Sometimes Jeff would call me. He would say, “I just don’t like surprises.” Then he would explain a situation, make a request, ask about matters that were under discussion, and add his “two cents worth.” That’s what he called it. But it was always worth much more than two cents!
After all, Jeff had many years of experience with Ohio Conference outdoor ministry. He joined the Conference staff 27 years ago. Since then he has managed property, constructed buildings, handled volunteers, hosted campers, dealt with boards and committees, hired staff, and made hundreds of friends all around the Conference. Jeff knew a lot and cared a lot!
Pilgrim Hills was sold in 2017. It had been Jeff’s and Carolyn’s home for all those years. Their son Greg was born there and grew up with some weeks filled with rambunctious strangers all around his home and other weeks in the quiet splendor of a retreat-like rural wooded island.
We asked Jeff to move. I doubt that it was Jeff’s first choice to leave Pilgrim Hills. But he did it. He set up house and shop at Templed Hills, and gave the same care and concern for the safety, welfare, and quality experience of all who used Templed Hills as he devoted to those who passed through Pilgrim Hills over the years.
In recent years Jeff had to figure out how to deal with two “employers.” At first he was an employee of the Division of Outdoor Ministry of the Ohio Conference. Later when the Conference contracted with United Camps, Conferences, and Retreats, Inc. to be the general managers of Pilgrim Hills (and later Templed Hills, as well) Jeff became their employee. But his deference to the Conference did not waiver. It was just that he had to figure out which decision and which expense and which plan was to be related to which entity: UCCR or OC! That’s where the surprises that he didn’t like tended to lurk.
One can hardly imagine all the details which must be covered by a manager of a church camp. Hiring staff, overseeing food and sanitation, dealing with suppliers and contractors, looking out for children, youth and grown ups who come to camp sometimes even unannounced, managing multiple-footed “guests” that crawl or lope onto the property, worrying about trees and weather and water and septic tanks and swimming pools and roofs and screens and tractors and on and on. It takes a special talent and immense dedication, and Jeff was that person.
We have lost a dependable friend, a competent co-worker, and a familiar face to thousands of folks who have passed through Ohio Conference outdoor ministry experiences.
May God’s grace embrace this beloved soul – who didn’t like surprises, but surprised us all by his untimely and unexpected death. Rest in peace, dear one!
Interim Conference Minister