JEFFREY MATTHEW SALES
1974 – 2022
A brave, dedicated, humble hero
Written by RaeAnn Christensen
(Edited by The Précis)
The heart of an American hero just couldn’t take it anymore. Jeffrey Matthew Sales—a beloved husband, father, and former Army Combat Medic who took his last breath in the same COVID unit where he had been working tirelessly as a nurse to save lives—died of the virus and heart failure, on January 21st, 2022, at Blake Medical Center in Bradenton, FL.
He was just 47.
Diagnosed at age 22 with a hole in his heart that doctors repaired with a metal valve, Jeff was keenly aware and cautious throughout his medical career. Years later, that same valve failed, ravaged by a sudden case of COVID.
Said Jeff’s son Brayden Sales: “They did everything they could; they had the whole hospital working on him. We couldn’t have asked for a better medical staff.” The staff loved him, Brayden said, and spent as much time with his dad as his family.
“If you want it, work for it.”
Jeffrey was welcomed into the world, on November 16, 1974, by Richard Dee Sales, a Civilian Mechanic for the military after he retired from the Navy, and Linda Marie Kruger Sales. One of two sons, Jeff was born at the New London Naval Submarine Base in Groton, CT. A blue-collar family with a rigorous work ethic, the Sales soon moved to Bountiful, Utah, where the boys grew up with the idea that “If you want it, you work for it; nothing is given to you.”
When Richard remarried, his wife D.J. bore Shawn, they moved to California.
Jeff and his older brother James were inseparable. Because “r’s” were difficult for young James to pronounce, he called his brother Jeff-wy. Jeff-wy would be his little bro’s name from then on. But boys will be boys, and one was always trying to outdo the other, especially when it came to wrestling. If your last name was Sales, competitiveness was in your nature. But no matter who won or lost, James and Jeff-wy remained best friends.
Jeff attended Viewmont High School in Bountiful, where he lettered in varsity wrestling, his brother on the same team. With his eye on a medical career, Jeff placed fifth in the HOSA (Health Occupations Students of America) Nationals. He also played the guitar, loved to fish, camp, bowl, and attend concerts. When older, both boys also worked as welders for their stepfather, John Jensen.
Jeff-wy became Doc Sales
It came as no surprise when Jeff, coming from a military family, enlisted in the US Army right out of high school, his aim to become a Combat Medic and serve in the Korean War. While stationed at Fort Bliss in Texas for training, he acquired an official second nickname: Jeff-wy became Doc Sales, this one sticking throughout his life.
On April 6, 1996, Jeff married the love of his life, Chanda Christensen, barely 20 years old, Jeff just 21. Many voiced concerns about this young love. But that didn’t stop these two from tying the knot in a big, beautiful, Western-themed ceremony attended by their many friends and family. Jeff’s emotions got the best of him, and he cried throughout the ceremony. More on Jeff’s emotions later.
Open-heart surgery and a medical discharge
While serving his second tour in Korea, Jeff contracted Rheumatic fever, which disintegrated one of his heart valves. Open-heart surgery, performed in El Paso, required placing a metal valve in his heart. A medical discharge from the Army resulted, disappointing Jeff beyond words.
But there was light in the middle of the darkness when his Chanda rushed to El Paso to be near her husband. “Watching him on a ventilator and struggle to get off it was really hard,” she said. The couple flew back to their tiny townhouse in Layton, where Jeff—unable to lie in a bed due to his surgical scar tissue—had to sleep in the rocking chair.
Chanda would sleep on the couch next to him so she could be there if he needed anything. Meeka, their cat, sat on the arm of Jeff’s chair and was his company when Chanda had to return to work. Meeka learned to love cheese and yogurt because Jeff shared his favorites with her.
He ticked like a clock
The honeymoon phase was more of Chanda being her husband’s bedside nurse. Jeff, who now ticked like a clock with his metal heart valve, was on the mend. Chanda had to adjust to that ticking, but that sound soon became her lifeline to soothing her to sleep.
Jeff’s service to his country didn’t stop with the military. Wanting to continue his love of helping people, he entered Weber State University to pursue a nursing career. Yes, as Jeff would say “Men can be nurses too.” After getting his RN, he returned to his hometown of Bountiful to work for Lakeview Hospital, as well as Rocky Mountain Medical Center.
Soon Chanda and Jeff would buy their own home in Layton, Utah, and welcome their first child. Brayden James Sales was born on September 29, 1999. And, oops, they did it again. On February 2, 2002, Austin Dean Sales was born. Chanda and Jeff’s world soon revolved around their two boys.
Whether soccer, baseball, football, or wrestling, the Sales boys were playing it. One parent sat in the bleachers, the other, well you all know that one dad screaming on the sidelines? That was Jeff. Embarrassing at first, but eventually, the kids liked the supportive dad rooting for the whole team, not just his kids. He was their biggest cheerleader.
Their American dream
Chanda and Jeff would eventually live their American dream, building a beautiful house in West Point, Utah. But something gnawed at Chanda. With a house full of boys, she wanted a girl. On September 2, 2007, the most beautiful, intelligent girl enlightened their lives. Jasmine Charlotte Sales, who rarely slept because she was constantly learning and the best pouter you’d ever seen, had her parents wrapped around her fingers.
But wait, we can’t have Jasmine growing up alone, the other kids are so much older. Their “grumpy, little old man,” Asher Jeffrey Sales, graced them with his presence June 7, 2010, and so began “The Littles”, as Jeff called his brood.
Jeff, who had been disgustingly good in school and had the highest ACT score anyone had ever heard of, decided to enter Weber State University to get his Bachelors of Science in Nursing (BSN). Thus, he became the first in his family to earn a four-year degree, and he did it while raising a family and working at Lakeview Hospital for more than 16 years.
But the Sales had another dream, moving to Florida, Jeff determined to make it happen. During the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, after decades of living in Utah, they packed up and headed for sunnier skies. Jeff couldn’t have been prouder. His family had found their paradise. It took no time at all before gloating Florida pictures popped up on your feed. Especially annoying for those in Utah digging out of snow.
Assigned the COVID Unit
Jeff began as a Clinical Nurse Coordinator at Blake Medical Center. With the pandemic in full force, he was assigned to work in the Covid unit. Knowing his health issues could become complicated if he were to contract the virus, Jeff never hesitated. Extra hours, extra patients, more shifts, he signed up for it all. He wanted to help as many people as humanly possible.
When he did have free time, he was at the beach, watching a sunset with Chanda, fishing with Brayden, playing Pokémon and swimming with The Littles, or Face Timing with Austin. Family and friends took advantage of the Sales’ paradise by visiting often. Jeff’s gloating worked; we all wanted to go to Florida.
At 5-feet-10 and 180lbs, he loved his beard and patriotic tattoos. On any given weekend, you could find Jeff on his lanai, wearing his wolf shirts, gold rings, and flip-flops, grilling on the barbecue, his Pomeranian close by. Jeff LOVED barbecuing.
If there was a Bronco game on, watch out. No don’t call the police, there was not a domestic dispute, it’s just Jeff watching football. This introverted man, not so introverted during football games, yelled at the TV loud enough for the refs to hear him.
Mushy, gushy romances
Want to watch TV? Just don’t do it without Jeff. Chanda and Jeff loved watching TV together. If Jeff happened to be working, he got mad if Chanda got ahead in shows. She would try to find something he might not like, a mushy, gushy romance maybe? Nope, Jeff liked those too; it was a constant battle.
Jeff was always right even when he was wrong. But he was rarely wrong. Annoying we can all be, and Jeff liked to repeat a funny line in a movie after everyone had just heard it. Due to his ultra-competitive nature and desire to be the best, he wasn’t much fun to play games with. Well, actually he was. In Escape Rooms, you might have well just have paid for Jeff to do it (he was so smart he could finish them on his own, no one else got to play) and maybe Brayden (like father, like son).
Holidays were a big to-do in the Sales’ home. In the words of Chanda, it “threw up” Christmas at her house. Jeff loved the holiday and made sure everyone in his family did too. If there are skilled gift wrappers, Jeff was one, and he loved wrapping. He would even volunteer to do it for other people, like Chanda’s mom. But Christmas meant that he had to have his special peanut butter pie made for him. Before Chanda, it was his mom Linda and brother James who always found this “annoying.” Jeff and James gave each other the same White Elephant Gift every year, and we would like to know what it was.
A grown man crying
If you happened to be at the theater that one night they were showing The Game Plan with The Rock or maybe Jerry McGuire, you probably heard or saw a grown man crying, and maybe one or two of his family members laughing at him.
The simple response from Jeff: “What? It’s sad,” he would say, shrugging his shoulders.
Jeff wasn’t all about the chick flicks, however. His brother James can attest that he had seen Vision Quest at least fifty times and that Rocky IV and the first Red Dawn were some of their favorites. Movies always a favorite pastime, Jeff would take his kids to see movies like Star Wars and The Avengers. You can’t even imagine the amount of popcorn they went through, refills usually happening before the movie even started.
Thanks to James, we now know that Jeff loved listening to Michael Jackson. We can only hope they are on the other side jamming to Man in the Mirror.
Before kids got them busy, Chanda and Jeff fancied country dancing. There wasn’t a given weekend you wouldn’t see them line-dancing and country swinging. All the girls swooned when Jeff would launch into the Reggae Cowboy.
“…and that” and Mr. Fix It
Oh “and that.” We must talk about “and that.” You know those people who use “like, or um?” Jeff’s was “and that.” He said it at least every other sentence. He even has his in-laws saying it now.
Mr. Fix It to the rescue. Jeff never hesitated to help his mother or sister-in-law if they needed something fixed or installed around the house, and he never complained. It was always “I’m happy to do it and help.”
A champion for Veterans, LGBTQ, healthcare workers, and most importantly his children’s activities, Jeff never asked for anything for himself and always put his family, co-workers, and patients first.
On January 21, 2022, as Jeff was nearing the end of his shift, a co-worker commented he didn’t look well. Jeff eventually tested positive for Covid-19; his blood pressure was low, and his heart rate was skyrocketing. The staff he had worked with for the last two years, did everything they could to try to save him. Ultimately, the man who gave so much to so many, just couldn’t fight anymore. And the heart of this hero stopped ticking.
Jeff’s son Austin said his dad tested positive for COVID-19 at six in the morning and died just after six the very same night.
“We were all talking to him that morning, and it just all went downhill extremely fast,” he said. He added that his dad was always smiling and optimistic, even though working on a COVID-19 unit was stressful.
Jeff’s former coworkers at Bountiful’s Lakeview Hospital with MountainStar Healthcare were heartbroken with the news of his sudden passing. His former boss, Melissa Kass, described Jeff as “the epitome of a team player.” She recalled Jeff always being willing to pick up any extra slack if it meant helping his coworkers and patients.
Jeffrey Matthew Sales is survived by his soul mate and the love of his life for more than 25 years, Chanda Sales. He relished in the role of dad to four amazing children, Brayden, Austin (Madison), Jasmine, and Asher Sales all living in Bradenton, Florida.
He is also survived by his mother, Linda Chugg, of Garland, Utah; two brothers, James (Katie) Sales of Farr West, UT, and Shawn Sales, of Bradenton, FL; his grandmother, Marian Sales of Sacramento, CA. His second family, who thought of him as their own, his father/mother-in-law, Charlotte (Dennis) Ogg, sister-in-law, RaeAnn Christensen, brothers-in-law, Dustin (Amie) Ogg, Colton Ogg, father/mother-in-law Ray (Ruth) Christensen.
He will be greatly missed by many uncles, aunts, nieces, nephews, cousins, friends, coworkers, and patients.
Jeff is being welcomed back by his father, Richard Dee Sales, 2018, and his grandfathers, Charles Kruger, 2016, and Herbert Sales, 2012, and grandmothers Vivian Kruger, 1985, Beth Christensen Widdison, 2020.
We are sure he’s getting lots of love from his favorite cat CJ (who he wasn’t supposed to have in the barracks but trained to hide when someone knocked) and his little shadow, Roxy the Pomeranian, who recently passed.
That heart ticking next to her
Chanda will greatly miss the sound of that heart ticking next to her, one she thought she’d hear as they grew old together. She will miss the Cokes or lemonades Jeff always made special trips to get her on his way home from work. She will miss the daily kisses on the forehead, and hearing “I love you” in the nightly texts goodnight. She will miss receiving her favorite candies when she’s having a difficult day. There wasn’t a time that Jeff didn’t make her feel loved.
In the words of his best friend and brother James, Jeff-wy was “a humble hero to those who knew him yet would not seek his own glory but the glories of his children.”
A celebration of life will be held at 2 PM on February 19, 2022, at the Veterans of Foreign Affairs (VFW), 907 W 12th St. Ogden UT 84404. To honor Jeff, we ask that everyone wear masks. KN95 masks will be provided, thanks to PuraVita Medical (https://www.puravita.com) in Lindon, Utah. This is what he would want to keep his friends and family safe while celebrating him. He gave his life to the very virus he was trying to help others with. If you have adamant beliefs or medical reasons not to wear a mask, we will be streaming the event live on Jeff’s Facebook page.
Instead of flowers, we know Jeff would appreciate donations to his family’s GoFundMe, https://www.gofundme.com/f/help-family-of-jeff-sales-covid-nurse-veteran or donations be made to VFW, the gracious host of this event.