Over the past few years I’ve had a few good friends pass away: Steve Poulos, Doug Zargham, Leslie Bowe — and now, Jeff Cutler. He was just 62.
In every instance it hurt, as each one of these men held a special place in my heart. Jeff, however, was such an amazing person, and a really close friend, that his passing will leave an even greater void. I will miss him dearly and I know I am not alone.
Jeff Cutler died on the tennis courts, which seems fitting. He was doing what he loved, and had just won nine games in a row that morning when it happened. Jeff was always a winner – and was winning right until the end.
I met Jeff 54 years ago, when I was just eight years old. We got to be close friends, especially during our junior- and senior high-school days together. Sure, when you are young like that it’s easy to make good buddies with just about anybody. But there’s no way Jeff was just anybody. I was so honored and grateful to be his friend, and never took it for granted. That’s big. I knew it then and I know it now. I guess I’ll always will feel that way. But it still hurts.
At the time, his father was the manager of the Howard Palmetto Baseball Khoury League team. Those were the days… Yes, Jeff was a superstar, but you would never know it because he treated everybody on the team equally, like they were all his best friends. From the earliest age, he could be relied on to treat everyone with the utmost respect.
I am reminded of a saying “Be Like Mike” that was popularized in the 90s by Michael Jordan. It makes me think we should all really “Be Like Jeff,” because Jeff enjoyed life and life enjoyed him. He also appreciated the finer things in life without ever being pretentious.
I have so many fond memories … such as the time I was fortunate enough to coach his son Kenny one year at Howard Palmetto with Jeff. Jeff was the volunteer lawyer for Howard Palmetto. Anytime the league had questions, we called Jeff – and got an answer. Over time, I also became friends with his daughter through her business ventures. I recall Jeff telling me one of the greatest times he had with her was during their visit to Kyoto, Japan. Jeff absolutely adored his family and was a loyal friend.
Jeff was a leader in all aspects of our community. And he was all over the place, too – all the time! In fact, sometimes people wondered how he could be everywhere at once. Besides being a star athlete at Palmetto High School, he was a true public servant in the Pinecrest community. He graduated from the University of Florida School of Business Administration with honors, and received his law degree there in 1982. He also wrestled for the Gators and was a team captain and four-year letterman.
Jeff moved back to Miami to practice law, specializing in civil, corporate, and commercial law, and served as a partner at De La Cruz & Cutler in Coral Gables. He was elected to the Village of Pinecrest Council in 2006 where he held office through 2014, serving as vice mayor from 2008 to 2009, and from 2012 to 2013. Jeff also served on the Miami-Dade Commission on Ethics and Public Trust and, in 2017, was elected by the commission as its chair.
Jeff Cutler’s passing reminds us that life is short and we should strive to live like Jeff – Be Like Jeff every day – with a passion for life and love for family, friends, and community. His was a life well lived.