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Saturday, December 12, 2015

At Memorial, Navins Recalled as Selfless Helpers

By James Lomuscio

No one spoke about how Jeffrey and Jeannette Navin died. Attempting to do so would be trying to make sense out of the senseless, as one of their friends said.

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This much published photo of Jeffrey and Jeanette Navin was prominently mentioned at today’s service. Contributed photo

Instead the more than 300 who had gathered at today’s memorial service for the slain Easton couple at the United Methodist Church of Westport and Weston heard about how the Navins, described as active church members and community volunteers, lived.

Jeff, as all called him, was characterized as the big hearted, wise cracking, sometimes filterless friend who was always ready to lend a hand, only to have the recipient pay for it in terms of good natured sarcasm.

Jeannette, friends said, was the quiet, reserved one, a great cook and a creative gardener who did a lot of good deeds under the radar, from walking dogs at the Westport Animal Shelter to working with Jeff to buy Christmas presents for the children of a woman who had just died.

Jeff, 56, was the president of J&J Refuse in Westport, and Jeanette, 55, was a Weston school paraprofessional. The couple had lived in Weston for 20 years before selling their home and moving into a rental house in Easton in July.

The Rev. Edward Horne, pastor, recalled how Jeff, a congregant for 30 years, and his best friend Roger Roth helped him move in when the pastor took the reins 13 years ago.

Horne also recounted how Jeff showed up out of the blue one day, suggesting to put in a meditation garden on the hill behind the church, only to undertake the project himself. Once it was completed, Horne could often spot Jeannette weeding and planting flowers there.

Along with prayers, talk of resurrection and the singing of “How Great Thou Art,” the service opened with a photo montage put together by congregant Joe Galvin of Weston.

The first photo is the one that often accompanied headlines and stories about the couple since they were reported missing Aug. 7 until their remains were discovered and confirmed Oct. 30 outside an abandoned house in Weston.

Their older son Kyle Navin, 27, who worked at the refuse business is charged with their murder. His girlfriend Jennifer A. Valiante, 31, of Westport has been charged with conspiracy to do murder.

The state police Western District Major Crime (WDMC) unit says Kyle Navin’s heroin habit had jumped from $140 a day to $600 a day in weeks prior to the murder. That information came from a confidential informant described as a drug dealer.

Today the Navins’ younger son Taylor, 24, sat stoically with his grandparents in front of the sanctuary and close to the boxes that held the Navins’ cremains.

Horne said the remains would be interred privately at a later date. Friends who spoke vowed their love, condolences and support to Taylor, of whom they said his mother was so proud.

“When I see this photo, I don’t think of the headlines; I think of my friends,” said Galvin at the start of his photo montage. “If you look closely you will see that that was taken in our fellowship hall.”

In the picture, both are leaning into each other and smiling. Jeannette is sporting an apron, as she was preparing food for another church event.

The rest of the display, accompanied by the playing of Phil Collins “You’ll be in My Heart” caused eyes to well up, as it showed the couple at various stages of life, from teenage years in Westport to their wedding on May 31, 1986 to their love of skiing, the beach, and their activities at church.

“She attended Staples High School where she was a year behind Jeff,” the memorial program reads. “They first met riding the same school bus.

“They started dating some years later and worked at the same company, Aitoro (appliance store) in Norwalk,” it continues. “Soon after their marriage, they began their business together at a young age.”

Friends described the couple as inseparable, except for rare times. Koryn Soboleski, who worked with Jeannette at the Weston Public Schools, recalled how she spent several weeks with Jeannette in Hawaii where the two worked on an organic farm during the summer.

She said that when Jeff came to pick them up at the airport, she could see how happy he was to be with her again. Soboleski said Jeff had come prepared with servings of Hawaiian dishes in his truck and plastic leis for them to wear.

Roth, a Norwalk firefighter who described Jeff as his best friend, said he still feels a gaping hole from the loss of the Navins.

He also said that his job, in which he has witnessed the worst of human tragedy, could not prepare him for how his friends died. As he left the podium, Roth and Taylor Navin locked in an embrace.

Friends joked that Jeanette had no aptitude for singing. They also said that one of her favorite songs was “Silent Night,” a yuletide song Horne asked the congregation to sing.

The memorial card handed out offered a poem. Its first stanza has spiritual meaning. Still, one could not help but think of how the Navins went missing and the way they were found.

“Those we love don’t go away,
They walk beside us every day
Unseen, unheard, but always near,
Still loved, still missed and very dear.”

“This is closure for us,” said one woman as she walked in.

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Posted 12/12/15 at 01:23 PM  Permalink



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