Jeffrey Scott “Gus” Gustafson was born July 4, 1958, to Harriet and Gerald “Gus” Gustafson, in Mason City, Iowa. He was born premature and weighed only 4 pounds, 1¼ ounces. He was the first of four boys born to Gus and Harriet. Jeff moved with his parents to Corydon, Iowa, in 1960, where he grew up and graduated from Wayne Community Schools in 1976. He participated in track, football, basketball, and wrestling. He also participated in band, playing the trumpet. He was honored to be in the John Sousa Band, with which he toured across Europe in his senior year of high school. Jeff then attended Northeast Missouri State University in Kirksville, studying criminal justice. He was a member of Sigma Tau Gamma fraternity.
After leaving college, Jeff began working for Hy-Vee in November 1978. There, he filled many jobs over the years, including pulling orders, loading trucks, lumping loads for outside drivers, and finally becoming a semi driver, from which he retired in 2014.
Jeff met Cindy Clark, from Albia, Iowa, through a mutual friend who set them up on a blind date in January 1979. Six months later, on June 9, 1979, they were united in marriage at the Christian Church in Albia, Iowa. The two, along with Cindy’s daughter Nicole, made their home in Chariton, Iowa. Jeff always said he not only married Cindy that day, but Nicole as well. He legally adopted Nicole in 1982. To this union, two other daughters were born – Melanie, on May 16, 1980, and Becky, on October 21, 1983. Jeff was a very interactive father, coaching the girls’ softball and attending as many games and events of his daughters as his schedule would allow, oftentimes going to work on minimal sleep. On Jeff’s 44th birthday in 2002, he became a grandfather for the first time. He and Cindy now have six grandchildren. Family was always the most important thing to Jeff.
Jeff also loved hanging out with friends, playing cards, hunting, fishing, camping, riding his Harleys, and talking with his friends. Jeff never met a stranger. Even on vacations, he would either find someone he knew or make fast friends with someone new. Jeff also enjoyed swapping and trading of any kind, but especially collecting guns and knives. He was known for the unique deer antler knives he would make in his free time, as well as how sharp he could make about any knife.
Jeff worked long hours for many years, looking forward to the day he retired and was able to have more time to enjoy his hobbies and spend time with his family, especially his wife Cindy. In July of 2013, he and Cindy took their first solo vacation, to the Black Hills of South Dakota with a couple of friends. At the end of that month, after having had trouble swallowing on that trip, Jeff was diagnosed with esophageal cancer. At first, even knowing the disease’s less than 20% survival rate, the plan was to work toward a cure. Cancer diagnosis and treatment is scary, especially for a man who was rarely ever sick and didn’t know anything about the health care system. Jeff gave it all he had and told his doctors and nurses he would do whatever it took. Staying at the Hope Lodge in Iowa City, he went through months of radiation and chemotherapy and had surgery to remove his esophagus and surrounding tissues and lymph nodes at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics. He even returned to work in April 2014. Over time, though, Jeff continued to feel weaker, and scans in May 2014 showed that the cancer had returned and had spread to most parts of his body. A different type of chemotherapy was tried to extend Jeff’s life, but it made him so sick that he made the decision to enjoy the time he had remaining with his family. This gave the Gustafsons the opportunity to demonstrate their love for each other, and they were with Jeff until the very end. Jeff died at the Legacy Lodge in Chariton, Iowa at 12:15 p.m. on Monday, January 19, 2015, surrounded by those who love him.
Jeff was preceded in death by both sets of grandparents, his dad (Gerald Gustafson), and a brother (Jon Gustafson). Left to remember his life are his wife (Cindy Gustafson), daughters (Nicole Gustafson, Melanie Hatch, and Becky Gustafson), grandchildren (Carter and Madison Gustafson, Brenden and Brylee Woolsey, and Hannah and Hayden Hatch), mother (Harriet Gustafson), and two brothers (Carl and Gregg Gustafson).