More than Hot Dogs

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Posted Thu, Feb 28, 2013

In 1992 Russian immigrant, Yakov Neyman brought his wife and daughter to a new world following his mother who immigrated 12 years earlier.

Yakov Neyman always had a smile. He affected everybody he met. [Photo by Austin Anderson]

Yakov Neyman always had a smile. He affected everybody he met. [Photo by Austin Anderson]

Yakov was born in 1939 in to a Jewish family in Belarus. His father died in fighting in World War II while his mother fled to Siberia with Neyman and his younger brother during the Nazi invasion at the start of the Holocaust.

During the World War II, his hometown of Babruysk in Belarus was destroyed and after the war Neyman studied engineering in Russian where he began his family. By the time he left for the US, Neyman had a Ph.D in engineering and still has multiple engineering and chemical patents in Russia. In 1980 Neyman’s mother immigrated to the US to escape Russian anti-semitism and was followed by Neyman and his family in 1992. Neyman found a job with an American car parts company making airbags. When the company downsized and moved, Neyman chose not to follow the move and found himself in America with no job, a family and unable to speak much English.

Yakov started his hot dog stand and worked it on the University of Denver Campus for many years as well as other places such as Cherry Creek and a ski shop in Aurora, Colo. Many claim he had some of the best hot dogs at his stand, and an array of other sausages. But to most it was not about the hot dogs or the polish sausages. It was the advice. The smile. The joy. The love. The friend that anyone could find in him.

“He always had a smile and I watched him affect everybody he met,” said DU student, Katherine Taylor.
Many times you could find a DU student or faculty member walk out for lunch and sit to talk with Neyman in one of the extra seats he might have around. Whether an ice chest, or lawn chair, they would sit and chat. And always leave happier than when they came. To some it hard to understand how a man with a Ph.D in engineering ends up selling hot dogs through the last days of his life. Yakov died in October of 2012 from cancer. But his mark lives on.

“His care and charisma were unassuming, never demanding more than the simple position he’d come into,” said one patron.

Today there are many DU students working for memorials for Yakov. When the news of his death hit campus it spread like wildfire, through Facebook and word of mouth. Yakov had a great impact on those he knew and on those he didn’t.

“I wish I had gotten to know him more,” said Taylor and this seems to be a common theme for those who bought his hot dogs, but never got to stay and know Yakov.

About Austin Anderson

Austin Anderson is a Photojournalism student at Metropolitan State University of Denver.

View all posts by Austin Anderson

2 Responses to “More than Hot Dogs”

  1. Jen Sasser Says:

    Great story Austin, its dog-tastic!

    Reply

  2. S.L. Alderton Says:

    Wow, what an interesting story! It’s cool to see that he was able to make an impact in spite of the hardships he went through.

    Reply

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