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Be Love. Be Still. A Story of Jeffrey Joe Through a Facebook Lens

Jeffrey Joe Morin (1946-2017): There’s no one like you. Photo by Liz Abbott.

Jeffrey Joe in a production of O Berkley Where Hart Thou? at Poway Center for the Performing Arts. Photo by Dennis Andersen.

Shortly after I met Jeffrey Joe, I asked him to tell me his story. He responded with a Facebook link to a note titled “Past, Checkered” wherein he had penned the story of his amazing life in bullet points. From moving around as a Navy brat to calling San Diego home; from the Summer of Lovestruck in San Francisco to the hell of Vietnam; from being a professional designer, married man, father, and musician to a man plagued by his spine and his heart; from a resurgence in the San Diego music scene to dying and being revived; from ending a marriage to falling entirely in love.

I think many of us who were lucky enough to be in his circle of life knew our time with him had a clock. And I know that’s true for everyone, but with him, it was ticking a little louder. Maybe because he was so open about his health issues and his gratitude to wake up every day. But even still, it was hard to process when this message was posted on Facebook on July 11 by Carina Wheatley, the person with whom Jeffrey Joe had fallen entirely in love:

My best friend, my master of mischief, the love of my life needs prayer warriors. Jeffrey Joe had a massive cardiac arrest at 5:00 o’clock this morning. The medical team at Sharp Memorial is working hard to help him get well but it’s looking very bad now. Pray, sing, send our guy cosmic love.

What followed consisted of vigilance, visits, songs, hugs, and so much love. Carina created a Facebook group to keep everyone informed as the news spread, as the waiting endured. Messages were posted as a tangible way for people to express their hope for his recovery and to assuage any possible news we didn’t dare want to consider. Carina read these messages—from old and new friends and fellow musicians like Suzanne Shea, David Ybarra, Carlos Olmeda, Sven-Erik Seaholm, Marcia Claire, Liz Abbott, Rob Deez, Josh Hermsmeier, Steph Johnson, and many more—to Jeffrey Joe every day. Unfortunately, on July 16, there was a message to the group from Claudia Russell:

Lovelighters, I’m posting on behalf of Carina. My heart is heavy… all that can medically be done for our beloved Jeffrey Joe has been done. Much of his family has gathered and they need your love and support as they move forward with letting Jeffrey Joe rest. Hold his daughter, Rosie, high in your thoughts. He is receiving comfort care at this time. Please shine your Light onto his path. I wish peace and love to each of you. Keep singing…

And the following morning, Veronica Graciano shared this message:

“On behalf of JJ’s Carina, Rosie, friends and family, we have sent Jeffrey Joe off to his next adventure. He loved us all so well. Happy Trails to you, Jeffrey Joe.”

As the sad news spread across social media on that Monday morning, tributes for the San Diego legend began pouring in. Over the next few days, I began “collecting” those messages from Facebook. I quickly amassed 16 pages worth of beautiful, thoughtful, and sincere notes from singer-songwriters near and far as well as others who had known Jeffrey Joe’s light. Here are some excerpts:

“Sitting on the side of the bed, falling asleep, over coffee in the morning, from the other room, on my voicemail I’d hear “Damn, I love you.” Jeffrey and I never quite moved into each other’s homes but we lived inside of each other from the very beginning. I feel him as close as ever and he’s carrying me now as he did then. I remain incomprehensibly blessed by his love.” —Carina Wheatley

“I just lost one of my best friends. Life can be so hard and loving can hurt so much. JJ is usually the one I’d turn to when I felt this low. I’m still turning to him now wherever he is. It’s gonna take awhile to adjust to communicating with him in a new way. I miss him so much already.” —Lindsay White

“A professor of progression, both musical and political. Jeffery Joe worshiped the women around him like goddesses. One amazingly strong Angel in particular, Carina Wheatley, he treasured beyond all others and beyond all words.I learned so much about songs from him but I’ll never forget those challenging moments I learned about and witnessed. From his stories of being on a little boat in Vietnam and hand-to-hand combat to seeing him struggling with his health and meds that stole his memory and voice. Jeffrey Joe triumphed over darkness with every breath. This transformation is just the next step. Strong souls don’t die, they disperse and adhere to the souls around them through memory.” —Jeff Berkley

“There was a long span of time where I would go to JJ’s about five times a week. He would show me all the old songs he loved. He taught me a lot. I’ll always remember the way he’d touch his hand to his heart and sigh if I told him a story that made him feel so much love or so much emotion. I visited on Father’s Day because he’s my San Diego dad. While we were jamming, he said, ‘You take this guitar when I die.’ So I took it. I took it right to his bedside as they pulled one cord at a time. I played the songs he played. Like he played them. We sent him off with ‘Happy Trails.’ I vow to play JJ’s guitar. To bring it to shows and play a song or two from it. To keep him alive. Because he was the most alive ol’ man I ever knew.”
Veronica May

“He was a comedian, musician, thinker, conversationalist, writer, cheerleader, survivor, lover (and too many others to list), and I’m honored to call him a friend. This Southern “Bale” loves you, Mister! *thud* *swoon*” —Becky Veen

“You’ve been with me all day, Jeffrey Joe. I’m keeping you with me forever. Xo” —Cathryn Beeks

“Such an amazing, talented, kind human. You will be missed but your courage and gentle soul will be something I will hold near and dear to my heart. It was an honor to know you.” —Chary Cadillac D’Ville

“Jeffrey Joe was for me a beacon of grace in spite of his physical struggles. He always gave me that unbelievably irresistible smile. Showered us all with so much love through songs, his voice, his superb harmonca playing and his fun loving humor.” —Lisa Sanders

“A special man. Great hugs. Curious eyes. An old soul and a child all at once. Liz Abbott invited me to the Christmas party the Troubadour throws every year. I remember getting up to play a couple songs and Jeffrey Joe was sitting right there in the front row and it kind of gave me a booster shot to play better. A sorta unspoken energy transfer. Magic.” —Steve Poltz

“You were the most fearless songwriter I ever met and funny as hell. Radiant, joyful, and talented. More important than ever rolling in dough, you were always rolling in the love of those around you. Your time here upon the world’s scene I was honored to share a part of, and all the BIG lessons in life I learned from you. As musicians we give each other hope and support each other, watching each other shine up there under the limelight. JJ, no one shined more brightly than you on and off the stage.” —Gregory Page

“Jeffrey Joe didn’t suffer fools. He wasn’t much good at pretense. He did what he wanted to do, and didn’t use up a lot of air explaining himself. But when he hugged you, you got hugged. And when he loved you, you got loved. And when he sang and played, you knew that the music came from a place so real it was almost scary.” —Peter Bolland (a brief excerpt of a longer essay. Look it up)

“‘Talofa,’ old friend. It’s Samoan for hello and goodbye. I was 11 and you 16 when we met in Ocean Beach. You were way cool to my eyes: You played guitar and smoked cigarettes. The two things became the immediate goals of my life. With you goes the history of the American Songbook and your own super original and heart-stirring tunes. We went back in years further than anyone I now know. We talked fairly recently, and I always felt like we just picked up where we left off (in hindsight, your voice on the phone sounded more intimate and personal than any others). I still wanna be like you.” —Don Sparks

Jeffrey Joe, we remain ever yours.

Pre-orders are available for his posthumous CD, Don’t Get to Know Me at https://www.paypal.me/JeffreyJoeMusic/20.

One Comment

  1. Posted September, 2017 at 9:48 AM | Permalink

    Lizzie, thanks for so lovingly putting this together. The love goes on.

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