Jeffrey Allen Shenefelt died August 19 at home in Vineyard Haven. He was 68.

He was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, on Feb. 1, 1952, the fourth of six children. He attended grade school in the Indian Hill section of Cincinnati, in his spare time volunteering at Camp Stepping Stone to care for disabled children, which began a lifelong practice of caring for those in need — especially disabled children and adults.

He briefly attended Ohio University in Athens, Ohio, before heading west to live in the Mission District of San Francisco, where he made lifelong friends and took classes at the Art Institute of San Francisco. He made an award-winning clay-animation film and enjoyed painting in many forms. He also began driving cab, which became another constant in his life.

From San Francisco he moved to Boston, and continued to drive a taxi. His paintings and stories from this time in his life are legendary among his friends and acquaintances. He carried on his love of caring for others by working at Fernald State School in Waltham, where he worked with men in a locked ward, practicing nonviolent self-defense, encouraging them to do their best, smiling mostly, and always having a kind word or deed about to be done or just completed.

Jeff moved to Martha’s Vineyard in 1990, having seen an ad in the Gazette that workers were needed in a halfway house on Barnes Road to care for residents with mental and physical challenges. He lived in a friend’s house in Edgartown, and met the love of his life, Lynn, at an AA meeting. On the Vineyard he drove a cab and worked in the produce department of Reliable Market.

Lynn and Jeff lived in Oak Bluffs and Vineyard Haven. She predeceased him about five years ago. It was her dying wish that Jeff not drink again, and he did his best to honor that wish, thankful that he had the time he did with Lynn. He carried her with him at all times by wrapping pieces of her clothing onto the staff he carried.

Jeff was devoutly religious and he loved nature, from his early days at Indian Hill in Cincinnati spent searching for frogs, snakes and salamanders in the stream, to later days on the Vineyard, hopping the bus to watch the sunset or sitting in his backyard to commune with nature while constructing assemblages or painting.

He was an Island character and could be seen out walking, mostly in Vineyard Haven and Oak Bluffs, or heard singing and drumming at open mike at the Music Store, or dancing at Tivoli Day, the Ritz, the PA Club, etc. on one leg, his index finger pointing up to God, his hair long and stringy, his eyes closed in contemplation and sheer enjoyment of the music and the people he met.

He had a unique sense of style, was artistic, musical and lovable. He wore a denim vest he had hand painted himself, and on the back were the words: “Not Insane, Crazy.” He had a heart of gold.
Rest in peace.

Donations can be made to the Island Food Pantry or a charity of choice.