Funny, smart, empathetic, outgoing, musically gifted
Everyone knew the moment Jeffrey entered a room: if it wasn’t his smile that caught your attention, it would be the way he boldly announced HELLO! Jeffrey was a cherished son, a beloved brother, and a friend to all.
Jeffrey had a way with music. In middle school, he joined the band, learned to play the trumpet, and never put it back down. He was a natural; his skill was apparent to all who heard him. Every school year, he represented Delaware in the honor band. He even represented the state at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. as part of the inaugural All-American Senior Band and earned a large band scholarship for a local college. At 17, he also began volunteering for the nonprofit organization Bugles Across America and playing “Taps” at veterans’ funerals. He remained a member until his death.
Jeffrey wanted a loving family just like the one that raised him. He loved being around children and dreamed of having his own. If they were as close as he was with his brothers, Steven, and Adam, they would be lucky kids. Whenever he needed a listening ear, encouraging words, or a good laugh, he turned to his brothers.
“They were all truly best friends,” their mother, Tammy, said. “They hung out together and spent nights at each other’s homes. When Jeffrey needed help or support or someone to listen to him, his brothers were always the first ones he called.”
When Jeffrey wasn’t playing his trumpet and hanging out with his brothers, he worked towards his early childhood education degree and studied French. He valued learning and took joy in school. He also enjoyed lounging at the beach, basking in the warm weather, and going fishing on a charter boat.
If he wasn’t doing any of those things, chances were he was setting up a prank. Though he’d started as a shy, bookish young boy, Jeffrey realized his talent for making people laugh. Laughter was a necessity. However, he never made jokes or planned pranks in mean spirits. Pranks aside, people knew him for his hugs—longer and more meaningful than normal hugs. Empathetic, kind, and caring, Jeffrey had many close friends for good reason.
Jeffrey’s experience with substance use disorder changed him. His fun-loving personality turned unrecognizable to his loved ones. He abandoned his usual neat looks and attention to appearance. To strangers, he looked like an average 28-year-old—but he was struggling. He fought against addiction for seven years.
Messages left on his online tribute board recall Jeffrey’s special ability to make people laugh, his musical talents, and his genuine personality. Tammy shared, “He was the son most like me, a kind of reflection of myself. I feel like part of me has been taken away from me forever.”
Jeffrey’s mother, Tammy Heilman, provided the information for this narrative.
July 27, 1993–January 24, 2022 – Age 28
Portrait Artist: Shawn Faust
Narrative Writer: Angela Day