TSGS Cruiser Blog

Saturday, December 27, 2008

“A Tribute to a Friend”

J. Jeff Hays
1929 - 2008

I want to remember a friend who's funeral is today (27 Dec 2008). In order to make this more genealogically related, I need to first tell you a story about names in my WEST family line (which is connected with my friend).

John William West had 3 daughters and six sons, all of them but one made it to full adulthood. Gaither was only 15 when he died of appendicitis. My grandfather Warner West named my father after his younger brother, Gaither, with the full name of Gaither Glennis West. Dad named my older brother Gaither Glennis West, II who named his first born son, my nephew, Gaither Glennis West, III. I was given the name of John from my great grandfather John William West. I got my middle name from the actor, Gregory Peck. When we had our first son, I did not want him to be tagged as “Junior” - so, I gave him the name Phillip Gregory West. Then came son #2 (I gave him my first name of John) and later son #3 was not named after me... so, we named him after everyone else in the family with 3 given names – James William Warner West. Warner was my grandfather's name (Dad's father).

Now, I can tell you about my friend. J. Jeff Hays passed away on Monday 22 Dec 2008 and will be laid to rest today. Jeff was 78, he had lived a good life serving for about 24 years as an Indiana State Representative. In 1975 Jeff ran for Mayor of Evansville and asked me to serve on his campaign committee along with some very impressive people... I was deeply honored and thought that if he were elected that he would have been a very good mayor. It seemed like everything we saw or wrote around our house was “Hays for Mayor.” My oldest son, Phillip was Autistic and could not, at age 4, speak and did not write, but he ended up using toy blocks to spell out “Hays for Mayor!” That, of course, pleased Jeff and his wife, Mary Lou, to no end! When Jeff ran for office he always used the name “J. Jeff Hays” - most of us wondered what could the initial “J” stand for: Jacob, Jeremiah, Jedidiah, Junior or other unpopular names. None of us had the nerve to ask. But 1975 was the year for us to learn his first name. My #2 son was born that year shortly before the fall election. I had given Phillip my middle name, so I would have to give #2 my first name “John,” but what name shall we give him for a middle name? I really liked the name of John Gaither West, except for two reasons. 1) my brother seemed to be “stuck” with the name as he often said and had named his son, my nephew, the same name. Maybe using the name in my line might be like trying to take it away from his line. 2) Jeff's opponent was the current Evansville Mayor and his City Controller just happened to be named John Gaither (Gaither was his last name instead of a given name). I felt as if using the name Gaither would cast a question of loyalty in my dedication to Jeff's campaign, as was also advised by several on Jeff's committee. I did not want “John” to be a “Junior” so we thought about using his initials like the "Good Times" TV show that had a “JJ” character that often said “Dynamite!” If we had used the Gaither name, he would have been “JG” to avoid the “Junior” designation. We thought a lot about his name... I finally decided to name him after one of my favorite Presidents, Thomas Jefferson. I really liked the sound of “John Thomas West” or “John Jefferson West.” We could call him “JT” or “JJ”... we liked “JJ” the best. Therefore, #2 became John Jefferson West. But, guess what – the “J” in Jeff's name stood for John and Jeff was short for Jefferson. I had accidentally named him for Jeff... who was very, very pleased. My associates thought I was trying to win a high position in the Mayor's appointments if he were elected. Jeff did not win election, but I finally found the courage to tell Jeff the truth about how we named JJ. I wished I had not told him, because he was so sad with the true account of his “namesake!” Jeff continued as a State Representative and was very well regarded in the state, as well as, in the Evansville area. I was always pleased that my #2 son had the name of such a great public servant as John Jefferson Hays.

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