James B. Jeffrey, an Episcopal minister whose life work included serving people in prison and patients undergoing medical care in New York area hospitals, establishing the AIDS ministry at St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital in Manhattan, died on Sunday at Southampton Hospital.
Mr. Jeffrey, who was a resident of the Circle in East Hampton Village and a past president of the Horticultural Alliance of the Hamptons, was 84.
It was in 1984, as the AIDS epidemic was in its beginning days, that Mr. Jeffrey was hired at St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital as a part-time chaplain and clinical pastoral education supervisor. The assignment quickly became a full-time job, and he was appointed to coordinate a Ministry to Persons With AIDS. He brought on a chaplain to take on the AIDS ministry, and continued to visit and care for those with AIDS until his retirement in 1995.
During the same period, Mr. Jeffrey was one of the founding members of the Gay and Lesbian Task Force, which would become the Gay and Lesbian Network of the Association for Clinical Pastoral Education. In 1997 he was elected to be the regional director of the association’s eastern region.
He was born on May 22, 1929, to Neill Pressley Jeffrey Sr. and the former Minnie Meade Beck in Jeanerette, La., one of three sons.
Mr. Jeffrey graduated from high school in Jeanerette in 1946, then from Tulane University with a degree in civil engineering in 1950.
For five years Mr. Jeffrey worked for Raymond Concrete Pile Company as a heavy-equipment supervisor. Returning to college to seek more of a liberal arts education, he enrolled for a year at the University of the South in Sewanee, Tenn. He then attended the General Theological Seminary in New York City, graduating in 1958.
Awarded a fellowship from the Episcopal Mission Society of the Diocese of New York, he was assigned to Central Islip State Hospital, a psychiatric facility, for a year of clinical pastoral education. His next assignment was at the Rikers Island jail, followed by stints at Bellevue Hospital in New York City, and the city’s juvenile detention center in the Bronx. After a return to Rikers Island, Mr. Jeffrey went to Denver to supervise a juvenile detention program there.
Since 1961, he had a committed relationship with Harold M.F. Rush, which lasted until Mr. Rush’s death in 1996. The couple had residences in New York City and East Hampton.
In 1970, Mr. Jeffrey was made the director of chaplains for the East Midtown Protestant Chaplaincy in New York City, which provided services at New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, Lenox Hill Hospital, and the Hospital for Special Surgery. In 1984 he received a master’s degree in human resources development from American University in Washington, D.C.
For the Diocese of New York he was active with the Committee on Alcoholism and Addictions and was dean of intuitional clergy for six years.
Beyond the ministry, Mr. Jeffrey was interested in gardening and the details of horticulture. One of his specialties was delphiniums, and he was named an honorary vice president of the Delphinium Society, based in Great Britain.
He also was fascinated by camellias, working with them in his greenhouse at his East Hampton home, then acclimatizing them to grow outside. His gardens were frequently included on tours here.
While president of the Horticultural Alliance, he worked to develop a program for fifth and sixth-grade students in South Fork schools. He also helped establish a horticulture program at the East Hampton Town Senior Citizens Center. He remained active in the ministry in retirement as well, as a supply priest for Episcopal parishes on eastern Long Island and part time at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in East Hampton.
A brother, David W. Jeffrey, survives. Another brother, Neill P. Jeffrey Jr., died before him.
Visiting hours will be tomorrow from 2 to 4 p.m. and 7 to 9 p.m. at the Yardley and Pino Funeral Home in East Hampton. His funeral will be held on Saturday at St. Luke’s on James Lane in East Hampton.