Today my family and I must face the reality that our son Jeffrey Peter Hoens’s physical presence will no longer be with us.
He had a “quirky” personality. He was our most creative child. He would go up to people and ask them, “Do you want to be friends?” When he was 2 years old he walked on the ice in the middle of a NJ Devil’s practice at Cody arena and challenged the professional players to score on him. “Score” was his first word.
This past year, he was back at Cody Arena as an Assistant Coach for the NJ Dare Devils, a program for young people with developmental and intellectual disabilities. When he was 4 years old, he convinced his preschool teachers that he had traveled to Mexico. His back drop came from a tee shirt he was wearing.
When he was 5 he and a buddy built a beautiful terrarium using the flowers and creatures from our garden. In the Cub Scouts, he and another friend played taps to close out the meeting. He hated doing homework and told a teacher in Middle School, “I don’t know why I have to do this assignment anyway… I am going to be a fisherman!”
Jeff had a passion for everything. But his two greatest passions were hockey and fishing. He and his buddy Phil went on more fishing adventures in the last 10 years than most do in a lifetime. He respected the sea and all of life. What he caught was either eaten, given away to some needy family, or at times he and Phil would make a few bucks from their catch.
The Shark River was his home. He knew everyone there and they knew him. Jeff would talk to everyone. He did not care about status, race, creed or color. He cared that you were a good person. I met a man at the Shark River last Saturday. He knew Jeff well. He told me Jeff was an excellent diver. They would dive and spear fish together. He was one of Jeff’s great teachers.
There were many other people who came into Jeff’s life; but it was the boys and men who had their greatest influence on him. When Jeff was in middle school he was the big guy that the boys would pick on. He took it but the teasing took its toll. October 30, 2012 a hurricane hit NJ; everything stopped. I whispered into Jeff’s ear, “Why don’t you put in an application to Saint Peter’s Prep?” A parent on his hockey team had talked about what a wonderful school it was. The public school is ok, but St. Peter’s Prep would take a boy and teach him to be a man.
Jeff’s essay was about catching 300 lbs. of fish and feeding the working poor. Jeff met a boy there who could talk about how he was born with HIV/Aids. From those experiences he chose Prep.
Their motto was “Give us your boy and we will give you a Man for Others.” Over the last few years I have fully come to appreciate the powerful transforming voice of a man on a boy. The importance of a father, an uncle, a male mentor. Last night, I has given the profound gift of understanding how the spirit of God through the boys and men of Saint Peters had transformed him.
I also reflected on all the male family members and men and boys who had come into his life and positively shaped him. The list is enormous. The stories are hilarious. If you are a boy or a man and you had an interaction with my son we want to thank you. You made a difference.
Father Charlie Hudson, a most soul filled and humorous priest had this to say about life: “You do not get to choose the day you were born or the day you die. You can only shape the dash. Live life to the fullest and create your dash as God had intended you to be.” Jeff lived his last day with a joy that reflected “The Light.” May we all live our life like Jeff reflecting the light and pursuing his dreams.
Jeffery Peter Hoens is survived by his loving parents, Karym and Tom of Westfield, his sister Katelyn (Brian Williams) of Baltimore, MD, brothers T. Ryan of (Seattle, WA) and Erick (Nicole) of Philadelphia. His aunts and uncles include Associate Justice (Retired) Helen Hoens (Robert Schwaneberg), John Hoens (Alice) of Basking Ridge, Frank Hawrylak (Victoria) of Greenwich, CT, Brynne Aronson of Warminster, PA, Drue Cox (Robert) of Seattle, WA, and Megan Dimmock (David) of Baltimore, MD along with 11 first cousins.
There will be a viewing Wednesday July 20 from 4:00 to 8:00 p.m. at St. Helen’s Church, 1600 Rahway Ave., Westfield, NJ, and a celebration of his life will be held Thursday July 21 at 10 a.m. at St. Helen’s.
In lieu of flowers donations can be made in “Memory of Jeffrey Hoens” to one of the following 501c(3) charities: Saint Peter’s Preparatory School, 144 Grand Street, Jersey City, NJ 07302 or The NJ Dare Devils, 51 Divan Way, Wayne, NJ 07470.