with great presence of mind he breathed in quickly and held his breath, suffering, as a consequence, nothing more than a broken rib, much to the amazement of his doctors.
On the threshold of a career, young Mr. Neumann had a difficult choice. He loved opera, had heard the great Caruso and the celebrated Madame Melba on more than one occasion, and possessed himself a fine baritone voice. It was a dramatic moment in his life when a telegram arrived from the Metropolitan Opera in Vienna inviting him to join the Company. For he was already showing brilliance in his scientific studies. What was it to be the world of art or the sphere of science? Relatives advised science. A man could be a scientist, and make a hobby of singing. It was more difficult to be a professional singer, and to make a hobby of chemistry and physics.
There followed a brilliant University career, and the award of a double doctorate Doctor of Science, and Doctor of Chemical Engineering. Doctor Neumann became lecturer in Thermo-Physics in the University of Vienna.
Throughout the Great War of 1914 – 1918, Doctor Neumann worked as “a back room boy” doing secret research work for the Austrian Government.
His distinguished service in the First World War did not help him when Hitler came into power. Like many Catholics, Protestants and Jews, he felt it contrary to his conscience to approve of Nazi ideology.
Dr. and Mrs. Neumann had to flee from Nazi tyranny, leaving behind them all their money and property. A stamp collection worth thousands of pounds (Dr. Neumann was an enthusiastic philatelist), the result of years of painstaking collecting, was perhaps the greatest treasure lost. His brother and sister in law settled in Italy, while he and Mrs. Neumann came to England.
There followed years of successful teaching at many well-known schools - St. Alban’s Cathedral School, Cheshunt Grammar School, Worksop College, and finally, the, Salvatorian College.
The death of his wife in 1951 was something that Dr. Neumann felt very deeply. It was noticeable that he always wore a black tie, a silent, continuous tribute to her memory, and every year, on or about the anniversary of her death, he returned to Worthing to visit her grave.
On the 16th July, 1952, Father Paulinus Long received Doctor Neumann into the Church. He had been given the great grace of being converted to the Catholic Faith.
It was noticeable that Doctor Neumann was always well-dressed, and this was indicative of the man himself he sought the best in everything. It was reflected in his work. Those who wanted to learn found in him an excellent teacher, his love of his subject creating in him enthusiasm to impart it to others.
And so we come to the man, as most of us knew him, no longer young, but genial and gentlemanly in his every word and action, a rather lonely figure, but with a loneliness attributable to the circumstances of life, and not at all to any unsociability in himself. He was a friend to all men.
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