Submitted by his mother
Our son‚ Jeffrey Hengel‚ was 20 years old when he died in a van accident returning home from a fire in Idaho on August 24‚ 2003. He was a 6’7’‚ 260 lb. lovable man with a heart to match. He was very giving of himself and loved to see others happy.
He was an honor roll student‚ played baseball and some football‚ and was an excellent marksman. In high school he was an officer in FFA and traveled to Kansas City for the FFA National Convention. At the end of his senior year‚ he traveled to Germany for 8 weeks in the German exchange program. He was hoping to return there in the next year or two.
Jeff loved to cook. It was his passion from 4th grade on. So I wasn’t surprised when he wanted to pursue this after graduating from high school in 2001. He graduated from Western Culinary‚ Portland‚ Oregon‚ in November 2002 and did his externship in New Orleans at Arnaud’s‚ a well known five star restaurant.
In May 2003‚ he and a friend drove back home‚ stopping to see the Grand Canyon‚ Yellowstone Park‚ etc. He didn’t spend much time though‚ because he wanted to get home for his second season of fire fighting. He had worked for First Strike Environmental the summer before he went to culinary school from which he saved all his money to help put himself through school. This summer he was looking to save money for a trip to France. He also had signed up to go to Antarctica for a year to cook for the scientists which he was hoping to leave in October. But he also loved the outdoors and the comradeship with the other firefighters.
Anyone who knew Jeff remembered him for his big hugs. He would make anyone feel petite. If someone was hugging someone else‚ Jeff was right there to join in. He was always ready to help anyone who needed help. He was loyal to his friends and loved his only brother and sibling‚ Peter‚ very much. He was a very intelligent man‚ who‚ with God’s guidance‚ accomplished so much in his short life.
I miss us dancing together‚ the long talks‚ metal detecting‚ fishing‚ eating pizzas‚ wrestling and laughing. I miss his wisdom and playfulness. I miss the sound of his footsteps and his daily phone call home. And‚ as requested‚ I will add all of the nicknames which others remember him by–The Bear‚ Ogre‚ Otto‚ Wookie‚ Nutter Butter. He had definitely made the world a better place and he will forever be missed.