My sister, Becky, who 20 years ago left This Life much too soon, once married a nice guy from eastern Kentucky, Jeff Baker.
Jeff is the gentleman on the far right in the photo in the light tan shirt and jacket, behind my sister Becky, and his sons Jeremy and Jason...on the other side, you will find his oldest son, Little Jeff is standing right behind my child, Travis, and right beside me (Trav & me on the goofy matching pink button down shirts with green vests on the left ;)
Big Jeff was from Cutshin, in Leslie County - a town so named because when the settlers were clearing the brush as they moved up the mountain, one of them slipped, fell and well, you guessed it, he cut his shin,,,hence, Cutshin. So Jeff grew up in this little town called Cutshin, where his 80 pound mama, Granny Ruth, raised and slaughtered her own beef and pork, and she could shoot from the hip and pick a fly off shuckey bean with a 12-guage pump.
At any rate, Becky met Jeff when she was visiting her Pappy down in Hazard - and I suppose they met on Buckhorn Lake, where Jeff was a good looking lifeguard majoring in Forestry. Becky was a gorgeous young model who'd once been selected as Bob Braun's Gal Friday on his Bandstand show in Cincinnati. Young mode, good lookin' lifeguard - can you see why the marriage seem to have been made in heaven, almost?
They were a fun young couple, a vibrant pair of wide eyed late 1960s parents who were ready to go out and change the world. And they did, by having three gorgeous sons, who were athletes, firemen, medics, Naval officers, gourmet chefs - all good guys, all made their mark on the world.
So Big Jeff was father to Jeremy, Jason and Little Jeff, and never was there a father more proud of his sons, never was there a brother-in-law who was nicer to Becky's sisters, and never was there a more polite but silly man born than Jeff Baker.
I remember he would run out at any time of the day or night to get Becky her Pepsi or to get me an Icee - he knew I liked blue the best - or to do anything he could do to make life more enjoyable for Becky, which also meant that he had to cater to her Mama's and sisters' every whim, especially when she - or any of us - were pregnant. Jeff was the big brother we never had, so yeah, Jeff was a welcome member of the family, even beyond my sister's passing. Over the course of two decades, we lost touch with him, but I will never ever forget his love of chocolate covered peanuts, his penchant for hot strong coffee, and for the delicious corn on the cob my papa made every summer.
Big Jeff succumbed yesterday to the ravages of that awful disease, that dreaded C word...that awful disease that comes without warning, and like a thief in the night, robs us of our loved ones, of our strength, of our appetites, it robs us of life. After a dozen rounds of chemo, Big Jeff just could not fight anymore, his battle done, and it was time for him to go to that great Pickled Bologna Jar in the Sky.
Sorry if this doesn't make any sense...please just know that I will miss him, and I will continue to mourn for my nephews and great nephews...and I will weep not for the memory. I'll remember you,Jeff...and I know you are having a tall bourbon and 7 with Pappy and Becky and your brother Ross David...and I hope it's pretty up there.
Rest in peace, Big Jeff!