By Greg Johnson
For 26 years, the first thing Lewisburg Rotarians were used to seeing when arriving at their weekly club meetings was the smiling face of their Sergeant-at-Arms, Eugene “Jeff” Jeffus. To honor him for his many years of service to the club and the community, Jeff and his wife Annie were recognized with a special presentation at the Rotary meeting on Dec. 15.
Billed as a roast, the luncheon tribute mixed humorous anecdotes with expressions of sincere appreciation for the couple’s enthusiastic and generous support of local organizations and projects.
Rotarian Mike Kidd served as master of ceremonies, introducing speakers Steve Hunter, Cathey Sawyer, Willa Izzo, Susan Adkins and Club President Chris Thompson. After presenting Jeff Jeffus with a Sergeant Major pin he designed, Thompson announced that as a special tribute, one of the club’s annual $1,000 college scholarships was being permanently designated the Jeff and Annie Jeffus Rotary Scholarship.
The event was particularly meaningful for Susan Adkins, Carnegie Hall’s executive director, who is Annie Jeffus’s niece. In heartfelt comments, she noted her aunt’s lifelong love and support and her role as a “second mom.” She even attributed her position at Carnegie to Jeff Jeffus’ persistence in encouraging her to apply for the job. She cited three qualities that are obvious to all who know Jeff Jeffus: he sees the best in everybody, he is endlessly generous, and he has boundless energy.
A Nebraskan by birth, Jeff Jeffus moved to Lewisburg in 1984 to work as an air traffic controller at the Greenbrier Valley Airport. Within a year, he had joined the Greenbrier Barbershop Chorus, the Lewisburg Rotary Club and the board of Carnegie Hall.
“I was raised in a town of 700 people that didn’t have any cultural amenities,” he says. “Maybe that’s why I can’t get enough of it now.”
By the time he retired from the FAA at age 76, Jeffus was the oldest air traffic controller in the nation.
“You have to get permission to work after 55, and pass a yearly physical,” he explains. “Very few controllers work past 60. But there’s not much traffic at our airport unless there’s a convention at The Greenbrier, so it wasn’t really that much of a challenge.”
He met Annie Crawford Perry in 1995, and they married in 1998. A Crawley native and Concord University graduate, Annie spent 25 years as a special education teacher in the Monroe County schools. In 2008, the couple celebrated their 10th anniversary in typically generous fashion, hiring the West Virginia Jazz Orchestra and the Black Mountain Bluegrass Boys to play back-to-back concerts on the Carnegie Hall lawn, in a party open to all comers.
The Jeffuses are known as faithful and enthusiastic supporters of a number of local organizations dear to their hearts: Carnegie Hall, the Greenbrier Valley Theatre, the Family Refuge Center and HospiceCare. They are members of the Clifton Presbyterian Church. Annie Jeffus is a Master Gardener, evident in the flower beds in the yard of the Jeffus’ home, named Final Approach.
Greenbrier Valley Theatre Artistic Director Cathey Sawyer summed up the feelings many people have about the popular couple when she said, “People like Jeff and Annie Jeffus are the reason I stay here.”