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In memoriam: J.D. Wolfe

J.D. Wolfe, Vice President of College Support Services. Photo provided by Terri Jacobson

James Daniel Wolfe, better known as J.D. to those around Chemeketa, passed away on Dec. 19, 2019, leaving behind a legacy his co-workers will not soon forget. 

The Chemeketa community lost “a wonderful friend and colleague” due to complications following heart surgery, said President Jessica Howard in an all-staff email. 

At the time of his death, Wolfe was Chemeketa’s Associate Vice President of College Support Services. He had been a member of Chemeketa for five years, starting as the Information Technology (IT) Director. 

“Finding a combination of somebody who understands technical IT stuff and also understands people is not common, in my experience,” said Doug Moxley, an IT Manager at Chemeketa. “It’s a rare combination of skills.”

Moxley and Wolfe worked closely on providing IT services across the various Chemeketa campuses, but, as a Vice President of Support Services, his department covered much more. 

“College Support Services is a large division that includes our operations and our financial management,” said Miriam Scharer, Chemeketa’s Vice President Chief Financial Officer. “He was responsible for information technology, our facilities and capital projects, our emergency and risk management, as well as our public safety.”

Wolfe was promoted to the position in May of 2019. 

“That job was something he really wanted, and he saw a lot of value in it,” said Rory Alvarez, director of Facilities and Operations at Chemeketa. “I think he was perfect for that, and I think we were in really good shape with him for a long time.” 

“He was really just getting his sea legs, as he called them,” said Scharer. “[He was] really feeling like he was going to be able to effect change and bring people together. That was really one of the priorities for him in the position, was to bring all of these separate operational units together to work toward the same goal.”

Wolfe had big plans for Chemeketa and his position, said Scharer and Moxley, but his main goal was on establishing relationships and figuring out a way to move forward with his large division as a cohesive unit. “He got us whipped into shape, which is not a small task,” laughed Moxley. 

In his passing, Wolfe leaves behind not only his unfinished work but the people who considered him a close friend.  

“This is a big loss for the organization, and for me personally,” said Moxley. “He was an amazing listener…He just had such a great sense of humor. He knew how to use that in a way that put people at ease…In fact, the last text messages we exchanged were about that. I told him how much I appreciated his sense of humor, and I’m glad I had the opportunity to do that.”

“He was a goofball,” said Scharer. “He had an amazing sense of humor. He had a very silly sense of humor…That is incredibly missed…But, he was incredibly thoughtful…He was really, really thoughtful about people’s opinions, and trying to really understand people’s perspectives.” 

“Whenever he and I were in a meeting together, or in a training, or anywhere, we just thoroughly enjoyed the situation,” said Alvarez. “We made fun of each other. We cracked jokes. They were all memorable because they were all just so much fun…That was what J.D. was all about. Just, let’s not sit here in our own misery, let’s have fun with this…He loved what he did.”

He is survived by his family: his wife, Sonney Wolfe, a Financial Services Technician at Chemeketa; children, Elizabeth Wolfe, Ashley Wolfe, and Riley Wolfe Hodges; siblings, Tracy Wolfe and Blake Wolfe; and parents, Diana and James Wolfe, all of whom he loved very much, said multiple sources.

“One of the most amazing things about him was his love for his family,” said Scharer. “I think that everything he did was for his family. And you could see that after his passing, and you could see that throughout, that they were his priority in his life and his family was number one.”

A Celebration of Life was held in his honor at Chemeketa on Jan. 3, where colleagues got to say their goodbyes. Friends and family held a private service with military honors. 

“I’ve seen a  lot of people come and go,” said Moxley. “When you see somebody special [like J.D.] it really sticks out.”

“He was an individual who was taken away way too early, that’s for damn sure,” said Alvarez. 

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