Remembering the life and lessons of Jeff Kuller
Thursday, Nov. 8 was a difficult day for those who gathered at the Camden Opera House to begin the process of closure by remembering and honoring a man who made a difference.
It was a day when people like me came alone, but then came together to share in the sadness, and rejoice in the stories of a remarkable man whose presence in our community will be cherished and honored in the years ahead.
"I long to accomplish a great and noble task, but it is my chief duty to accomplish humble tasks as though they were great and noble. The world is moved along, not only by the mighty shoves of its heroes, but also by the aggregate of the tiny pushes of each honest worker." — Helen Adams Keller, lecturer and author (1880-1968).
I am compelled to write about Jeff not because I knew him well but because of the legacy he created and the knowledge that the spirit and teaching that he shared daily with his friends, co-workers, associates and family should live on and grow stronger. Jeff moved our community forward and was a leader who pushed us in a loving and noble way to be our best.
If the thought of a life worth living is judged by what you leave behind it is comforting to the friends and family gathered on that cold November day to share stories and honor Jeff Kuller because he epitomized that very notion. Simply put, Jeff left the world a better place and his legacy will continue to grow in his children, his wife, his family and those who knew him by the seeds he planted.
His wife Alison shared some of the tender moments and embraced the love left inside her by connecting their wedding rings. A reminder to all of us that we are not left alone when someone close to us passes this earth.
The Rev. Jeff spoke about the love and devotion for family and commented that perhaps all married people feel that way, but I suspect that we can all learn from Jeff and Alison that love cannot be taken for granted nor is it always the “norm” in married couples. Great love is moving, great love is sweet; I left the room thinking about those intertwined wedding rings and what it means to connect to one other and the “presence” that represents. Thank you for that Alison.
When the children spoke, the tissues came out all over the room. We were reminded that our children are our greatest joy and our deepest love and that we parents are their greatest teachers. It is not what we say that shapes them, it is what we do. Jeff will live on in his children because of the actions of his life. Their heavy hearts will rise up when they think of their father, and what he stood for, and what he left them.
I only sought Jeff out when I needed something so my path crossings with him were brief and seldom. I saw him as a fair, gentle and steady person. A nice man and easy to deal with. On Thursday, I learned a lot more about the commitment, humanity and humility that were at his core.
One take-away was that Jeff led by example. He was not loud. He did not boast. I got the sense that he was not looking for credit or titles; his mission was simply to do his part and do it well; not for the recognition but because that is what you do.
The message that came out of the memorial service for me was that we can all make a difference, but it starts by being present. Jeff seemed to be present from early on; his dad told of Jeff the toddler taking his own blankets off his own bed to gently cover up his newborn sister when no one was looking.
The most poignant moment for me and my “take-away” was when his father told of the lesson he imparted to his son when he was a Boy Scout and a young leader. There is a saying “let George do it” which perhaps comes from George Washington and the phrase “passing the buck." It basically means that there is no need to get involved because if you stay on the sidelines, someone else will do the dirty work and get the job done. The lesson to Jeff was: “be George” and the son took his dad’s words to heart and stepped up time and time again during his lifetime.
"As to conforming outwardly and living your own life inwardly, I do not think much of that." — Henry David Thoreau, naturalist and author (1817-1862).
In a time of mourning, remembering the essence of a person can be comforting and soothing. Jeff’s friend Bob Weiler shared stories of his times with Jeff, some of his quirky behaviors, and of his deep love for his family, his friends and his sense of adventure. It is the sense of adventure and joy of the outdoors that I’m certain will be part of the legacy that his children and their children will continue to benefit from.
There was laughter about the hats; as Jeff’s hair dwindled, apparently the hat collection grew in numbers and in variety. Jeff seemed to have the ability to encircle the human race into his family circle and was a teacher and, in such, will continue to influence the many who knew him for years to come. We all learn life lessons along the way but not all of us are teachers.
The sense that a person can be bigger than the sum of their parts came through as person after person spoke to Jeff’s abilities and his life’s achievements. He was a lifetime learner and a lifetime teacher.
"Where the light is brightest, the shadows are deepest." — Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, poet, dramatist, novelist, and philosopher (1749-1832).
It is without a doubt that Jeff left behind a void and a very big shadow, but it is our job and our duty to move forward and take over the lesson imparted on the young Jeff; it is up to all of us to “be George.”
We can, as a community, try and remember Jeff Kuller by continuing to honor the things that he loved, the people he took care of and shared his life with, and the manner and dignity that he set forth every day while he was at one with the earth.
Reade Brower, a longtime local resident, is owner of The Free Press and Courier Publications LLC. Reade can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.