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Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Remembering my friend - Jeff Van Keuren

The first time I met Jeff it was a freezing day in January 2002, I had a job interview at United Defense---now BAE Systems. I remember that I had a terrible cold that day, but despite my coughing I thought the interview went well. I was disappointed that I didn't get the job, but Jeff called me to assure me that he was recommending me for another position and that he would hang on to my resume.

I thought it was the typical thing you hear when you don't get a job "Yeah we will keep your resume on file (in the garbage) and call you in a few weeks," and of course that call usually never comes. In this case Jeff did hang on to my resume and they did call and I did get the job. Thanks to Jeff I had a wonderful career at BAE Systems for almost eight years.

Jeff taught me that it is important to treat people like people. I remember being at dinner in the U.S. Capitol with a number of different senators and representatives. I was overwhelmed by all the VIPs, but somehow Jeff still found time to come over and ask me how life was going.

We often joked with Jeff, because at the end of every meeting he would ask, "Okay, what's next." He always had his eye on the next big technology leap and he always wanted to be on the cutting edge. Last fall I had lunch with Jeff as he was recovering from his second brain tumor. We joked about our travels and the good times at BAE Systems, but more than work, Jeff wanted to hear about my adopted son Samuel and my daughter Lauren.

I was surprised to find him still driving and when I asked him about it he said, "Oh I've been driving my wife crazy for years." That was Jeff. He loved his wife Barb and adored his kids Beth and Ben.

When I got the word last week that Jeff had finally lost his fight to brain cancer, a small part of me was broken. I will miss joking with Jeff. I will miss his mentorship and encouragement to get my Accreditation in Public Relations. But most importantly, I will miss my friend.

Do you have a memory of Jeff that you want to share? I would love to hear it in the comments below or you can post it to West