Jeffrey Allen Harford died unexpectedly Friday, Nov. 23, 2018, after suffering a massive heart attack at his home in Belton, Texas. Valiant efforts at resuscitation were made by his wife, son and a dedicated team of first-responders and urgent care professionals at Baylor Scott and White Emergency Department. Unfortunately, this was not enough to bring back this passionate servant-leader who brought energy, enthusiasm and drive to everything he did. Jeff always gave 110 percent. It was just the way he was built!

Jeff’s building process began in his hometown of Belfast, in the beautiful, wooded and rugged Midcoast region of Maine. Jeff was born Sept. 18, 1952, the fourth of eight children, to William F. Harford and Frances (Thompson) Harford. Jeff had many fond memories of his early years that included loads of outdoor activities like hunting, fishing, digging clams, ice skating, playing in the snow, riding his bike to and from Little League baseball games (Jeff and three brothers all played for the “Yankees”), raking blueberries, and even chopping wood (lots of wood).

Jeff started grade school at age 4, but he often told me that he struggled in academics until the fifth grade when he had an exceptional teacher, Mrs. Davis. It was Mrs. Davis who no doubt recognized Jeff’s potential and built on his strengths, such as mathematics, and encouraged Jeff in his studies. Perhaps it was this teacher who inspired Jeff to become an exceptional instructor pilot, trainer and mentor to so many Army pilots, students, Boy Scouts and Cub Scouts in later years.

All was not perfect in those early years as Jeff at age 12 lost his mother, Frances, to cancer. With his Dad’s work schedule and eight young children, Jeff and some of his siblings lived for a while with other family members. A year or so later, the whole family miraculously reunited and grew even larger when his Dad married Albertina “Al” who had three children of her own.

Jeff had enormous respect for his Dad and Mom “Al” and especially for their hard work providing for their family of 13. His parents were extremely resourceful, and this was especially reflected at Christmastime. Jeff doesn’t know how but there was always a “mountain” of presents around the Christmas tree every year. Even as an adult, Jeff enjoyed finding a box of chocolate cherries and a Lifesaver storybook in his Christmas stocking as a fond reminder of his childhood in Maine.

At Belfast Area High School, Jeff added more sports to his busy schedule that included working part-time at a grocery store and playing football for the BHS Lions football team. The football team won the state championship two years in a row. He was also great at wrestling and was offered a two-year college scholarship. Jeff declined the scholarship, opting to serve his country by enlisting in the Army at age 17. He left for Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, almost immediately after his high school graduation in 1970.

Jeff made a brilliant choice because he excelled at all things Army – especially “PT” or physical training. He always “maxed” the PT test and was nick-named “Sports Bod” by one of his classes. After basic training, Jeff as an infantryman attended two of the Army’s elite training programs: Airborne school and Ranger school. Jeff was very proud to have earned his Airborne and Ranger tabs and carried them in his wallet all the time.

Eventually, Jeff put in his packet and was accepted to attend flight school and warrant officer school at Fort Rucker, Alabama. Jeff reasoned that it “looked like more fun to fly helicopters than to jump out of them.” After successfully completing flight school, Jeff signed up to fly gunships (of course) starting with the AH-1 Cobra, which he flew for five years. Jeff then transitioned to fly the AH-64 Apache Attack Helicopter from the mid-1980s until his first retirement in 1996. Prior to retirement, Jeff was involved with testing the Longbow Apache at the Yuma Proving Ground in Arizona in 1994.

Though serving in the Army kept Jeff busy, he found time to start a family and was blessed with three beautiful daughters, Holly, Heidi and Hope. Two of the Harford girls, Holly and Heidi, still reside in the beautiful Midcoast region of Maine. Both have raised great kids and are richly blessed with the most precious grandchildren ever! Jeff loved that he was a grandpa to 11 and great-grandpa to seven—and counting! I always told him that he was actually a great grand “dude”!

In 1990, Jeff and I met at Fort Hood while he was TDY from Fort Rucker and I was working at the III Corp JAG office as a reserve officer. We had planned a December wedding, but when Iraq invaded Kuwait, we eloped and married on Aug. 11, 1990. This was about a week before his unit at Fort Rucker deployed to Saudi Arabia and Iraq in the First Gulf War. Jeff was deployed with the 2nd of the 229th Aviation Regiment– also known as the Flying Tigers. Somehow while in the Iraqi desert, Jeff called me by ham radio at my parents’ home in Oklahoma City. Jeff returned home safe and sound in April 1991, and we moved permanently to Fort Hood. We have happily made Central Texas our home since then. Our son, Hunter, was born in September 1995. Jeff was so excited to have a son along with his three daughters! Jeff retired from active duty with 26 years of service at the rank of Chief Warrant Officer 4 in June 1996. Jeff was proud to have served with the Flying Tigers and was already looking forward to their 30-year reunion set for August 2020. Just after Veterans Day this year, Jeff organized a breakfast for his friends and fellow-veterans at Cracker Barrel. It was important for Jeff to gather with fellow warfighters and share war stories with his brothers in arms.

After Jeff’s first retirement, he went into the car wash business. Jeff built two touch-free car washes (one in Belton and one in Harker Heights) from the ground up. The first one opened in Belton in June 1996. Jeff was usually at one location or the other every day, greeting customers and giving them, and their cars and trucks, extra attention. Jeff loved and enjoyed his thriving car wash business. But then Jeff, like most of us, was deeply impacted by 9/11 and decided to return to work at Fort Hood as a contractor.

In 2007, Jeff returned to active duty and again deployed to Iraq serving as an AH-64D Apache Longbow pilot in Nomad Troop of the 4th Squadron, 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment. During this deployment to Iraq, Jeff achieved the milestone of flying 5,000 accident-free hours. Jeff retired from the Army for the second time in 2009. Jeff received many awards during his Army service – including the Legion of Merit, Bronze Star Medal, Air Medal (third award), Meritorious Service Medal and many others.

Upon his return from Iraq, Jeff continued working at Fort Hood as a contractor with Systems Studies and Simulation (S3). Jeff also turned his attention and energy to Hunter’s Boy Scout Troop 153 in Temple. Hunter mentioned to his Dad that he really wanted to go on a trek at Philmont Scout Ranch in New Mexico. Jeff worked with the Scout Master, Phil Everett, and several other dads to make the 75-mile trek a reality. This was the first of three scouting high adventures that Jeff coordinated. Five of the young men on that first Philmont trek — Hunter, Nathaniel Tracy, John Jennings, Matthew Murdoch and John Edwards — traveled the next summer to the Northern Tier in Ely, Minn., where they hiked and portaged with canoes along the boundary waters between Minnesota and Canada. The summer after that the same group went to Sea Base in the Bahamas and crewed a ship around the islands. Jeff and the other dads and these boys (who are now men) loved these trips and would often reminisce about their adventures. Jeff was already talking about planning a reunion trip to the Northern Tier for the dads and their sons who have all grown into outstanding and accomplished men!

Anticipating that Hunter would be leaving for college and that we would be “empty nesters,” Jeff got us both involved as den leaders for Cub Scout Pack 153. A year later, Jeff became the Cub Master and what a wonderful blessing our Cub Scouting journey has been. One of Jeff’s greatest joys was teaching, training, inspiring and mentoring young Scouts. Jeff taught them about hiking, orienteering, tools, wood-working, cooking outdoors, fun campfires and a thousand other things. Jeff took seriously the slogan “powered by popcorn” and just finished leading Pack 153 to its most successful popcorn fundraiser ever – our 40 Scouts sold over $36,000 in popcorn. Incredible! Jeff was so proud that several of his Scouts sold enough popcorn this year to earn a scholarship from Trails End. Jeff always said that each Cub Scout had an opportunity to pay his own way through Scouting and many of them did just that! Even more importantly, Jeff’s goal was to positively influence every Scout in Pack 153 to become a “good person in the world” by living the Scout Oath and Scout Law and by doing a “good turn daily”!

Jeff faithfully attended Temple Bible Church for the past 12 years. He enjoyed being a driver for the Impact Backyard Bible Clubs. Jeff was also involved with Community Bible Study as a leader, helping behind the scenes with set-up and other administrative matters. Jeff had a personal relationship with his Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and is in His presence now. What a joyful reunion that must have been!

Jeff was preceded in death by his parents, his step-mother Albertina, his daughter Hope and his brother Jerry.

Jeff leaves behind his wife Janet of Belton; his son Hunter; and his two daughters Holly and Heidi (husband Chris Johnson). Jeff also leaves behind three brothers Ronnie (wife Mackie), Bill (wife Pam) and Steve (wife Jane); and three sisters Marcia, Joni (husband Richard Smith), and Ethel (husband Rusty Whitcomb); two step-brothers Bob Keating (wife Betty) and Ed Keating (wife Karen); and one step-sister Phyllis Brooks. Jeff also leaves behind his most precious 11 grandchildren and nine beloved great-grandchildren.

On his last day here on earth, Jeff was surrounded by his loving wife Janet and his son Hunter as well as dear friends Joan and Nobu Togami, Jerick Togami, Sarah and Stephen Sewell, James and Debbie Tracy, Nathaniel Tracy, Karen and David Jennings, John Jennings, Dianne Edwards, John Edwards and Pastor Gary DeSalvo.

The Celebration of Jeff’s extraordinary life will be held at 2 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 1, at Temple Bible Church-Creekside Chapel, 3205 Oakview Drive, Temple, Texas, with Pastor Gary DeSalvo officiating. This service will be live-streamed to United Methodist Church in Belfast, which has graciously agreed to open its doors to Jeff’s family and friends in Maine who are not able to make it to Texas on Saturday.

Jeff’s family also invites friends for visitation on Friday evening, Nov. 30, from 5 to 7 p.m. at Temple Bible Church-Creekside Chapel in Texas.

Memorials may be made in Jeff’s memory to Temple Bible Church, Belfast United Methodist Church, Community Bible Study or to the Friends of Scouting.

Dossman Funeral Home in Belton, Texas, is in charge of arrangements.