Orland Gene
Orland Gene "Jeff" Jeffries

February 15, 1934 - March 28, 2018
Born in Osage, IA
Resided in Waukee, IA
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Just a couple weeks ago, I stood before family and friends to share some memories of both our parents - as Orland took God’s hand on that Heavenly Journey three hours prior to the start of what was to be Nancy’s Celebration of Life. Great irony that the understated, quiet, ever-humble guy in the family is the one who stole part of that show…

I promise I’m not going to rehash those same stories from a couple weeks back...

Instead, let’s focus on some other memories featuring the Osage Green Devil, Korean War Combat Veteran, Proud Iowa Hawkeye, PaperBoard Executive, and Selfless, Loving Family Man you knew as “Jeff” and we called “Dad,” “Grandpa J,” “Grandpa Hawkeye,” or even “Brother”…

It’s somewhat fitting that when I sat down to prepare a few thoughts, the Verse of the Day that came over my phone was Psalms 118-14: “The LORD is my strength and my defense; he has become my salvation.”

So true those words, especially after seeing Jeff’s decline, especially since last fall…But he always was a Man of Faith…

While Parkinson’s Lewy Body Dementia was starting to take over before they moved from their house in Iowa City, he was relentless on wanting to get to Sunday services…Unfortunately, Sunday morning occurred more often in his MIND, than it did on the actual calendar. Sometimes it was Wednesdays…other times Thursdays…or even Fridays - he would take a shower, put on his suit, and get ready to walk out the door for Church - that until our Mom had to break the news that Sunday wasn’t until a couple days off and he needed to go back to bed…

As kids, while Diane and I may not have ALWAYS wanted to go to Church EVERY Sunday morning, our Dad gathered the troops and forced us out the door…He instilled in us the importance of Faith and the Church Community. He indeed was our family’s Religious Rock.

Actually, Sundays were his weekly Super Bowl…

He LOVED to cook - especially Sunday Brunch after Church…
• Omelets, from his double-handle Omelet pan…
• Pancakes on an actual skillet, not off a frying pan…
• OR Ebelskivers, a Danish-pancake ball you’d pour syrup over, that he would fill with diced apples or chopped bacon…

After mowing the lawn and tending to his Tomato Plants, Peppers, Cucumbers, Green Beans, Lettuce, or whatever else was in his backyard garden, his culinary talents extended to the outdoor stove called The Charcoal Grill…It couldn’t be gas…It had to be charcoal with that fancy electric hot stick he’d use to start the briquettes…

With a beer always in one hand, he loved flipping burgers, rolling Hot Dogs he called “Osage Tube Steaks,” or carefully seasoning and delicately turning top cuts of KC Strips, Ribeyes, or T-Bones. For Orland, this was his peaceful place after work or on the weekend…

We’re pretty sure he liked showing off these over-the-flame talents because outdoor cooking took him back to his days as a Boy Scout in North-Central Iowa. In fact, the leaders of my Scout Troop in Kansas City recognized our Dad’s talents and made him the unofficial Adult Cook on campouts. They jokingly honored him with that distinction by presenting him the oversized Cooking Belt Loop on the back table at one of our Boy Scout Courts of Honor.

While Orland was proud of his Scouting days, he was ecstatic to have started a generational lineage of Eagle Scouts - first through me, then with Mason, and hopefully for Alton and Jasper…In fact, against our collective advice, he drove himself from Iowa City to this very Chapel to be here three years ago next month to take part in Mason’s Eagle Ceremony - He just couldn’t miss that proud Grandpa J moment with his Grandson…

Another one of his passions as a kid growing up in Osage was the wrestling mat - or as he would call it: WRASTLIN’...While he reached State and placed third his Junior year, let’s just say that family gene didn’t pass down. Oh how much he wanted me to be a “grappler,” so he had more of a reason to practice on me the Fireman’s Carry or Half Nelson in our living room.

Finally, I relented and went out for the Junior High wrestling squad. Mind you, Orland wrestled at 95 pounds his Junior Year of High School - I clocked in around 155 in Seventh Grade. You do the math!!!

While Orland’s name hangs today in the Osage High School Weight Room given his wrestling achievements courtesy of our Uncle Francis’ generosity, my stats would be far from that.

I’ll never forget how excited our Dad was for me to take the mat that first time. Unfortunately, all I remember is some huge dude breathing fire and muscles popping on the other side of the ref’s hand. Whistle blew and next thing I knew I was looking up at the lights - BAM, the ref called fall…in less than 12 seconds…Yep, I set Old Mission Junior High’s record for getting pinned the fastest.

I’ll also never forget that ride home. While our Dad always was pretty reserved and quiet, he was unusually mum until we pulled into the driveway. He looked me squarely in the eye and said: “I think you’re right - You are more of a basketball player.”

Another great car ride came after I scared the heck out of both our parents when I wanted to take a good, hard look at the University of Missouri for college…

Let’s just say I didn’t get a good vibe during that campus visit, but our Dad didn’t let it show in his very staid and even-keel way that he too was pretty concerned. About a half hour on the road back to Kansas City, with another hour-and-a-half to go, his eyes staring straight ahead on I-70, he simply asked: “What’d you think?”

I was anything but bashful in sharing the Professor we met with was a real jerk the whole time, especially when he asked:
• “What makes you think you’re good enough to come here, to be a part of the renowned Mizzou Journalism School?”

I then added we could scratch the Tigers from my college list. All Orland could say was: “Good, I kind of thought the same” - and then a huge smile of relief engulfed his face knowing I was going to follow our parents as an Iowa Hawkeye.

For Diane, I have no idea their immediate reaction when she told them she was going to Iowa State. But I do know, our Dad was very proud of her for becoming what he called: an ARCH-a-tek…

While Lewy Body may have been his final foe, some of you may remember he actually cheated death in 1974. During a business trip to St. Louis, two robbers broke into his hotel room while he was sleeping. Orland awoke to these guys rifling through his suitcase to which Fight, not Flight, took over.

During a scuffle, one of the bandits pulled a gun and fired three shots to his upper body. While it was touch and go whether he would survive, the selfless guy we knew and loved didn’t want anyone to tell our Mom because she was pregnant with Diane, and he didn’t want to upset her…Until he died a couple weeks ago, he carried a slug in his belly and one in his upper arm because the St. Louis surgeons in the 1970s thought it would be too dangerous to extract those bullets. As our Iowa Alumni friends Jeff and Julian remarked after reading his Obit a few days ago: “Your Dad was a real badass!”

In a minute, I’m going to turn over the podium to his Hospice Nurse Morgan who was so great for his care and helped Diane and me stay up to date on his different end-of-life stages the last four months. But first, I want to say, St. Croix Hospice - or comfort care - was the best thing to happen for our Dad.

While it was very hard for him to communicate beyond a couple words the last year and a half, we found after Hospice Therapy Sessions of Music, Massage, or Spiritual Singing he was somewhat a different person - at times, he was with us again...He actually started stringing a few words together - sometimes even talking in full sentences. It was amazing to have those glimpses of getting more out of him, even if it was fleeting at best.

As I close, I want to share a pretty cool moment Diane and I had with our Dad on the same day we got the morning call from Morgan that he was “transitioning,” and it could be anywhere from six hours to six days - but most likely sooner, rather than later.

That Friday was pretty rough as we were at his bedside from 8am when he was really restless - through the afternoon when he started to calm down - well into the evening when he seemed to be sleeping fairly peacefully. Every two hours the Long-term Care Staff would come in to turn him so he wouldn’t get bed sores. All this time, he hadn’t opened his eyes as we would hold his hand, massage his shoulder, and talk to him.

However, at the 10pm bed turn, he became super restless, so Diane and I resumed our positions on each side of him, held his hands, rubbed his shoulders, and tried to calm him down by talking to him. After a few minutes, his eyes opened wide, he squeezed our hands, and we talked to him for 5 or 10 minutes. We were able to tell him that we loved him, but it was time for him to take God’s hand and join our Mom and the family dogs up in Heaven. At that moment, his eyes slowly closed, and he went into a peaceful rest.

I turned to Diane and said: “It’s not going to get any better than that. We just had the best closure we could have ever asked for.” We then decided we would turn off the TV, dim the lights, and leave him after the 12-Midnight bed turn so he could do what he needed to do.

While he didn’t pass that night, FOR US, we know he heard us and he knew it was okay to start his Heavenly Journey…


Orland Gene “Jeff” Jeffries, 84, originally of Osage, passed away peacefully with family by his side at Legacy Pointe in Waukee on March 28, 2018 from complications of Parkinson’s Lewy Body Dementia. His wife of 55+ years, Nancy Mae (Harpel) Jeffries, preceded him in death by 12 days. A joint Celebration of Life Service was held at Dunn’s Chapel in Des Moines on the same day. The family will meet with friends on Tuesday, April 17, just prior to a brief 9:30 a.m. Chapel Service at Lutheran Church of Hope in West Des Moines preceding Orland’s interment with full military honors at the Iowa Veterans Cemetery.

Orland was born on February 15, 1934 in Osage to Earl and Gustava (Johnson) Jeffries. He was the third of four children and graduated from Osage High School in 1951. As a Junior, he represented the Green Devils at the State High School Wrestling Tournament in 1950 where he captured fourth place at 95 lbs, and his name appears today on the Wall of Honor at the new OHS Weight Room given this distinction. At 17, Orland achieved the rank of Eagle Scout and worked as a counselor at Boy Scout Camp Winnebago near Clear Lake.

In 1953, Orland enlisted in the Army, left north-central Iowa, and served in an artillery unit in Pusan and Incheon during the Korean War. After his honorable discharge, he used the GI Bill to enroll and graduate from the University of Iowa with a Business Degree in Accounting - only the second member of his family to complete college. In 1959, he took a job as an accountant at Alton Box Board Company in Kansas City. Remarkably, he worked his entire 41-year career for the same employer, even through mergers and acquisitions, while rising to senior leadership and executive positions.

In November 1962, he and Nancy, a fellow Hawkeye alum, married and bought their first home in the near suburb of Westwood, KS. In 1964, the couple started a family with their son, Peter, and added to it in 1974 with the arrival of daughter, Diane.

Known by his friends as “Jeff,” he became an active leader in Scouting, church, and other non-profits, repeatedly recognized for his volunteerism and community service. One of his proudest achievements was beginning a three generation family legacy of boys earning their Eagle Scout rank with his son and grandson(s). His love of the outdoors also extended to time spent every summer in the 1970’s and 1980’s camping, canoeing, fishing, and boating with friends and family at parks, lakes, and rivers in Kansas, Missouri, Iowa, and Minnesota.

He also loved dogs, and the family was never without a furry companion from a local shelter, whether it was Barney, Annie, Buster, Andy, Candy, Combo, or Toby. His children say their Dad would give the family pet multiple walks every day and often would talk through the dog during family discussions in the living room, at the kitchen table, or in the backyard.

In 1974, he cheated death by surviving three near fatal gunshot wounds while on a business trip to St. Louis. While he was sleeping, assailants broke into his hotel room and fired multiple rounds following a struggle. Given the possible complications from surgical extraction in the seventies, he carried a bullet in the abdomen and another in his left arm the rest of his life.

In 1984, Jeff took a corporate transfer to Morris, IL, where he was promoted to Assistant General Manager of the Jefferson Smurfit box plant there, southwest of Chicago. In Morris, he became President of Rotary and traveled the world with Nancy on volunteer missions and organizational meetings. He was repeatedly recognized by Illinois Valley Industries for his community service to help developmentally disabled adults gain job skills for full employment. The proud and loyal Hawkeye couple used their proximity to Iowa City to buy season tickets to Iowa Football and rarely missed a game, including Big Ten venues and Bowl Games from the 1980’s thru 2000’s.

After retiring from Smurfit-Stone Container in March 2000, they moved to Iowa City in 2004. Orland became active in the Johnson County I-Club, Elks Club, Hawkeye Wrestling Club, and Gloria Dei Lutheran Church where he rarely missed a Sunday service. The couple also added season tickets for Iowa wrestling, men’s and women’s basketball, and Jeff volunteered weekly at the University of Iowa Athletics Hall of Fame. While declining health issues brought the couple to central Iowa in 2016 to be closer to their adult children and their families, both remained faithful to the Black & Gold watching and listening to as many games as possible.

Orland is survived by son, Peter (Kristin) Jeffries of Clive, IA; daughter, Diane (Jared) Ladd of West Des Moines; grandchildren, Mason, Keaton, Alton, Jasper, and Brinley; brother Francis (Muriel) Jeffries of Naples, FL; and sister, Nancy Nutt of Osage. He wass preceded in death by his wife, parents and oldest brother, Ernest Jeffries of Floyd, IA.

The family extends huge appreciation for the loving care and support given to Jeff during the siege of Lewy Body Dementia by his neurologist, Dr. Lynn Struck, hospice nurse, Morgan Fountas, and the staffs at St. Croix Hospice and Village at Legacy Pointe.

Flowers for the Chapel Service may be sent to Lutheran Church of Hope; donations on behalf of Orland “Jeff” Jeffries may be made to the Animal Rescue League of Iowa or the Lewy Body Dementia Association.


On behalf of Diane and me, thank you all for coming, whether you’re from Kansas City, Iowa City, New York City, or here in Des Moines, and those of you from Legacy Pointe and St. Croix Hospice who certainly have become part of our family these last few months…

When we started to plan this Celebration of Life for our Mom, we never thought our Dad wanted to be a PARTY CRASHER…It’s so ODD for HIM wanting to be the Center of Attention - Nancy, well that’s another story…

But, I guess after 55-years & 4-months of marriage, Jeff didn’t want her to get too far of a head start in Heaven without him…And we want to thank all of you for those collective prayers over the last five days, as Jeff heeded that call this morning and took God’s hand in His Heavenly Journey…

So today, we want to share some stories about both of them…and I promise I’ll try to keep it together, but there are no guarantees!!!

On the cover of Nancy’s program, we have a quote by President John F. Kennedy - one of her political heroes - about Leadership and Learning - passions of both of our parents. And if you didn’t know, she was quite the proud and loud Democrat. In fact, one of her first achievements in politics was being elected during Kennedy’s 1960 run as Co-Chair of Oklahoma’s Young Democratic Club, where she was a practicing Nursing at the time…

This was just one of the fun facts Diane and I uncovered about our Mom during the last couple of weeks going through papers and packing up boxes.

While as kids, we lived the Nancy and Orland story…
NOW, we’re learning more of their history - and in many ways, it’s been fascinating how much we didn’t know….

At 15, Nancy penned her own Autobiography at Harding Middle School on the north side of Des Moines where she grew up - and it says a lot about her:
1. She loved reading and writing, which she carried with her until her final days; and,
2. She was a Pack Rat - which she ALSO carried with her for a lifetime, given we found this Class Project in one of the dozens of boxes stashed in her small apartment that she just couldn’t part with during one of the last three moves.

In her story at that tender age, she foretold much of what her life would turn out to be:
• “If I could be the kind of person I’d like to be: I would be moderately attractive, friendly to everyone, intelligent, and a nurse.”
We’ll let you decide in your own individual way on how many of those she hit the mark…

She was proud of her Norwegian and Swedish heritage - but rarely mentioned she also was Scot and German - probably because she LOVED the family’s Scandinavian cooking so much - another one of her passions later in life. That’s something her Minnesota Cousin Mary Jane can attest to since she’s with us today…Thanks again for you, Al, and Charlie making the drive.

She loved her “Mother” & “Daddy” - Mae, an office clerk, and Ralph, a Traffic Representative for the Des Moines & Central Railroad - as well as her younger sister Mary Ann - known by us as “Aunt Mare.” The Des Moines Harpels were a typical middle-class family trying to make ends meet during the Great Depression.

As for Orland, he grew up in small town Osage - the third of three sons, yet the older brother to our Aunt Nancy. His work ethic and determination took root in north central Iowa. That’s how he earned a spot representing the Green Devils at the State Wrestling Meet as a Junior, taking fourth place at 95-pounds…It’s also what drove him to earn Scouting’s highest rank - Eagle Scout - at 17. He’s now the patriarch of three generations of Eagle Scouts in the Jeffries/Ladd families - which probably made him prouder today than when he was pinned with that red, white, and blue ribbon in 1951.

He also learned the virtues of thriftiness. He would tell us stories about how tight money was growing up with his Mom - Gustava - a school teacher, and his Dad - Earl - a farm worker. One story that sticks to this day is how he ALWAYS had to take the THIRD BATH, meaning he simply got an extra pan of hot water poured into the existing “dirty” water after his two older brothers already had bathed.

To this day, he saved nearly every penny he earned - to the point, we’d joke that he could pull on both sides of that coin and make copper wire!!! However, it taught Diane and me a couple valuable lessons growing up:
1. Never take anything for granted; AND,
2. Always SAVE for your future…

So Mason & Keaton:
Please turn off the lights and TV when you leave the room - And if you think the house is cold, throw on another sweater and don’t even think about touching that thermostat!!!

Yep, in that way, I’ve proudly become my Dad…

I’ve also adopted one of his sinful pleasures: Ice Cream. When he took a regular job after college, he would “treat” himself to a bowl of ice cream nearly every night - He LOVED chocolate, but just about any flavor would do. So when his Lewy Body Dementia advanced, we told the nutritionist at Legacy Pointe in Waukee to put his protein shake in the freezer for a few minutes before serving it so he could have that same, cold sensation of ice cream like he had in the good old days…

Now let’s talk about the Hawkeyes…something that united our parents from the start.

While they both were about the same age, Nancy actually started and graduated from Iowa two years ahead of our Dad, given Orland’s Army service in Korea. She was the first in her family with a college diploma. Meanwhile, Orland used the GI Bill to earn a Business Degree in Accounting - becoming only the second in his family to complete college.

Throughout their 55-plus years of marriage, they always found ways to follow the Hawkeyes - no matter where they lived whether it was Kansas City, Morris, IL, Iowa City, or Waukee…And they often mentioned, BOTH were Lifetime Members of the University of Iowa Alumni Association. We want to thank all of our friends here today from the Alumni Association Board…As you know, Jeff and Nancy attended many Alumni functions over the years and saw plenty of home and away football & basketball games as well as wrestling meets.

But it was more than this social side of Iowa, it was their Alma Mater that served as their foundation for a better future…a future paved by their college education…

For the grandkids, please hear this. Your Grandma J loved you very much and had this as one of her final wishes when she opened up to us about being so sick during a Care Session in February:
• “I wish I could see my Grandkids go to college…And we want them to use the money wisely we give them every year at Christmas to pay for school…And preferably, they’ll go to Iowa.”
Okay Mason, Keaton, Alton, no pressure…it’s Hawkeyes or bust!!!

As for their respective professions, Nancy left Iowa City in 1957 with her nursing degree in hand, returned to Des Moines to serve in the Public Health Department for two years, and then moved to Tulsa, OK, which she absolutely adored, to become a practicing and teaching nurse at St. John’s Hospital. If it hadn’t been for Jeff moving to Kansas City after graduating Iowa to become an accountant at Alton Box Board Company in 1959 - and them falling in love courtesy of an introduction by our Aunt Mare - who knows if Nancy would have ever left Tulsa?!?!?

And for a kid coming out of the Great Depression when work was tight, Jeff took that first job and NEVER had to look for another the rest of his life. He was a rare, loyal breed who spent 41 years with the same company - even through mergers and acquisitions. He rose to executive management positions along the way, including a promotion move from Kansas City to Morris, IL, where he ended his career and retired as Assistant General Manager in March 2000.

But more than their day jobs, it’s what they taught Diane and me was truly important in their lives - embodied in Kennedy’s quote - Volunteerism and Public Service…

Our Dad through Scouting, Church, Rotary, other non-profits and community groups. He’d oftentimes get recognized for going above and beyond with his leadership and distinguished service, but humbly would place the plaque or award in a desk drawer, closet, or even a box. One of those most appreciative and repeatedly recognized his service was Illinois Valley Industries for his work to help developmentally disabled adults gain job skills for full employment.

For Nancy, when she became a stay-at-home Mom once Yours Truly hit the scene, she walked the walk with volunteer leadership as President of the Hospital Auxiliary and Elementary School Parent-Teacher Association, as well as serving on the Lutheran Church Women’s Board and the City of Westwood’s Board of Zoning Appeals.

It was her love of public service, politics, and our Kansas-side suburb of Westwood that eventually inspired her to run for City Council in 1970 - and another thing Diane and I learned in those musty boxes - she lost that first race!

However, showing her character, she persevered and was elected in 1972 - the FIRST WOMAN in City history to do so. And to this day, a couple of the community projects she pioneered remember her leadership and legacy with plaques at the first City Park and first City Fountain.

In one of her writings for the City’s 50th Anniversary Celebration in 1999, she remarked nearly 15 years after leaving the Council and moving to southwest Chicago: “There are a million fond memories of my life as a council member, and stories galore.” She added: “I shall always consider the privilege of serving the citizens of Westwood the highest honor I could receive.”

Now some odds and ends…First, let’s talk food: You heard earlier Nancy loved Scandinavian cooking. Well, she was a darn good cook, and my Dad happily complied as a darn good eater. In fact, she had hanging in HER kitchen: “Skinny Cooks Can’t Be Trusted.” In reality, she used her culinary craft as a deceptive tool to entertain and socialize, and Jeff was a willing accomplice. I’m sure their friends from Kansas City with us today can attest to that!

Whether it was a company party at our home, a neighborhood get together, or my friends and I trying to sneak out to a party on a Friday or Saturday night: Nancy used her devilish ways with a pan of lasagna or a beef brisket as a heavenly lure to keep people at the Jeffries’ house much longer than they had anticipated. And as my high school friends with us today reminded me before the service, we also ate super late on weekends - well after 8 o’clock…and sometimes after 9pm. See, I told you she had her evil ways to keep an eye on everyone by making sure no one ever left…

Heck, lots of folks say when you move to a new town you’ve got to get a good doctor, good lawyer, and good mechanic. For both our Mom & Dad, they needed a good butcher and good grocery store!!!

And we can’t forget their love of pets: Our parents took their love of animals, particularly dogs, to a new level. No joke, Diane and I often found out about anything important from the family dog. Yep, both Nancy and Jeff would talk through the dog to each other and to us as kids. I even recounted this story at my Dad’s bedside this morning with Hospice staff, who got a chuckle. And as Diane and I told our Dad in his final hours, he’s got to get up to Heaven because Barney, Annie, Buster, Candy, Andy, Combo, and Toby all need to go for a walk. Or in Nancy and Jeff’s voice: “Toby says: I have my legs crossed, and I need to go out.”

And don’t get me started on how embarrassing it was when they’d ALWAYS ask for a “Doggy Bag” when we’d go to a restaurant because our dog “NEEDED” a treat when they got home…

And one more: they loved sports, particularly baseball…Every spring growing up, we’d choose the family’s cross-country, station wagon vacation by opening up the Kansas City Star’s pre-season Sports Page that listed the entire American League and National League team schedules. Wouldn’t you know it: this past weekend was that very edition for the 2018 baseball season - the same one where her Obit would appear!!!

We’re so glad both of them were able to see our respective Kansas City Royals and Chicago Cubs hoist the Commissioner’s Trophy in back to back seasons of 2015 & 2016 - and break each franchise’s notorious World Series Championship streaks…

Yes, theirs was a unique and interesting love story more than 55 years in the making. Even more remarkable given Jeff was so quiet and Nancy was anything but. We joked Dad’s hearing problems sustained in Korea actually were a plus, since he couldn’t get a word in edge-wise if he tried…

All joking aside: Through it all, they made it work.

And for my sister and me, we are so pleased they had some final time together on this Earth days before Nancy passed. Just before she was heading to the Emergency Room during her final heart incident a week before she died, they rolled Jeff down the hall to see her. Even in his advanced Dementia, Legacy staff and nurses tell us they both held hands, exchanged words, and even shed a few tears.

They reached peace with one another’s health issues here on Earth, and we’re confident they’re now at peace together beyond those Pearly Gates.


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Memorial Service
Lutheran Church of Hope
925 Jordan Creek Parkway
West Des Moines, IA US 50266
Tuesday, April 17, 2018
9:30 AM
Iowa Veterans Cemetery
34024 Veterans Memorial Drive
Adel, IA US 50003
Tuesday, April 17, 2018
11:00 AM


Lewy Body Dementia Association
912 Killiam Hill Road SW
Liburn, GA 30047
Animal Rescue League Of Iowa
5452 NE 22nd Street
Des Moines, IA 50313