The passing of Jeff Moss has got me sentimental and reliving my favourite memories of him.
I was lucky enough to have Jeff as part of my life as a neighbour, a teacher, and a friend. When I was three or four I played in his barn with a litter of kittens, one of which I chose to be my first cat (as part of having to move to Parson, my brother and I were promised cats). The little house my parents built on Thomas road is held up with beautiful fir beams milled at his sawmill. When I started high school in Golden, he would pick me up if I missed the bus, which was great because we both loved listening to CBC (what kind of teen wants to listen to CBC radio?). When I was in Grade 9, I thought I was terrible at math. I have strong memories of being confused, but at the end of the year I was asked if I wanted to take math honours the next year (taught by Jeff). That was the beginning of getting to know Jeff as a teacher and mentor and the beginning of nurturing a love of science and mathematics within me.
I’ve heard that kids and teens need five dependable adults in their life for security and success. Jeff was one of those adults for many students at Golden Secondary School. He helped students see the joy in science and math. He shared his life with his students; made them feel a part of it. Some of my favourite memories have nothing to do with learning. I’m thinking about a friend remembering every week to tease Jeff about how much money he lost in his weekly poker game. We all knew which day he stayed in town to play basketball; we knew we could go find him after school for help, on most days, but always on that day. He introduced us all to the math cheer (“boom bah math…”), to meditating to the sound of “Ohm’s Law,” we made sine and cosine waves, had a bag of “stupid limit tricks,” and every day he’d give us a thought for the day to ponder and inspire us. When Share, Jeff’s first wife who later passed away from cancer, retired, he’d grumble to us that she got to sit in bed, read, and drink coffee while he left for work. He constantly had old students visiting him and he’d make time for them, even in the middle of class. He called me at home, in the middle of summer to give me my advance placement marks, and listened with empathy when I cried because I was disappointed with mine.
Later on, when I came home for visits from university, he always had time for a visit and a walk. My favourite walks were the ones Share, Jeff, and I took on the frozen river on years when we had low snow or randomly meeting up on the great cross country ski trails he maintained. He always showed such kindness and interest in what I was doing or learning. Since I’ve had kids, he showed that same kindness to them, lighting up with excitement when he talked to my daughter about playing music or basketball. He lit up the same way when he told us about what his grandchildren were doing or when he told me, with what sounded like awe or reverence, how happy he was that he has Polly and found someone who would love him (Polly and Jeff found each other through their love of music and got married last year). It was these little intimate shares that made Jeff truly special; he would share these vulnerable truths openly. I think I will miss that most of all, that and his smile, which would light up across his face.
On my most recent visit to Parson, two weeks before his accident, we had such a nice visit. Like all good Thomas Road visits, it happened randomly on the side of the road. We talked for almost an hour while our dogs played and my kids who, coming from the city and unfamiliar with true small town catching up, wondered why it was taking so long. A few days later there was a forest fire very close to my mom’s house and he came over to help us. We laughed as we packed up funny things like the chicken plucker into the back of the truck. He showed me how to run the generator, and he helped us calm down. After, when I stopped by to say thank you, the short visit with him and Polly filled me up with happiness. Their love for each other glowed the whole time, especially when Polly laughed about Ella, their beautiful dog, being their “love child.”
Jeff never stopped living his life, studying music as a retirement project, continuing to learn and grow, and always staying active. If you are missing Jeff like so many of us are, remember him by learning something you’ve always wanted to but were reluctant to, do something to get over your fear of math or do some math for fun, do the math cheer, listen to some jazz, take your dog for a walk, or have a heartfelt conversation with your neighbour. Thomas Road won’t be the same without Jeff, and I will cherish what he gave us while he was here.
Prince George, B.C.