Uncle Jeff was born a couple years after my Mom. The doctor had to break his arm delivering him breach since he was a chubby big baby. He was named Melvin but as I wrote earlier, his nickname of JEFF stuck.
He was a lover of family, his town, his country and sports, as well as fishing and hunting. He joined the Marines as a young man shortly after Pearl Harbor was attacked. His mother, my Grandma Mary, who rarely left her home in Murdo, SD, made the trip to California to see her Jeff. She traveled alone by train and was hoping to get there before Jeff was shipped out. Her daughters, Ella and Loretta, met her at the train station and had to break the news that Jeff and already left. Her daughters said that Grandma wouldn’t look at the ocean the whole time she was in California because it took her Jeff away.
Jeff worked up to being a Staff Sergeant, and the only one in his family who served in WWII. Any time we visited my Mom’s home town, he was there to help us find a place to stay, and take us to lunch or to come visit and chat for hours. We were eating at the Star Cafe with him one summer visit. We all sat talking and when our food came, he asked if anyone wanted some of his French fries because he had about “a thousand fries” and couldn’t eat them all. He loved to kid around and have fun. He hung out with his brother, Wayne, since they were always good friends as well as good brothers. Jeff was the one who, as a young boy, unknowingly walked past the rattler first before the snake struck out at Wayne.
Everyone liked JEFF who owned SANDERSONS General Store for years and later worked for the rural utility company. He voluntarily managed Murdo’s youth baseball program for 12 years. He was man of the year in South Dakota one year as a senior. Quite an honor. And I cannot forget about his jeep that he used to haul hundreds of kids to different baseball games. The old Willis Jeep was towed out to the cemetery during his funeral procession. He loved his old jeep which now sits at Murdo Auto Museum. He would like that.
As I said before, Uncle Jeff was dedicated to family and community. He lived next door to Grandma and Grandpa and More often than not, he spent his noon hour visiting with them in their home.