438 THE ADVOCATE
VOL. 79 PART 3 MAY 2021
known for his student-centred approach and knack for supporting young
people in tough times. The examples set by Tom and Janet no doubt wore
off on their eldest son.
In Jeff’s high school years, the family lived in Mitchell and on farmland
outside Stratford. As described by Jeff’s childhood friend Andrew Thomson,
this area of Ontario was “a mixture of Letterkenny and Leacock”. Jeff’s high
school peers came from neighbouring small towns and from different backgrounds
and circumstances. Though quiet and introspective, Jeff was a
focal point for his friends, someone who could relate to anyone and bring
opposites together. In poetic verse, he could “walk with Kings—nor lose the
common touch”. When Jeff rode through town in his dad’s red Jeep, everybody’s
spirits would rise. “Have you seen the Jeep today?” was a common
question to hear around Stratford in the ’80s.
At 14, Jeff got his first job, working at Guzzle Pizza in Grand Bend, a town
on the south shores of Lake Huron. On summer nights between 11 p.m. and
1 a.m., Guzzle Pizza more closely resembled a house party than a pizza
joint. After rising to manager by 16, Jeff left the next year to start his own
business designing, producing and selling T-shirts. Duds for Studs was not
so popular with the Sunday flea market crowd but found its niche as a
beachside kiosk. The hut by the sand was a magnet for the throngs of
teenagers who packed Grand Bend in the summer.
Jeff’s entrepreneurial spirit seems to be inherited. One of his forebears,
Dr. J.A. McGill, struck a fortune in 1885 peddling his medical marvel, “The
Famous Specific Orange Blossom: A Positive Cure for All Female Diseases”,
which became a bestselling potion. Years later, he would be ignominiously
featured in the book Quacks and Quackery, but in the interim Dr. McGill
used his vast profits to build the famous McGill House mansion in Chicago.
A century later, Jeff, the sage teenager, had more immediate dreams for
how he could spend his wealth: “a massive stereo”.
After high school, Jeff left the T-shirt business to pursue a degree at the
University of Western Ontario. From 1990 to 1995, he completed a bachelor
of arts degree while also composing witty and insightful film reviews for the
Western Gazette. An ’80s and ’90s movie buff, this was Jeff’s true labour of love.
To pay his way through school, Jeff hit the open road during the summers.
For seven summers, he worked as a truck driver for Hostess Frito-
Lay, supplying snacks across southwestern Ontario. If you ever bought
potato chips from a vending machine in the area in the 1990s, chances are
Jeff had stocked it.
By the time he graduated in 1995, Jeff had seen it all in his corner of the
world. During undergrad, he had been captivated by the now-infamous sec-