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MEMORIES OF FRIENDS

IN ALASKA

- June Burr, Barrow, Alaska

I met Jeff in the summer of 1991.   I was a new employee of the North Slope Borough School District and things were not going well for me.  I was the food service manager and was expecting a Federal review which demanded information from each school to be compiled daily, which would give me monthly figures on which our reimbursement would be based. Twenty-five or thirty thousand dollars a month in reimbursement depended on the accuracy of these figures. I had a computer that was a mystery to me perched on the desk in my small, newly constructed office.  Office space was at a premium at the time so my Director had two walls put up in the corner of the employee's lounge, which was actually the corner of the smoking area.  Every day (two or three times in fact) Jeff would come to smoke,  stand in my office door and ask me what I was attempting to do with that mystery machine, THAT WRETCHED COMPUTER.  Sometimes close to tears, I would explain what kind of information I needed but I was very aware that I couldn't make it perform!! I could barely answer the e-mail. 

Jeff had absolutely no reason to give me computer lessons, they took time away from his work (and his break time too) but I think he took pity on my struggle, so each day he would teach me one more trick I could use to tame that beast called the Gateway 2000. He was very patient and listened carefully while I told him what I wanted to do. Then in words that I understood, he began to teach me the basics of a spread sheet program called Excel. He taught me how to read formulas and where to place them to force this mountain of information to take shape and make sense to me (and to the Federal Auditors). He told me that I was smart enough to know what I needed the computer to do for me and all the rest was simply a matter of putting your fingers on the right keys and he could help me do that.  There are few people who would have done this for a stranger, one with whom they had nothing in common, but every day he continued to teach me. I tried very hard not to let his lessons go to waste. By the time the auditors came that year, I had become something of an expert in using Excel even though I could still barely make the e-mail program work. My records were in perfect order and I knew exactly where each piece of information came from. I tried to thank Jeff so many times but each time he just ignored my thanks and would just say I owed him a bottle of very good scotch. (I did eventually buy him the best I could find in Fairbanks!) 

Jeff and I (much to our mutual surprise) learned to like each other and although we were very different grew to respect and care for each other. We shared a number of adventures in our work and fought like cats and dogs when we disagreed, but I can truly say he was my good friend and I miss him terribly. 

I have continued to work for the District and some times people call me and ask a question about the excel program because they know I use it well now, and each time I say.. Thanks Jeff...

- Jeff Callahan, Anchorage, Alaska

We first met when he was working for the School District in Barrow.  I was hired to work in the North Slope Borough CIPM office in Anchorage.  CIPM managed most of the construction for Borough buildings, including schools, so Jeff and I interacted regularly.  Then Jeff transferred to our Department from the School District when he moved to Anchorage and we worked together every day.  It was during this time that he first became ill and went through the first operation.

Even during the most difficult times, before and after the operation, he amazed me with his zest for life, his concern about his work, and his sense of humor.  We traded jibes and jokes every day and it was his ready laugh and his ability to see goodness in people and in his work that carried him and the people he touched.

I never saw him again after he left Alaska to move to California.  We communicated by e-mail and continued to communicate by e-mail after his second operation.

I know he is in a place without pain, and with God's love.  Jeff was a wonderful man.  June Burr used to call him "a diamond in the rough" and I had to agree.  Beneath the gruff exterior was a shining gem of a person.  I'll miss him.

- Bob Harty, Anchorage, Alaska

In the spring of 1995, I believe when I was acting superintendent of the school district. I received a call from folks telling us that we were going to have a VIP visiting Barrow who had asked to see all three of the school building during her visit. This person was the wife of one of our senators (Ted Stevens). I went downstairs to Jeff Cook's office and told him that he needed to be available to do the tour with Ms. Stevens.  (Jeff C. had done all the tour for VIPs up to that point) Jeff told me that he was going to be out of town and that he would recommend that Jeff Pawluk do the tour. Jeff C. called Jeff P. and told him to contact me about the tour. Jeff P. came over and talked to me about what was expected and what day and time he should plan to be at my office to meet Ms. Stevens. It was obvious that Jeff was a bit nervous about taking this VIP on a tour, since we really had no idea what she was looking for, on behalf of the senator. On the appointed day and time Jeff came to my office and was pacing outside my door.  I invited him in and I noticed that Jeff had on a new pair of black tennis shoes and a new pair of gray slacks, a new black shirt and what appeared to be a new jacket. He did not have on his traditional baseball cap. I complimented Jeff on how good he looked. He just laughed and said that he'd bought a comb to comb his hair and he'd even brushed his teeth. (we were use to seeing Jeff in his work clothes with a little dirt here and there). NOT this day!  Ms. Steven blew into the office and as we stepped out to greet her she immediately asked to use a telephone and began dialing frantically what seemed to be a long distance number. Jeff and I stepped back into my office to give her some privacy.   Jeff asked if he could go downstairs and get another cup of coffee and another cigarette. I told him I'd call him when Ms. Steven was ready. Jeff came back up and Ms. Stevens was still on the phone. We waited in my office. As soon as she got off the phone we stepped out of the office to meet her. I introduced Jeff as our Barrow Plant Manager and her tour guide, to which she responded, " I haven't got much time so we need to get on with the tour."  Jeff and Ms. Stevens headed for his truck and off on the tour they went.  About an hour later I talked to Jeff and asked how the tour had gone. He said, "OK I guess Bob, I really don't know." I asked him if Ms. Stevens got to see what she was looking for. He said, "I guess so. I'm not sure what she was looking for." We had a laugh. That seemed to be the end of 'the tour'.  The next day I received a call from Ms. Stevens thanking me for the tour that Jeff had provided.  She went on to say that it was the best tour she'd ever had.  She said that Jeff responded to all of her questions in a very direct and open manner. And that he didn't try to politic her at all, which she said was very refreshing.  I called Jeff and told him what Ms. Stevens had told me and congratulated him on his skills in dealing with our VIP.  I could sense his embarrassment, but the praise was well deserved.  Jeff had been handed a task that he didn't really want to do but being the true company person that he was he did it. In addition, he not only did what was required he received praise in the manner in which he conducted the tour.

Jeff once again proved his value to the organization and to his colleagues. Jeff was a class person and I miss him too.

- Teri Andreasen, Anchorage, Alaska

Among my co-workers at the North Slope Borough, there are a good number of folks who knew , worked with, and were related by marriage to Jeff - as I was.  I was constantly amazed that he was able to keep that great sense of humor of his until the end.  He will be missed - and he is still alive in the stories we tell about the good times with him.

- Dale Du Four, Kaktovik, Alaska

Jeff  was a great person and probably the most fair person I have ever worked for.  His passing is difficult to accept.   Although I cannot recall the year I first met Jeff it must have been in the late 1980's or very early 90's.  He being a former Sailor and myself a former Marine we hit it off good with the natural rivalry between the two branches of Service.  It was all in fun and we got along well through the years.
 

Jeff became my supervisor at some point in time and he always stuck up for his employees.  The memory that will always stick with me is the time Jeff came out to the Village to check up on things. At the time he arrived, the school was having trouble getting the sewage tank emptied (which we still have trouble with!).  This emptying is done by the Department of Municipal Services which is separate from the School District.


 I think Jeff arrived on a Friday and by Saturday the tank desperately needed emptying.  I was able to get the tank truck and Jeff and I proceeded to figure out how to run this truck, pump the sewage tank into it and proceed to dump it. I recall trying to figure out how to unload this truck was confusing but we managed and were successful. Jeff stood on the edge of the Sewage Lagoon smoking a cigarette with the sun silhouetting him and the unpleasant mission was accomplished. This is not how I wanted the boss to observe things but Jeff never batted an eye and took it in stride as part of the job. Through the years it was an inside joke between him and I with one of us asking if the other emptied any sewage tanks lately ???...
 

This may not be a glamorous story but you had to have been there. I only wish I could ask him one more time if he emptied any Sewage Tanks lately.  I consider myself a lucky man to have had known Jeff and I'm sure others feel the same way. With the memories we have he will never be gone.



- Ingo Jay Kupiec, Fairbanks, Alaska

Jeff was first hired at the school district as I believe, night custodian . I estimate he was in that position more than a year. At our usual planning for summer projects I approached him, commenting that I heard he had been in the Navy and had electronic background so I asked if he was interested in assisting in installing a new alarm system in the Old Ipalook complex?
A complex of the original Barrow school which of course included all grades and a corridor of 1/2 mile of connecting hallways to classrooms and school housing, offices, 2 gyms, offices and warehousing and kitchens. - So this became a sizable project barely finishing at the beginning of school in which Jeff made a substantial contributions.  I identify with his lung problems as well having about 30% lung capacities and asthma due to fire extinguishing powder inhalations. No one could miss Jeff lighting a new cigarette while there was still one being puffed on, continually coughing ,but unwilling to quit perhaps due to constant job pressures . I think we talked and I told him my amazement of how he could continue smoking, and that if he had lung problems as a child, those weaknesses would revisit him later in life.-- 

Rarely would he bring up his time in the Navy (?) just laughingly commenting that he always ended up on KP duty . He was (is) so forthright and I understand.- As his job responsibilities grew he became very assured and peaceful with himself and overcame all of the put downs that I sense he had been exposed to. There was an inner self assurance, a feeling of harmony that he arrived at, along with that unfailing roaring humor of his.  Eventually he became my boss and I attest that he let people do their job, seldom interfering and letting common sense, logic, work at it's best. I don't think Barrow had a fairer boss than he was, in the 15 years that I spend there.  Equal to a Fred Bowers, who yielded an influence for good as well, the only other individual I can think of from my perspective. 
    

When Jeff left for Anchorage we talked via E-mail a few times and once over the phone after he returned from the partial lung removal. He wanted me to get out of Barrow and was aware of my continuing lung problems, somehow he mentioned the Book of Mormon laughingly that he would receive from me in lieu of flowers, when I wished him a speedy recovery. 

I left out that -- after that summer job, Jeff took off like a rocket, looking at manuals and digesting and applying all that information in complex computer, temperature control, electric any type of problems and being a #1 operator and problem solver till becoming Director of M&O.


Since learning from Bob Harty in late January that Jeff had passed away I perhaps sensed Jeff's presence a few times, sort of watching over my shoulder :" well , how you're doing?" b-4 moving about in his freer state of being, having risen and accomplished in mortality the task he fulfilled so well and the personal stature he attained. --

 

The above picture was sent to me by Jay Kupiec.  It is with great gratitude that I share this picture with you.  The man sitting in the chair with the bushy hair, is my son Jeff.  Jay Kupiec is standing next to him.  This was taken at the North Slope School District during the time Jeff worked in Barrow, Alaska. 

MONTHS BEFORE JEFF DIED HE CREATED A WEB PAGE ON HIS DOG "ALICE JOYCE".  YOU CAN VISIT HER PAGE BY CLICKING ON THE ICON BELOW TO ENTER