By Karissa Minn
SALISBURY — When people asked how Jeffrey Settle was doing, he would smile and give an unexpected reply: “I’m living the dream.”
His wife, Kelly, now keeps a necklace with those words in remembrance of her husband, who she says lived to help others. Jeffrey, a Rowan County native, died last August in a car wreck.
His family was presented earlier this month with the Order of the Long Leaf Pine, one of North Carolina’s highest honors, which he was awarded posthumously last fall.
“His true dream was to make a difference, and for his dream to be recognized this way means so much to me and my children,” Kelly said. “He fulfilled his life mission in 41 years.”
Jeffrey spent more than 18 of those years working for the state, and he was on duty as a probation officer when his vehicle was rear-ended on U.S. 70 near the Rowan-Iredell county line.
The Order of the Long Leaf Pine is given by the governor to individuals who have a proven record of extraordinary service to North Carolina.
“I’m very thankful that he got it, and I think he deserved it,” said his mother, Linda Settle. “It’s such an honor for him to receive that.”
Joel Settle said he’s very proud of his brother and the life he led.
“Jeffrey was a very humble man and a quiet servant who made a genuine impact on the lives that he had the opportunity to touch,” Joel said.
Jeffrey was living and working in Iredell County at the time, but he was born and raised in Rowan County. He graduated from South Rowan High School, and he and his wife both worked as probation officers in the county courthouse.
“That’s where he and I met,” Kelly said. “That’s where we fell in love.”
In 2002, the couple moved to Troutman with their three children, Austin, Allie and Charley. They had been certified as foster parents and were waiting to care for their first foster children before last year’s accident.
In the community, Jeffrey served as an assistant little league coach, a Cub Scouts volunteer and a member of the Rotary Club of Troutman. He was posthumously awarded Rotary’s Service Above Self award.
Laura Matthews, Jeffrey’s supervisor in Iredell County, said many of those he oversaw as a probation or parole officer were devastated to hear about his death.
“Jeffrey was quiet and humble, and I think that even the people who were closest to him were unaware of the profound difference that he made in people’s lives,” she said. “He’s just greatly missed, and he was an asset to us.”
When asked to describe what kind of person Jeffrey was, his mother answered, “the best.”
Linda recalled an Independence Day parade when one of her son’s young parolees approached her to say how wonderful Jeffrey was to him.
“He was always kind and good to everybody,” she said. “I think that’s why he got that award — because of his kindness.”
Contact reporter Karissa Minn at 704-797-4222.
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By Karissa Minn