Jeff Cash, a resident of the Bedford-area Twin Oaks group home for adults with intellectual disabilities, a friend to his housemates and the Lutheran Family Services of Virginia staff there, and a profoundly dedicated and unwavering fan of the Dallas Cowboys (and the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders, for that matter), died Tuesday.
He had only recently realized a lifelong dream: Having a stadium seat to cheer on the Cowboys as they defeated the rival Washington Redskins.
Jeff was diagnosed with cancer in the fall. After considering the options presented by his doctors, he chose to decline treatment. Jeff said he was comfortable with whatever God had planned for him, but he wanted to spend his last days in the familiar company of his group home family (He had no living relatives.).
“We knew that his cancer was aggressive. We knew that his cancer would take him from us. We just did not know to expect that his final day would come so swiftly,” said Elizabeth Maghsoodi, LFSVA’s residential program manager.
“While we will truly miss friendly, kind-hearted Jeff, who made us smile to just talk with him, it is a blessing that he did not have to endure a slow, painful ending of his life,” Maghsoodi said. “He died peacefully in his sleep with his house supervisor, Vicky Hurt, and the hospice nurse at his bedside.”
While Jeff’s housemates, the group-home staff, and his friends at LFSVA’s Roanoke Day Support program came first in life, the Cowboys were, by far, his favorite topic of study and conversation.
“If you‘ve ever had the chance to meet Jeff, there’s a very good chance that he talked about his Cowboys,” said Heather Overstreet, a LFSVA casework administrative assistant.
Name another team, and Jeff could tell you how the Cowboys had beaten them or would beat them next time. Or that the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders were prettier than the other team’s cheerleaders.
“Just Monday, Jeff was announcing to a delivery man that he liked the Cowboys and wanted to know if the man was also a fan,” Maghsoodi said. “When the man said he preferred the Eagles, Jeff made sure to let it be known that the Cowboys beat the Eagles.” (Indeed, the Super Bowl-bound Eagles lost to the Cowboys 6-0 on Dec. 31).
“Typical Jeff, a true fan until the end,” Maghsoodi said.
But there was probably no game that brought Jeff more pride than the Oct. 29 matchup with the Redskins.
After Jeff’s diagnosis, his group home supervisor, Vicky Hurt, wanted to do something special for him. When she realized Cowboys would play the Redskins at FedEx Field on Jeff’s 60th birthday, she knew what that should be. Through the generosity of LFSVA donors and staffers, tickets were purchased, hotel rooms booked and transportation arranged. Jeff, along with Hurt and Valerie Jackson, a direct support professional at the group home, watched the Cowboy victory unfold.
“Although it was raining, Jeff remained glued to his seat, in awe of the action on the field,” Overstreet said. “Whenever the Cowboys made a good play or scored a touchdown, Jeff and a group of fans in the row below him exchanged high-fives and cheered loudly.
“It was truly a highlight of his life,” Maghsoodi said. “That experience stayed fresh in his mind and he often shared the story when he’d meet someone. He was so pleased to be able to say that he had actually attended a game. And it wasn’t just the game. He had other first-time experiences; his first night in a hotel, his first time sleeping in a king bed, his first Uber ride.”
“And when Jeff talked about his experience, he was sure to let you know, ‘My Cowboys won!’” Overstreet said.