Lover of Adventure and Laughter, People and Life
Jeffrey ‘Jefe’ Brian Salz
March 1, 1953 – April 28, 2021
Jeff Salz died on April 28, 2021 of Covid in Cuenca, Ecuador, the home where he and his wife Jaffe had put down roots and spread branches of love throughout the community. And as word rippled out around the world, mental flags flew at half-mast, mental sails drooped in the wind; the hour stood still. What Jeff’s countless friends long suspected can now be confirmed:
‘Jefe’ was a visitor from the Planet Pun, a warm-hearted imp searching for love, meaning and connection who, encamino, infected everyone he met with the same.
Armed with unflagging curiosity, endless compassion and a wicked wit, Jeff explored, instructed, yarned and danced his way into hearts across continents, cultures, time zones and theaters.
Born March 1, 1953 in Newark, New Jersey, Jeff grew up in West Orange. But West Orange was not nearly West enough for Jeff so at age 16 he decamped from his childhood home and hitchhiked to Arizona and Prescott College. Somewhere enroute he picked up a bum lamb which dutifully followed him around campus. It was the 60’s.
A solo ascent of the Matterhorn in Anaheim, California and survival for several days in Jungleland ignited his exploring/adventuring career and got him, briefly, arrested.
But climbing was in his blood and became his lodestar. A climb on Mt. Fitzroy in 1973 ended in tragedy but cemented, forever, his love affair with granite and gravity.
In 1975, Jeff ‘s calling as a teacher began as a founder of San Diego-based Boojum Institute, spreading the gospel of adventure and education, two themes that would guide him through life. At Rancho San Luis, in the remote mountains of northern Baja California, he met Chato and Lydia, also warm-hearted imps, who became ‘abuelos‘ to Jeff and a vibrant mob of Gringo and Mexican adventurers. A teaching position at San Diego State University (Wilderness and the Human Experience) followed as did an MA in Experiential Education and a Ph.d in Cultural Anthropology.
As a founder of Yolla Bolly Institute, Jeff joined a new crew of cohorts offering treks to Nepal while taking the first steps in his professional speaking career.
Jeff and Kate married in a Tibetan monastery 1992 and had their family and community wedding in Del Mar in 1993… Jeff adding ‘husband’ to his expanding resume with typical Salzian fanfare on horseback.
In 1996 they moved to Idyllwild, California where Yeshe was born and Jacinto (Jack) followed in short order, proudly adding ‘father’ to the resume.
Jeff was a loving and rambunctious daddy, punning and yodeling while teaching the ways of the wilderness, comedy and love.
A naturally gifted storyteller, Jeff suffused his speaking work with insights into life and work, joy and despair; insights all hard and happily earned in adventures around the world from South America to South Asia, New Jersey to New Zealand.
His speaking engagements filled the auditoriums of corporate America and he was ultimately inducted into the National Speakers Association’s “Speakers Hall of Fame”.
He was a natural in front of the camera, starring in adventure documentaries. He advised movie projects, provided expert perspective on national TV talk shows, and wrote not one, but two successful books. Jeff drew energy from those around him, amplified it, and returned that energy as inspiring, educational fun. Jeff and Kate divorced in 2001 but as partners in raising Yeshe and Jack remained close friends on shared family travels.
When Jeff met Lisa Jaffe in 2009 it was a melding of minds, hearts and boundless spirits. They married in 2017 and Cuenca, Ecuador became their new home and their shared, grand adventure.
Somewhere on an astral plane there is a very long park bench or maybe a cosmic kiva where Jeff stories are being swapped. Ed and Lenore sit with Chato and Lydia flanked by Layne Longfellow, Steve McAndrews, Randy Udall, DJ Knowles, Jim and Mary Rice and Mike Buckley. Romero the Wonder Dog chases passing comets. They are warming up for the arrival of the storyteller’s storyteller, eager to groan at his puns, tell stories and …dance.
Jeffrey Brian Salz is survived by his sister Carole Dlugasch and her husband David, his niece and nephew Howard Dlugasch and Jana Dlugasch Humphries and their children, West and Liv Humphries, first wife Kate Pruefer and children Yeshe and Jacinto Salz and his loving wife, Lisa Jaffe.
He is also survived by those many living souls who can’t help but smile at the thought of him.
We will miss you every moment sweet ‘Jefe’!
But we will keep you close in our hearts always.
To Plant Memorial Trees in memory of Jeff, please visit the TREE PEOPLE website.