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An Awkward First Encounter Grows into a Meaningful Friendship

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An Awkward First Encounter Grows into a Meaningful Friendship

As a public health professional, Jeff Waller has always understood the importance of social connection. Yet, he couldn’t have predicted the tremendous impact he would have on someone he’d just met, or what his relationship with his Friendly Visiting match, Leo, would come to mean to him.  

Jeff first learned of FriendshipWorks when his wife, Lois, began working with the organization as the Friendly Visiting Program Coordinator in 1998. It wasn’t until years later, however, that Lois approached him about volunteering to take on a match. Jeff was initially hesitant, but his admiration for FriendshipWorks led him to agree. And he is so grateful that he did.

Jeff and Leo’s first meeting was a bit awkward, with both men wondering: “What are we supposed to talk about?” However, they soon discovered that they were both veterans: Leo was an Army soldier in World War II while Jeff served during the Vietnam War. They began eagerly swapping stories, voicing sentiments and memories that were perhaps hard to speak of with others. Bonding over their shared experiences, Jeff and Leo came to see themselves in each other.  

Jeff remembers, “I shared more with my match Leo than with some of my closest friends. We didn't talk about anything important. We would just have something to eat or drink, share life stories, or smoke a good cigar. It was a very good experience for me, and I think it was a very good experience for him too.”

After that first meeting, Jeff and Leo met often. Jeff used to take a 15-minute walk from his house in Brighton to Leo’s house in Allston, picking up doughnuts along the way. The two would sit out on Leo’s porch, munching on doughnuts and ragging on each other about baseball scores as members of opposing camps in the Red Sox-Yankees rivalry. “He had a dry humor and he loved to tease me,” recalls Jeff.

Over time, Jeff and Leo developed a close companionship that brought a lot of happiness to both their lives. Sadly, since that time, Leo has passed away, but Jeff will always treasure the time he spent with him. Jeff continues to be a big fan and supporter of FriendshipWorks. “I have a lot to thank FriendshipWorks for. I hope everyone there knows how important this work is and that this organization will be around forever.”