Andy Young ’80 (CLAS) remembers his pal Jeff Huot ’81 (BUS).
From Left to Right: Stan Scraba '80 (CAHNR) and Jeff Huot '81 (BUS) in front of the Wisconsin State capitol July 1982, Stan Scraba '80 (CAHNR) and Jeff Huot '81 (BUS) in the bleachers at Wrigley Field (Chicago) July 10, 1982, Andy Young '80 (CLAS) preparing a delicious vegetarian supper at nightfall in Newbury, MI. July 7, 1982
Jeff Huot ’81 (BUS) was the loyal, patient, true friend everyone wishes he or she had.
He and I had a lot in common back in 1982, when we took a two-week, 4000-mile camping/driving vacation together. He was tall and slender; I was tall and slender. He graduated from the University of Connecticut, where he ran a residence hall; I graduated from UConn and ran a residence hall. He was athletic, studious, and attractive to the ladies; I was tall and slender.
We took Jeff’s Buick Regal. I had never driven anything that big, but Jeff said not to worry about it, so I didn’t.
Four hours into Day One of the trip Jeff said, “I need a break. Can you drive?” Shortly afterward, nearing our exit off the New York State Thruway, I magnanimously volunteered to pay the toll. But since my shorts lacked pockets, my wallet was between my feet on the car’s floor. Approaching the toll booth I slowed, manipulating the steering wheel one-handed while looking down and trying to secure the proper change with the other. I thought I was headed straight — until a shower of sparks flew by the left side of the car.
I had sideswiped the guard rail at 50 MPH. Jeff got out and grimly inspected the damage. But seeing me looking despondent, he took a deep breath, smiled almost cheerfully and said, “You know, I’ve always wanted a car with a racing stripe!”
The next day he got his revenge. Back at the wheel, he stopped for something crossing the road at the precise moment I tipped an open container of grape juice toward my mouth, intent on taking a cool, refreshing swig. When he braked I ended up wearing the bottle’s contents on what had been a white shirt. But he didn’t even chuckle until he saw me laugh first.
Following brief sojourns to Niagara Falls and Toronto we picked up our friend Stan Scraba ’80 (CAHNR) in Wisconsin and headed for the woods. I prepared our delicious dinner over a roaring campfire: a nutritious fresh vegetable stew. Everyone ate heartily, but only Jeff woke up the next morning with a roaring case of Montezuma’s revenge.
When we went to historic Wrigley Field to see a Chicago Cubs game I was the one who urged Jeff to grab the parking space a guy offered us in his driveway for the relatively low cost of five dollars. That was one-eighth of the price of the parking ticket we found on our windshield after the game.
Returning from the Midwest late on a rainy night an exhausted, sleepy Jeff asked for the second time on the trip if I could get behind the wheel. About a half-hour later, confused by the wet road’s glare and some construction lights, I drove up an exit ramp attempting to get onto the eastbound Pennsylvania Turnpike. Maybe it was the headlights in our faces that woke him up, or perhaps it was all the honking horns. But whatever the reason, Jeff took over the driving at that point. Permanently.
A female colleague from Jeff’s residence hall staff at school lived outside of Washington DC, and he’d promised to visit her on our way home. That friend was smart, thoughtful, funny, and attractive, plus she had a great family. We stayed with them for a couple of days, and before leaving I asked for (and got) that young woman’s phone number. After we got home I called her; one thing led to another, and that fall when she went back to UConn to finish her master’s degree, we began seeing one another. That never would have happened without Jeff. And today, more than three decades later, she’s got her PhD, two beautiful kids, and she’s been happily married for almost 30 years.
Not to me… but that’s not the point of this story.
Naturally Jeff distinguished himself professionally and personally; he was a success in business, and as a father and husband. But he hadn’t counted on contracting primary lateral sclerosis (PLS), an incurable motor neuron disease he fought for a decade with determination, courage, and dignity. His battle finally ended last April.
Jeff’s funeral was infinitely less somber than his life was festive and productive, which undoubtedly would have pleased him. His work ethic, inclusiveness, sense of humor, and common decency were inspiring. He improved my life, and by extension the lives of those around me.
Being Jeff’s friend was a privilege and a pleasure, and while he’s no longer here physically, as long as those who knew him emulate the kindness, integrity, and courtesy he shared during his memorable but all-too-brief earthly time allotment, his influence will remain indefinitely.
By Andy Young ’80