Guest Essay: Bon Voyage from Nancy


Left to right: Nancy Freund Heller, Jeffrey

This isn’t Joey or Jeffrey writing. This time, it is the woman left behind, writing about that man she married 32 years ago. I guess you could call me the pit crew. You guessed it, I am referring to the pit in my stomach that emerges whenever this dynamic duo takes off on one of their mega bike rides.

While I am proud of our cyclist, his muse and the money they raise for Human Rights First, the pit crew (read me) is left home to worry that some jerk in a large motorized vehicle (read car or truck) will not see that on the side of the road our Jeffrey is riding with his non-speaking stuffed kangaroo, Joey. My fellow citizens of the world, this is a legitimate concern, n’est-ce pas?

I met Jeffrey at age 18 (a mere 38 years ago) when we were first year students at Duke University. It was a Friday night at Hillel. There were not many students who attended services regularly and a bond developed quickly between us. Typically, there was a short service, led by motorcycle Rabbi Bob (yep, he rode a Harley), followed by dinner. It was nice, low key with lots of conversation. Jeffrey was always gracious, though a bit shy (as was I, hard as that is for you to believe). With his bright red hair and strong views, Jeffrey definitely stood out as a nice guy with great values who treated everyone with respect.

Jeffrey would stop by my dorm room on days he went for a run around the nearby football stadium track. Always a gentleman, he was kind and polite. When I had a Ford Maverick, I would take Jeffrey shopping at the A&P. He ate little and shopped wisely to save money and balance his meager budget. We got to know each other.

I learned that Jeffrey lived by his values. While he was frugal, he was a caring guy, a good student interested in a variety of subjects, working hard in the cafeteria, and trying to finish college early. He wanted to be a lawyer. He was a good writer (compare his articulate blog posts to this rambling post) and a good friend. He wanted and still aims to make the world a better place. I admired Jeffrey then and still do. One cannot help but support a man who has spent his life helping others to little fanfare.

And now, on most days, I couldn’t get out the door to TIAA-CREF (my employer of 30 years) without Jeffrey’s loving attention and care. He prepares my breakfast and sees that I leave the apartment with as full deck of cards (and as few hot flashes) as a woman of my age might expect. And when I arrive at home after a long day, there is a fancy dinner, a glass of wine and lots of love and support.

You can now maybe imagine my worry.

The worry that comes from this adventure is diminished somewhat with the help of technology. I follow Jeffrey’s progress on my iPad. A pin drops on a map and I see the street on which he and Joey are cycling or stopped. I can see how many miles they have covered, over what terrain and how fast. If they aren’t moving or if their pace has slowed, a phone call can confirm they’re OK.

On occasion, I help Jeffrey with directions and hotel accommodations. I point out a better route or map out their next steps. I have called Jeffrey to say they have taken a wrong turn. Sometimes I beg them to stop for the night, seeing that the next hotel is many miles away. Of course, Jeffrey doesn’t always listen to the pit crew and there is only so much pressure I can assert from afar for a guy on a trike. As the ride proceeds and his route moves to more rural locales, I relax a bit and stop being glued to the map.

And so, it is with a bit of anxiety, but unwavering support and admiration that I ask you to help me bid bon voyage to the love of my life, my Mr. Jeffrey, and his kangaroo puppet, Joey. Let’s wish them Godspeed on their ride to St. Petersburg.

I hope that you will support the ride (it begins March 27), offer some words of support and encouragement and subscribe to Jeffrey’s intelligent and thought provoking blog.

–Nancy Freund Heller

17 thoughts on “Guest Essay: Bon Voyage from Nancy

    • Thoughtful, heartfelt, and a loving tribute to the both of you. We’re cheering you on and will greet you in Florida with a glass of wine and a soft bed! Cheers! Mimi and Rich

  1. Nancy, Everything you say is evocative except your claim that you ramble. You write so well. We feel your anxiety as a palpable entity. May Joey keep an eye out for your interests through the long road ahead. Art

    • You are both so incredibly impressive. It takes 2 to make a great team, and I don’t mean Joey & Jeffrey. Have a safe trip, and we’ll look forward to following your journey. Bon Voyage! Shelley

  2. Good luck to all – riders and pit crew alike! Bon voyage and safe passage for a worthwhile cause!!

  3. Congratulations on your long and happy marriage! Hope all will go well for both of you during your’s husbands bike tour.

  4. Brings back memories of those early days the two of you had together! I admire the lives and family you have built together. Always wishing the best for both of you!
    Your Duke ‘roomy’

  5. Nancy, you are a Saint! A Jewish Saint and a Wise Woman. You also write vey well. I wish Jeffrey a good safe trip, but perhaps left to his own resources he would be more likely to find alternate and less risky ways to raise money for good causes. A bake sale comes to mind (just kidding!)

  6. Nancy, You and Jeff have one of the sweetest wedding pictures. I always knew about my cousins in Gouverneur, but I hadn’t met Jeff until our trip to Israel. One of the most important things I found out, was that you were his best friend. So I wish you 32+ more years of love and friendship. Regarding Jeff and Joey’s trip- hard not to be on edge. Love, Zena

  7. A good thing there is Jeffrey and Joey (and a few others like them) to make the world better. In the words of show business, break a leg but on second thought don’t –come back safely and in the best of health. Good luck.

  8. What a lovely and inspiring post! I’m sure that Jeffrey is riding a little faster and dodging potholes, both on the road and in life, a bit more effortlessly with your devoted support! Ride on and keep us posted on his progress!

  9. This is a lovely tribute and a glimpse of a perfect match of kindred spirits in common cause! Susan is the head of our family pit crew, urging me to have a great time whenever I set off on an “epoch” bike ride, usually with friends she knows and trusts but also knows we take on a different character as a group of riders. Many of my rides are on remote trails in the mountains and deserts of the west, so Susan always insists I have my wallet with identification in case of an accident. And there have been accidents! But I remind the pit crew chief that without occasional stitches and broken ribs, what’s a pit crew boss to do? Solidarity in biking!!

  10. Wow, Nancy — good for you and Jeff for creating a relationship that allows you both to be true to yourselfs while supporting each other as you continue on your own journeys and your journey together!

  11. God’s gracious blessings would accompany you guys throughtout more wonderful years that lie ahead.We pray that Jeff returns home safely.Nancy you are “The super woman”——Bon courage!!

  12. Really beautiful and moving, Nancy. Saying tefillat ha-derech for your menschy husband, and inspired by his great, unsung work and the great, loving partnership you two share.

    Marc Margolius

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