Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Jeff Van Natta was just a great guy (tribute)

Here's another tribute to my late buddy, Jeff Van Natta, a photographer with a heart of gold whom I always will remember. This is one by my boss at the NORWALK REFLECTOR, managing Joe Centers, in his weekly "Center Line" column, which ran Tuesday (Aug. 23, 2016).

The late Jeff Van Natta (far right) doing what he loved— taking photos — something
at which he excelled. He snapped everything (!), from sports to court hearings
to Pets of the Week to vehicle crashes to concerts and school events.
NORWALK, Ohio — It’s a sad day at the NORWALK REFLECTOR.

We lost a co-worker, a friend, a part of the family.

Jeff Van Natta died Saturday after losing his battle with a number of health issues.

Van Natta came to us about 10 years ago as a part-time photographer. He would work all night at Walmart, then all day here taking pictures. I can’t tell you how many times I would look over at his desk and see him sleeping in his chair in front of his computer. He could never do enough.

Finally, he was able to retire from Walmart and devote all of his time to the REFLECTOR.

He never was a full-time employee, but he sure spent a lot of time here. If he wasn’t working or sleeping at his desk, he was eating there.

There were times when we had to send him home.

The late Jeff Van Natta catches a few quick Z's at his desk.
It wasn't unusual for him to fall asleep while waiting for
photos to be processed after working the graveyard shift at Walmart.
Van Natta and his wife, Amy, have three children. One son, Joseph, passed away a few years ago. He loved his family and worked extra hard to provide for them.

Jeff could never say no. I can’t tell you how many times he would shoot an event then make a picture or two for somebody. He’d make the prints and put them in frames. Sometimes, I am sure he lost money working at the REFLECTOR.

But he loved to shoot pictures and he loved to share them with others.

Jeff loved to talk.

And he loved to work the crowd. I’d be sitting in the stands watching a game and keeping an eye on Jeff. We’d always tell him to take pictures of the crowd. He’s work his way down the stands shooting everybody and stopping to talk — right during the middle of the game. He’d talk to the players. He'd talk to the coaches. He’d talk to the referees. He’d talk to anybody who would listen.

The thing about Jeff is that everybody liked him, which is unusual in this business. If you do this long enough, you are sure to make enemies, but Jeff never did. You couldn’t help but like him.

Jeff Van Natta
Rest in peace, my friend!
I got this email Monday morning and it just about says it all about Jeff Van Natta. It is from our friend, Ruth Earl, of North Fairfield.

“I am saddened to read of Jeff Van Natta's passing,” she wrote. “You had mentioned a couple of times in the paper that he had medical issues, but I kept hoping that they were only temporary and that he would return.

“Jeff was a class act, and one of the best staff members you have ever had. He was accurate, thorough and compassionate. I'm sure he was welcomed into Heaven with open arms. I will miss him. I did not know his wife, but please give her my sympathy.” We will miss you Jeff. God bless.

Joe Centers is the NORWALK REFLECTOR managing editor. He can be reached at

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