Electrician turned to real estate after breaking neck

Human Interest
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A former Paradise mayor and councilman, Jeffords is arguably most famous for breaking his neck on a boogie board at the age of 62.

The incident happened at a time share in Puerta Vallarta. As Jeffords prepared to leave the next day, he decided on one more boogie board ride.

The wave he sought broke as he tried to dive under it and slammed him head first into the sand in 4 feet of water.

His first thought was that he couldn’t move. His second was, “Damn! Is this it?”

As his lungs filled with water, spectators rushed to pull him out. A woman doctor on the beach helped pump the seawater out of him until an ambulance took him to a hospital in Puerta Vallarta, which is, he said, “somewhere you don’t want to go.”

At first he was unable to speak. Three months later, still paralyzed, he was languishing in a hospital in San Antonio. “My insurance refused to pay for my fare home unless I could sit in a seat,” he said.

That’s when the Town that he had served for 14 years as a councilman and mayor came to his aid.

Realtor and one-time fellow councilman Howard Johnson headed up a movement to “Bring Bob Home.”

Realtors were quick to help with donations, remembers Christine Douglas, who shares an office with Jeffords today.

Jeffords flew home in a twin-engine plane that landed at Enloe Hospital, where he began two years of intensive therapy that allowed him to regain most of his movement. As he began recover, it seemed doubtful that he could continue as the owner of a company his father started, Jeffords Electric.

“I wanted to go back to being an electrician,” said Jeffords, who has a degree in civil engineering from the University of California, Chico.

“I was just going to keep my hopes up,” he said of his two-year recovery. But it was a difficult and slow process.

Johnson did not forget him. Seven months after his return, Johnson, then the owner of United Country Realty, was still a frequent visitor.

“One day he brought me some real estate books and told me to start reading them. He inspired me,” Jeffords said.

Johnson drove Jeffords to Sacramento to take his Realtor’s exam and, at age 64, he started a new career.

He is still working today at age 79.

“I think when I turn 80, I’ll stay home and work on my cars,” said Jeffords, who still owns a ’31 Ford Model A Roadster that he raced in the quarter-mile in Oroville, Orange County and Vacaville years ago.

For Jeffords, who served through a tumultuous time on the Town Council, his biggest surprise was perhaps not his near-miraculous recovery. “It was not my time,” he said stoically.

The biggest shock came when he, along with councilmembers Howard Johnson, Lise Young and Larry Duncan, were recalled in 1992 over a proposed sewer study for the downtown.

Even more surprisingly, he was recalled in April and ran for his seat again in June. He won easily. The Post ran the headline, “Throwing the bums back in.”

It was not as unlikely as it seems. Jeffords has a low-key, quiet demeanor that often stabilized the highly politicized drama of the Town Council in the early 1990s.

A fellow politician once said of him, “I sit back and watch Bob listen and then he comes up with something that solves the problem.”

“I didn’t feel rejected,” he said of the recall. “I knew what the situation was. Things don’t bother me. I always try to be on an even keel.”

He is proudest of the moment when the Paradise Town Council became the first city in the United States to ban smoking in restaurants.

These days Jeffords stays on his even keel. He works four days a week, from 8 to 4. He figures he lost one-third of his strength and one-third of his balance in the accident. His hands still tingle. When he isn’t busy, he personally answers the phone at Johnson United Country. Howard, his mentor, is dead, but his wife and son still work at the business.

“I knew I could overcome it,” he said of his accident. As for his successful second career, he said. “I enjoy a new challenge.”

Jeffords has been more than a Realtor to many of his clients. He has held mortgages for many of them, earning him a comfortable retirement. He started by purchasing six “fixer-uppers” and renting them out.

Thoughts of retirement will not stop him from renewing his Realtor’s license this year. “I have some clients that have stood with me. I will continue to take care of them.”

United Country Johnson Real Estate is located at 5420 Skyway and can be reached at 530-877-1791.

Linda Meilink writes about Paradise workers, especially those who are the unrewarded heroes. If you have someone you think would make a good feature, call her at 209-206-3772.

Source: Paradise Post