Rolling tribute: Truck convoy gives Moses Lake teen a send-off on wheels
A convoy of semis, seen from the Hiawatha Road overpass, drive along Interstate 90 Friday to send off Max Neff.
Rebecca Pettingill/Columbia Basin Herald
The convoy drives on Interstate 90 from the Dodson Road exit to exit 179.
From left to right, Jenn Neff, Sam Neff and Erik Neff.
Max Neff with the Volkswagen Beetle he and his father were in the process of restoring.
Staff Writer | January 4, 2022 1:00 AM
MOSES LAKE — A Moses Lake family put together a semi-truck convoy Friday as a final send-off for their son who died just before Christmas.
Eighteen-year-old Max Neff died unexpectedly the night of Dec. 21. His parents, Erik and Jenn, are both truck drivers and Max was just beginning his path to becoming one.
Max started an entry-level position at Norco, where he would fill cylinders with compressed gas. This position would’ve allowed him to train and certify to be a truck driver when he turned 21. Erik also works for Norco as a truck driver and will switch to take his son’s position in the coming weeks to stay home more with his and Jenn’s 13-year-old daughter Sam.
Trucking has played a huge role in the Neffs' lives. It is even how Erik and Jenn met.
Jenn said Max always wanted to be a truck driver, like his parents.
“We spent a lot of years trying to talk him out of it,” said Erik.
The Sunday after Max died, Erik, Jenn and their pastors were having lunch and Erik said the idea of the convoy send-off just came to him. They immediately went online and said anyone wanting to participate in the convoy was welcome. They made a social media event and posted it to several trucking groups and a few local ones. Erik said within 24 hours, the post had more than 500 likes.
“I’ve never had anything like that,” said Erik.
Of the more than a dozen trucks that showed up to participate in the convoy, the Neffs were familiar with only about half of them. The others answered the call on social media.
“We are so humbled by the outpouring of support that we’ve had from the community,” Erik said. “People that we don’t know; out of everybody in that convoy, we only personally knew maybe a half-dozen of them. And that really just speaks to the community coming together in an hour of need.”
Erik said he also reached out to the Ephrata Police Department and the Grant County Sheriff’s Office for a police escort, but was turned down. He also said EPD and GCSO suggested the trucks not take their trailers along to minimize the impact on traffic.
Erik led the convoy in a 1969 Volkswagen Beetle that he and Max had planned on restoring together. The convoy started in Ephrata at the Ephrata Church of the Nazarene, followed side streets to the Ephrata Walmart, went south on state Route 17 and turned onto Dodson Road. Then it followed Dodson Road all the way to Interstate 90 and got on the freeway. The convoy got off at exit 179, but instead of going into Moses Lake it followed South Frontage Road to Road N and turned onto Wheeler Road to state Route 17 back to Ephrata.
This route allowed the convoy to pass by Max’s, Erik’s and Jenn’s workplaces. As the convoy drivers passed those, they honked, waved and flashed their lights.
The Neffs lost their oldest daughter, Sarah Winter, in May 2020 in a car collision. Erik said he felt like this gave them closure for Max and Sarah.
Erik and Jenn said it has been hard losing two children in such close succession and explained Max and Sarah’s deaths affected them in different ways because of the different situations. Sarah was 23 years old, was independent and had her own family, while Max was 18 and still living at home.
Erik and Jenn said they are grateful for the companies they work for, Whitby Trucking and Norco, for being understanding, giving them the time off they need with no question and simply checking in to make sure they are OK.
Just the day after the convoy, Erik said a woman from the Wenatchee area reached out to see if they would be interested in doing a second convoy in honor of Max, this time as a convoy of classic and muscle cars. Erik said they will definitely be doing that in the spring when he has completed the restoration of the Beetle. The time and location of the second convoy will be announced once plans have been finalized.
(Editor's note: This story has been updated to reflect the correct last name of Sarah Winter.)
Rebecca Pettingill can be reached via email at email@example.com.