by Stella Billek
The summer is supposed to be a time to repose -- a break from the hardships and stress of the busy school year. For many Westfield residents, that was not the case this summer. The tragic losses of WHS student Ezra Kennedy and St. Peter's Prep rising senior Jeffery Hoens left a painful and heartbreaking stamp on the summer.
We said goodbye to Ezra after a tragic hiking accident in the Catskills in late July. Ezra was a friend to many in the WHS community, and his life is remembered fully in this issue.
While the loss of Ezra was a prominent part of the summer, the life of another Westfield teen will not go unremembered.
Jeffrey Hoens did not attend WHS, and many students did not know him. To most, he was just a name in the paper and a reminder of a difficult summer. But that does not mean that we are not all hurting. We all feel the pain felt by his closest friends, his family and anyone he touched throughout his life. Those who knew him from elementary and middle school and from his work with the New Jersey Dare Devils recognized his passion and bright spirit. Jeff deserves to be recognized as a man who touched so many in his life.
Jeff’s two greatest passions were hockey and fishing. He played varsity hockey at St. Peter's Prep in Jersey City. According an nj.com obituary, Jeff’s mother, Karym Hoens, recalls that at age two “he challenged two professional players to score on him. ‘Score,’ was his first word.” Jeff eventually was named the starting goalie of the 2015-2016 season, winning five games in a row at one point. But Jeff was not only a player; he was also a patron for the sport. As a part of the Dare Devils, he volunteered to work with young hockey players with special needs.
His other passion was fishing. Mrs. Hoens said Jeff “respected the sea and all of life.” He cared what others caught and did not like fishing simply for sport. His father, Thomas Hoens, said, “He would hand his fishing pole over so a child could reel in the catch. He was the guy who would help just to help.” One of his best friends and WHS senior, Philip Ricca, stated via Instagram: “He died in the place he called home. The place that both of us loved. He died doing what he loved.”
Jeff was special in so many ways. He was kind and wanted to be everyone’s friend and he appreciated what life had to offer. Mr. Hoens, said: “What made Jeff so special is that he cared about others. As a young boy he wanted everyone to be included. He was the boy who would knock on your door and want to be friends. He was the boy who would build a terrarium because it was life.”
Jeff was someone who liked to take risks and go on adventures; he liked to help people, and his presence in a room was unmistakably genuine; he wanted to know people for who they were, and talked to anyone, everything else aside. Mr. Hoens said: “If he were here today he would say follow your passions. Don't let others direct your course. It is easy to get lost. Go the distance. Be a friend and remember how to repair friendships.”
We all need to look at our lives and think about how well we are living them. We need to live fuller, with more passion and dedication to our goals and with more kindness toward others.
We all need to live a little bit more like Jeff Hoens.