Jeffery Charles Viles – father, mentor, entrepreneur, athlete, wordsmith, veteran, linguist, connoisseur and general bon vivant – passed away in Columbia on March 8, 2021, following a lengthy and arduous battle with complications of Covid-19.
Jeff was born on September 8, 1943 in Miami, Oklahoma and his family soon relocated to the southwest Missouri community of Aurora. Those who came to know Jeff later in life might be surprised to learn of the athletic abilities he displayed growing up; in fact, he was a member of the 1956 Little League team that qualified for the Little League World Series. In high school he lettered in football, basketball, and baseball for the Aurora Houn’ Dawgs. After high school, he accepted a scholarship to play baseball at Southwest Missouri State (now Missouri State) and soon found a way to successfully supplement his college stipend from home at the local billiards halls.
Jeff ultimately left his athletic endeavors and matriculated to the University of Missouri in 1965 where he received his Bachelor’s in Journalism.
His minor in German language and love of travel took root when he had the opportunity to spend nine months in Germany writing for the esteemed international newspaper, “Die Welt”.
Upon his return to the U.S. in 1968 Jeff was drafted and served with distinction in the Army as an interrogator and translator. Jeff liked to note that there were surprisingly few speakers of German in Viet Nam.
After beginning work toward his Master’s Degree, Jeff accepted a job as editor of and feature writer for the Columbia Daily Tribune. During that time Jeff actively pursued his dream of being a correspondent newsman, selling features to various national publications.
Jeff’s first successful entrepreneurial endeavor was Midland Oil Company, purchased in 1973 and sold in 1986. After that, he ventured into residential property development and built numerous successful businesses in Columbia.
He studied bread making in the San Francisco Bay Area before creating his gourmet bakery café fondly named “The Upper Crust”.
In recent years, Jeff designed and built his own home, once featured in a Columbia magazine; the Southport Commercial Center, recognized in the VarcoPruden Buildings Hall of Fame; and multiple Jimmy John’s. He named his property company Dunrovin LLC – “When you rent from us, you’re done rovin’!”
Regardless of business success, Jeff’s first love was always writing. He published two books, The Sasquatch Murder: A Love Story and PecuLIAR Fabrications. He was working on a third book, Mum, at the time of his death.
Jeff loved to travel throughout his life — equipped with nothing but a backpack in his early years then in nothing but first class and elegant style in later ones. He dreamed of travelling to Ireland and painstakingly researching at least 100 pubs to gather material for his magnum opus, The Urinals of Ireland.
Jeff was an avid golfer and a regular at the Country Club of Missouri whether it be on the course, in the clubhouse, perched at the bar or enjoying a meal in the dining room. He liked to say he was a “wine-ist” as opposed to a “wino”. Anyone who knew Jeff knew he loved to entertain with humorous stories and songs and sometimes even wild and crazy dance moves. Genuine, honest, fun, loving, and intelligent — no one loved life more than Jeff Viles.
Jeff is survived by his partner, Rebekah Schnell of Columbia; sons Gabriel (Chicago, IL) and Cooper (Columbia); daughter Savannah (New York City); sister Patty, brother Bill (both of Springfield, MO) and numerous nieces and nephews.
He was preceded in death by his parents, Jeff and Mary Ann Viles and a sister, Loretta Kay.
Plans for a service will be announced at a later date.
Donations may be made in Jeff’s memory to The Missouri Review. https://www.missourireview.com
Arrangements are under the direction of Parker-Millard Funeral Service & Crematory, 12 East Ash Street, Columbia, MO 65203 (573) 449-4153. Condolences may be left online for the family at www.parkermillard.com.