My Friend and Fellow Warrior …
Coming to you from the ground today. I am a Soccer Dad first today, driving two hundred miles for a soccer tournament and feeling lucky to do so.
I am also a bit melancholy today as I digest the loss of one of my most tenured and loyal fellow Warriors in the company, and I suppose my life. As a large portion of my life these last 20 years has been dedicated to the building and preservation of our company, I must acknowledge that there is a core group of people that have been with me and supported me unconditionally throughout the entire journey. Their contributions to the company are seldom recognized by others, though always in my mind and heart they have been there.
Jeff French was one of those people. Jeff joined me as a loan officer at Big Valley Mortgage in 1994. He came over with a group of people including both his and my original teacher and mentor in this industry, David Ryland. (David is still at Big Valley and remains one of my most constant supporters)
As many of you will recall, and perhaps as many who do not, the early to mid 90’s were a tumultuous time in our industry. We experienced the end of the “Mother of all Refi Booms” as interest rates whipsawed their way down from the high teens in the mid 80’s until they bottomed out in the mid 7’s in early 94. IN the midst of these times, we saw the birth of wholesale lending in the 80’s and its explosive expansion in the 90’s. We witnessed the savings and loan crisis, which effectively brought an end to that industry as most of the nations’ savings and loans folded under the weight of bad real estate loans. (sound familiar?) The real estate market crashed in 1990 in most states in the West, losing 20-30% of values.
There was no HARP program back then. People just had to gut it out until values began to climb again for the first time in1998……8 years later. In the middle of that cycle, spring of 1994, rates spiked from around 7.5% to 9.5% in about 30 days bringing on a bloodbath for the mortgage origination business that many did not expect.
It was in the middle of all of this that Jeff French launched his mortgage career. Armed with a fierce determination, a great mentor, and a commitment to exit the trades and save his body from its ravages Jeff French became a loan officer.
Even at 39, Jeff was a rock solid physical specimen yet he knew that supporting his wife and two children demanded he spread his wings, and he did. (Over the years many a BVM/APM fellow employee enjoyed Jeff’s help with their home projects. He was always at the ready if called upon.) Jeff was there when we launched APM in 96/97. Like many at BVM at the time, he was supportive of any and all of our plans that were designed to create a sustainable and formidable company where he might spend his career. And it was a career to Jeff!! As with many things he did, Jeff jumped in with both feet, heart and soul. He was always looking for ways to improve his and our systems. Jeff actually was one of the first to design a computer generated GFE in point and his basic template was what BVM and APM used for a number of years!!
Jeff showed up for work every day, always looking professional, ready to attack his day….always ready willing and able to lend a hand if asked.
He embraced and truly helped us create and perpetuate the “culture” that remains a foundational characteristic of American Pacific mortgage to this day. He helped us with many social events and parties and he truly cared about his relationships with his coworkers.
Jeff was the guy who arranged the Big Valley Mortgage, American River float trip – A four hour beer drinking dunk fest that was a highlight for me every summer. (Regrettably, I missed this year’s event and what turned out to be a last fun time with Jeff)
You know, I could go on for a long while with stories of Jeff. From float trips to Christmas parties, in good times and in tough times Jeff has been a fixture for 20 years for me, Big Valley and American Pacific Mortgage.
While the business never came easy for Jeff, his core strength and perseverance were as consistent as his chiseled features and incredible physique for a 59 year old man. When you shook hands with Jeff, you knew it!! Jeff was a kind and humble man in life and in business. He experienced stress and challenges like all of us yet he rarely projected his challenges upon others. I think he exhibited as consistently humility and kindness as much as anyone I know. Jeff’s capacity in these things is something I aspire to and is something I think we can all do better.
When Jeff passed suddenly of a heart attack in his home on Thursday morning, the shock waves rippled through Jeff’s office and home families. By all appearances, Jeff was still extraordinarily healthy. I have to admit, that I wonder if the stresses of this business played a role. I think my friend David Ryland put it best when we all gathered Thursday afternoon at Big Valley when he said: (and I paraphrase) “You never know when it will be the last time you will see or speak to someone – Reminds us to consider our behavior and to treat others with kindness and respect at all times.”
I think that Jeff possessed a natural ability to do this.
Another thing I could always count on from Jeff was to strive to grow his knowledge and learn his craft. He was also a true team player. Invariably at nearly every Summit I could look out to the crowd and see Jeff’s face among those attending, still finding value in what I had to say after 20 years – Just a few days before I begin this round of Summits….the first ever without him.
I will miss my friend and fellow Warrior Jeff French. I intend to honor him by fortifying my commitment to humility and kindness in a way that would be worthy of his continued respect and support.
It will be good to spend some quality time with so many of you in a few days.
Thanks for taking the time to remember Jeff with me.
A true Warrior to the end.
In Honor and Memory of Jeff French.
American Pacific Mortgage Corp.