Sergei Neubauer
1998 - 2017
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Sergei Neubauer


Ethan Sergey Neubauer, known as Sergei to his friends and family, died at home on Monday, Sept. 25. He was 18.

An enormously talented and gifted young man, he had experiences and adventures few could even imagine. He brought joy to those around him with his warm smile, quick wit and sometimes wicked sense of humor. He was a fun-loving teenager who often went out of his way to help others, particularly those he believed were vulnerable or hurting.

But Sergei also struggled throughout his life with depression, anxiety, PTSD and survivor's guilt related to his tumultuous childhood in Russia. He had worked for years to overcome mental illness. It is right to acknowledge and honor the progress he had made while recognizing the toll that struggle took on his life.

Sergei was born on Sept. 29, 1998, in Murmansk, Russia. He lived in various locations in northwest Russia before becoming a resident of an orphanage in the Karelia Region. While there, he decided he wanted a different life. He wanted a family and a better future. Through his orphanage, he learned about the Camp Hope organization in a place called Iowa. The group worked to find homes for older children living in Russian orphanages.

In the summer of 2009, Sergei visited Iowa, and through Camp Hope, met a couple named Mary Neubauer and Larry Loss. They said they wanted to be his parents and offer him a life with them in America. He later recalled that he thought Mary was very tall and Larry's hair was quite white; but they seemed nice, they smiled and laughed a lot and they had great dogs. Sergei agreed to become their son and the adoption process proceeded, first with Mary's adoption of him in Russia and later with Larry's adoption of him in Iowa. The family arrived home together from Russia on Christmas Day 2009 where they were welcomed by his new brother, Brent, and future sister-in-law Amy.

Sergei soon started school in Urbandale and learned English quickly. He thought it was especially great when one of his classmates taught him several bad words in English on his first day of school. He was conversational in English within about four months and tested out of the English Language Learners program within four years.

Sergei had an enormous intellect and enjoyed learning about the world around him, from considering new books with his mom to achieving the perfect cross-cut technique in lawn-mowing with his dad. The family argued good-naturedly over whether it would really be possible for humans to survive a zombie apocalypse as they watched those science-fiction scenes play out on television.

Sergei loved to cook and often made up new recipes as he went. He was especially proud to have baked a homemade cherry pie with his Grandma Louise and thought her cooking skills were ninja-level (which was true).

He adored his mom's cheesecake and vanilla cupcakes each year for his birthday and her oatmeal cookies with chocolate chips and dried cranberries whenever she made them. (He perfected the approach of microwaving his cookies for a few seconds, saying they were best when enjoyed warm.) He loved seafood and could not understand why his land-locked Midwestern parents struggled with some dishes from the sea.

Sergei played youth soccer for Vision Soccer Academy in Waukee, youth football in Urbandale, and went on to become a letterman as a varsity wrestler for Urbandale High School. He also played rugby while in high school and said that playing sports in the cold did not bother him because he was from the North. He was a weight-lifting aficionado and his powerful physique reflected the hours he spent in the gym.

He was proud of his Russian heritage and maintained his native language through private tutoring lessons. He considered it an honor to have tea in a traditional Russia tea service with his tutor, Milla, and often told his parents that Americans just do not understand tea. But he also later would learn to drink iced tea with his mom (and Dr. Pepper with his dad).

Sergei loved nature and the outdoors and was especially kind to animals, often hugging his dogs, Ricky and Stan, and laughing as he played with them. He had just recently taught Stan to bow in exchange for a treat.

Sergei was proud to become an uncle when his brother Brent and sister-in-law Amy became parents in February 2016 to their daughter, Addison. Sergei possessed a unique ability to get Addie to look at the camera and take stunning photos with him.

Sergei graduated from Urbandale High School in May 2017 and was considering a number of options for his future. He was especially interested in psychology and social work and said he enjoyed helping others in need. It is true that Sergei often masked his own pain by keeping the focus on others, and that was an issue he struggled with throughout his life.

Mary and Larry are so proud that Sergei was their son. They know they are more caring and better enlightened people for having him in their lives. They plead with lawmakers and policymakers everywhere to recognize the toll that mental health struggles and addictions are taking on our society, particularly our young people. They believe it is a crisis facing America, one that must be acknowledged, better understood and ultimately addressed for people to have the tools to heal. Iowa did not have adequate mental-health resources during Sergei's times of crisis, and he spent several months out of state this year in residential treatment.

Several times through the years, Sergei took the brave step of asking for help. Mary and Larry encourage anyone who is struggling to know that help is available and better times are possible. They ask that you keep Sergei in your thoughts and prayers. In addition, they urge everyone to be a positive force for change.

1.If you need help, ask for it. Can it be scary to take that step? No doubt. But you are not alone.

2.Seek to build others up, not tear them down. In little ways every day, we each can try to make a constructive difference. A smile, a kind word, a moment of your time can make a huge impact on others.

3.Avoid drama. It does no good. Use your energy more wisely - there is only so much to go around.

4.Recognize small moments of joy, for they happen all the time. We just have to notice.

Visitations with the family will be from 4-7 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 28, at Caldwell Parrish Funeral Home and Crematory in Urbandale; and from 10-11 a.m. on Friday, Sept. 29, at Lutheran Church of Hope in West Des Moines. A Celebration of Life service for Sergei will be held at 11 a.m. on Friday, Sept. 29, at Lutheran Church of Hope.

In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made in Sergei's memory to the National Alliance on Mental Illness at; the Animal Rescue League of Iowa at; or Youth and Shelter Services Inc. at

To Plant Memorial Trees in memory, please visit our Sympathy Store.
Published in the Des Moines Register on Sep. 27, 2017.
10:00 - 11:00 AM
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42 entries
August 20, 2019
I met Sergei when I was in the roughest part of my life, struggling with my own mental health. We played football together, and he was always offering me support and was the best friend I had. I ended up moving away and we lost contact, when I heard about what happened, I was saddened, but will always the kid who always smiled. My friend.
December 24, 2017
Prayers for you and your family
Jane, someone who cares
December 1, 2017
I met Sirgei during a hospital stay in Des Moines last spring. He was a great guy. Went out of his way to have his mom bring another lady in the hospital some denture cream.(very kind, great lady) He had never even met this patient, just saw somebody in need and helped. He was a great person and a great artist. A very intellect mind. I am so sad I wasnt able to attend his funeral or celebration of life. I struggle with some of his same mental illness and could relate to him on many levels. Sad story. Prayers to the family. Sirgei would have been very proud of his parents for exposing the mental health crisis for what it is. As a patient who struggles with mental health personally, I would like to say thank you for everything you are doing!
Jeena Williams
October 18, 2017
I knew you when you hung out with my daughter Natalie, I always thought of you to be a good happy young man.. Rest easy and I hope you are at peace now...
Sincerely Natalie's mom.
M Serrano
October 6, 2017
Such a moving eulogy and tribute written for Sergei....I've never met Sergei or his family and I am SO very sorry and heartbroken for you to read about his tragic passing. Sincerely praying for the promises of Psalm 147:3 to continuously sustain you through this most unimaginable difficult time and comfort you until you are reunited with your beloved Sergei heartfelt condolences to all who knew this exceptional young man....
A stranger who cares
October 4, 2017
Dear Mary and Larry,
Your description of Sergei, and all that he taught you and others about living, has really touched my heart.
I believe his life and legacy will reflect who he was, his wisdom, and his strength. He is a teacher who will continue to educate policy makers and others, through your voices and ours.
Jean Selby
October 4, 2017
I did not know your beautiful son. He was clearly, an amazing person.
I am a pediatrician in Oskaloosa. I just wanted to share my experiences with mental illness. When I did my pediatric residency, I rarely saw children with mental illness; and that was true in the first years of my practice. Now, I would estimate 50/75% of my patients have struggled with mental illness. The resources are VERY limited in Iowa; leaving health care workers and parents scrambling to help these kids.
I sincerely appreciate your family's willingness to share your experiences in the hope of helping someone else.
My thoughts and prayers are with your family.
Ronda Dennis-Smithart
October 3, 2017
Larry and Mary, I am so sorry to hear about the loss of your son. Sergei will be in my thoughts and prayers.
Mark McEnroe
October 3, 2017
Mary and Larry, I can not even image the pain you are going through. Please know that Sergei and your family will be in my thoughts and prayers.
Mark B. McEnroe
Mark McEnroe
October 2, 2017
Dear Mary,

I am so very sorry for your loss. Holding you in the light.

Maddie Bora
October 1, 2017
Janie C
October 1, 2017
Thoughts and Prayers from Henry Schein Animal Health.
Kevin Ulrich
September 30, 2017
Mary and Larry,
First I want you to know that you are in my thoughts and prayers. I can't even imagine what you're going through. We also have a son adopted from Russia. We adopted him when he was 5 but was like a toddler just learning to walk. We adopted him in 2001 and he is now 21. I see similarities in our son Victor and your son. Some of the same "disabilities". We have struggled since we brought him home to get the right medication and the right help that he needed. So many doctors just don't "get it". When or if you feel like talking more about our sons, you can contact me on facebook ....Tena Essary Weiland. I live in Fremont, IA. Just know that you will have my continued prayers. I am sad for you and your family but I am very happy for Sergei that he is now at peace with our heavenly father. If there's anything that I can help with, please let me know. Hugs and prayers. Tena Weiland
Tena Weiland
September 30, 2017
What a beautiful tribute to your son. I'm so sorry for your loss...
Liza Shoning-Young
September 29, 2017
You and your family are in our thoughts and prayers. I believe with all my heart and soul that he will be with you always. Please know that he lives forever because he lives in your hearts.

With deepest sympathy,
Mary Lee Ciminiello
September 29, 2017
I have no words...only utter sadness. I had now idea he was "yours". Which makes no real difference but to know how close to home this gets. My deepest deepest condolences coming your way Mary and Larry. God bless.
Terrie Kohl
September 29, 2017
I have mental ilness. I grew up in Ankeny, Iowa. My heart breaks for y'all. I live in Texas now. I still struggle with anxiety and depression but, it has gotten better. May God bless Sergei in heaven and you, his parents here on earth. I am so unbelievably sorry. I'm hugging you & praying for you.
Chris M
September 29, 2017
I went to camp foster with Sergei and he was one of the nicest people there. I immediately got along with him and talked to him a lot during camp. He was a sweet and pure person. I wish you all a fulfilling life and I give you my condolences.
Arianne Dostal
September 28, 2017
My heart aches for your loss. I lost my brother earlier this month, he was mentally ill also. In my heart I truly believe he is in a better place and because of all he went thru I would never try to call him back. I pray that he and sergei are both at peace. And that you his wonderful parents are also at peace.

Toni Banfield
Toni Banfield
September 28, 2017
I just read Sergel's story and it was so touching. I am so sorry for the loss of this young man but I think he has left you all with so many wonderful memories. Many time people are afraid to share this kind of story, and so through this, you have brought awareness to depression, anxiety, PTSD and survivor's guilt related to his tumultuous childhood in Russia. Thank you so much for sharing this wonderful young man's short life with all of us...I know he has touch many lives and I think his story will continue to touch many lives. Prayers, and blessing to you his family and to all his many friends.
Judy Tyler
September 28, 2017
Mary and Larry, so very sorry to hear about Sergei, Having lost a son to cancer, I know the extreme pain you both have now. My deepest sympathy to your family at this difficult time. May God bless your family.
Marilyn Thompson
September 28, 2017
Thank you for being Sergei's parents and sharing your story. You'll be in my prayers now and in the days ahead.
Nanette Dodds
September 28, 2017
I am so sorry for your loss. Sergei's story has touched my heart. I'm going to share his story.
Mike Rudell
September 28, 2017
My heart is heavy for your entire family Mary and Larry. Please, please continue your fight to help Iowan's receive adequate mental healthcare in Sergei's name. What a beautiful young man to have had in your lives. Blessings of love, comfort and healing during this difficult time.
Elizabeth Cawiezell
September 28, 2017
What a touching and heartbreaking tribute and the need for mental health resources here in Iowa.
May God bless you and your family in this time of sorrow.
Larry Early
September 28, 2017
I had the privilege of having Sergey in general music at the middle school. I will never forget his boisterous personality in the hallways and saying hello to him everyday. It troubles me that his past demons continued to follow and haunt him. I have no doubt that Sergey will be missed. Prayers for your family and other people fighting their own battles.
Lisa Merfeld
September 28, 2017
I am so sorry for your loss. His obituary is beautiful and meaningful and a true expression of who he was. Although I didn't know your beautiful son, I felt like I did. With sympathy. Lori in Iowa
Lori F
September 28, 2017
I picked this up from a friend's Facebook post. I don't know you or him but am touched by what you've shared here. You will all be in my prayers for healing of all kinds.
Connie Remetch
September 28, 2017
There are no words to make this better but I want you to know - the love you showed to your son and the joy he gave you and Larry was evident and that is what makes this a better world. My heart is with you. Please accept my sincere sympathy.
Mona Bond
September 27, 2017
Best Wishes to your family at this time.
You were there and cared.
God Bless y'all.
Lyle Stavast
September 27, 2017
My heart is breaking for you and I don't have the words to express my sorrow. My prayers are with all of you.

Your obituary is the most beautiful I have ever read and contains so much truth. Thank you for being brave and honest.

Jil Severson
Camp Hope
Jil Severson
September 27, 2017
Mary! So sorry to hear of your loss! Kids struggles are for real as we know also- our Sympathy. Steve Sukup.
September 27, 2017
This is beautiful. I'm praying for your family right now. Sending God's love and light!
Bridget Black
September 27, 2017
Mary and Larry I'm so sorry for your loss. Such a beautiful obituary. Love the addition of Stan and Ricky and Sergi's love for them.
Linda and your pet sitting team.
Linda McMillen
September 27, 2017
I have never met Sergei or his wonderful parents but reading his obituary and the beautiful tribute to his life brought me to tears. Thank you for the love and support you gave him and your poignant appeal for mental health assistance. The mental health crisis needs to be addressed and prioritized.
Janice Edmondson
September 27, 2017
What an incredible tribute to the young man. Powerful. And the message is clear. Youth mental health issues are not going away. More funding is needed in Iowa to address and treat our youth. So sorry for your loss. Thank you for your inspiring tribute to Sergei and the call to action.
Mike Hastie
September 27, 2017
My dear friend Mary and Larry, how blessed you and Sergei were to have had each other. Sending you prayers and much love, Andi B
September 27, 2017
I was a new teacher to UHS last year, and I'm sorry I never met Sergei. I want to offer you my heartfelt sympathy. Please know that by reading his obituary, I truly feel as if I knew your son. Never have I been so touched by reading about an individual I never knew. Your love for him comes through in each word. May his memory live in your full hearts forever.
Cindy Taylor
September 26, 2017
My deepest sympathy to Mary, Larry, and family.
Debbie Pelfrey
Debbie Pelfrey
September 26, 2017
such a beautiful obituary! My heartfelt condolences!
Peggy Minter
September 26, 2017
I am very sorry for your loss. I remember Sergei as a middle schooler, being fun and respectful in class. Please know we are thinking of you and sending love your way as you go through these long days ahead.
Mrs. Carla Madson, teacher
September 26, 2017
Sergei was such an amazing young man. I have many fond memories of him as a student in 8th grade. Keeping your family in my thoughts and prayers.
Shelly VanderLeest
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