Jeffrey Wester “Pug” Lee passed away at the age of 98 with his son at his side on Friday March 12, 2021 at approximately 8:25pm at North Florida Regional Medical Center in Gainesville, Florida.
Jeffrey was born in Hamilton County, Florida, outside White Springs on the Woodpecker Route in a log cabin on December 27, 1922. He was so small and fragile, his grandmother held him while near the fireplace to keep him warm and alive. His parents were Isom Jefferson and Clara Elizabeth (Griffis) Lee, hardworking but poor sharecroppers, who always loved and took care of their large family.
Jeffrey got his nickname Pug, which most family knew him by, from his uncle who jokingly said the young boy was aggravating him like a “pug dog” (or in other words being pugnacious). Pug enlisted in 1943 in the Army during World War II to keep from being drafted and because he was not a big fan of walking behind a mule all day plowing. His job during the war was to load and unload ships as part of the 243rd Port Company Transportation Corps in the Asiatic-Pacific theater. After the war ended, he returned in 1946 to Hamilton County where he worked at several jobs. He was a timber cruiser for about a year. A timber cruiser measures the size, quality, and number of trees in an area to give an estimation of whether it would be profitable to harvest those trees. He then worked for a few years with the Florida State Road Department. After that, he was able to get a job at the Veterans Administration Hospital in Lake City, Florida as a nursing assistant. It was during this time he met a young and pretty registered nurse on the ward named Martha Joan Fletcher, whom he married on May 3, 1956 in St. Augustine, Florida. They would remain happily married for almost 56 years until her death in April 2012.
Since Pug could not remain working on the hospital ward with his fiancée as his boss, he was able to get a job in the file room, and then in the admissions office at the hospital. After being promoted from office clerk to Medical Administrative Assistant (MAA), he would continue working in this position until his retirement in 1986 with over 35 years of Federal Civil Service.
The Lees lived in Lake City after marrying and built a nice home on three acres in 1960 that they would live in the rest of their lives. After ten years of marriage, Jeffrey and Martha were finally blessed with their only child, Jeffrey Fletcher Lee. Martha quit being a nurse to raise their son. While Pug often worked evening and night shifts, he spent as much time with his son as possible. He and his wife always put their son first, making many sacrifices to make sure their boy was given the best they could afford, and was always loved and protected. Despite being an older parent, his energy belied his age – a trait he held throughout his life. Pug enjoyed fishing, and many a happy hour was spent with his son fishing in his boat in the Intracoastal Waterway around St. Augustine, Florida or in the Gulf of Mexico.
After retiring, one of Pug’s passions was organizing an annual family reunion. Started in 1987, it continues to this day. Along with his son, he also developed a real interest in genealogy which led to trips to libraries and tromping through many a country cemetery. He lamented on a few occasions that he wished he had started the family reunion back when his parents were still alive, and that he had asked more about his family’s history when he was a younger man.
Among Pug’s other interests were woodworking, gardening (no mule though), listening to old-time country and gospel music, reading, and later in life listening to western, mystery, and detective audio books.
Jeffrey was a man of faith who rarely talked about his faith. Rather, he showed his faith and love for the Lord through his actions and how he lived his life. He enjoyed attending Long Branch Congregational Methodist Church outside White Springs when he could. He would also listen for hours to the Bible being read on CDs he owned.
A member of the Greatest Generation and a child of the Great Depression, he carried those lessons learned throughout his life. Rarely did he throw anything away because he knew it might be of use in the future. He would talk if asked about his time during World War II, but he did not dwell upon it. If there was a job to do, he would get to it. He hated being late. His word was a promise you could count on. His honor, his moral code of always trying to do the right thing – was so much a part of him, there was no separating the man from the ideal. He had a good sense of humor. He loved telling jokes and trying to get folks to laugh or smile. He was liked, if not loved, and was well respected. As his son, I always looked up to him, admired him, and wished I could be more like him. It was my honor and privilege to take care of him in the last few years of his life. I was always so proud of him, and I hope he was of me. I hope I can continue to make him proud and be half the man he was.
Besides his only son, Jeffrey F. Lee, Pug also leaves a sister-in-law, Myra Lee, many nieces and nephews, and other friends and relatives that he loved very much. Special thanks to his family doctor, Dr. Miguel Tepedino, his wife Dr. Kelly Tepedino, and their entire staff; to Christy and the entire staff at Aspire Dental; to Amber and Melinda at Kindred at Home; and to all the other healthcare professionals that kept him in such good shape for so many years. Also, thanks to those heroes at Lake City Medical Center and North Florida Regional Medical Center.
Funeral services for Mr. Lee will be conducted on Tuesday, March 23, 2021 at 2:00 PM in the Gateway-Forest Lawn Memorial Chapel. Interment with military honors will follow at Prospect Cemetery in Hamilton County. Visitation with the family will be Monday evening from 5:00 PM to 7:00 PM at the funeral home.
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