Nancy Wales Foster was born in 1914 and grew up in southwestern Ohio, on the farm where her Quaker ancestors had settled in 1810. After graduating from Swarthmore College, she returned to Ohio and began teaching in 1934. She spent several summers as an AFSC staff person, working in Macedonia, Georgia, and in the cooperative community of PennCraft, built to house out-of-work coal miners and their families. During the winter of 1941, when war had been going on in Europe for more than a year, the U.S. government was making plans to institute a draft, and the Friends and the two other historic peace churches were urging the government to put into place a system of alternative service for conscientious objectors. Nancy resigned from her teaching job midyear and went to work with the AFSC to set up the first Civilian Public Service camp in Patapsco, Maryland, where she served as dietician. For the next three years, Nancy worked in Civilian Public Service (CPS) camps in Massachusetts, Ohio and North Dakota. At the war’s end, Nancy worked in the AFSC’s central office in Philadelphia while she waited for an assignment to do relief work in Europe. She spent nearly two years in Finnish Lapland, an experience she cherished for the rest of her life. In 1949, she went to Ludwigshaven, Germany, to run a child-feeding program for the AFSC. There she met her husband, Louis Neumann.
Louis Paul Neumann was born in Minnesota in 1909. In 1919, his family moved to Lodi, California, where they raised almonds on ten acres. Louis attended the University of California. A Congregationalist, he took classes at Pacific School of Religion, although he did not receive a ministerial degree. He had Japanese-American friends, and he was horrified when they were interned after Pearl Harbor. Louis became a conscientious objector, and he was assigned to CPS in Oregon, where he was part of a team fighting forest fires. Later, he worked in a CPS unit at Alexian Brothers Hospital in Chicago. From there, he went to Indiana to train for overseas relief work. Louis made several trips on cattle boats with UNRRA, taking livestock to Europe to replace animals killed during the war. He began working with the AFSC in St. Nazaire, France, clearing rubble and rebuilding homes. From there, he went to Ludwigshaven, Germany, where he met Nancy. They were married at her parents’ home in April of 1949. Louis and Nancy continued to work for the AFSC after their marriage, heading south to rural Mexico. They participated in a pilot project run jointly by the AFSC and the Mexican departments of public works and education.
In the mid-fifties, Louis was unable to get a teaching or social work job in California because of his unwillingness to sign a loyalty oath, so the Neumanns returned to Ohio. He was able to teach in Ohio, and Nancy returned to teaching after a few years. They each grounded their work as educators in their Quaker values, and were highly respected by colleagues and students alike. As they raised their three children, they continued to be involved in their local Quaker meeting and in Quaker activities further afield. Louis served as Clerk of Indiana Yearly Meeting FGC (now Ohio Valley) during the 1960’s. They each served on the board of the Dayton regional office of the AFSC.
In January of 1996, Louis and Nancy were invited, along with others who had done relief work with them, to return to Germany as guests of the German government. They had a very meaningful visit. In December of that year, Louis died. Nancy lived until 2003, and she continued to participate in her Meeting until then.