My first contact with Core member Jeff Dey was over the Appalachian foodways articles. His direction and resources made those articles possible. Jeff’s love of cooking and food have provided an added bonus to his presence within the Urban Appalachian Community Coalition. As Jeff tells it, “People always look forward to the food, especially the pies, whenever we show up.” “We” refers to Jeff and Mike Maloney. The two have been partners for 33 years and married for 4 1/2, and Jeff’s relationship with Mike partially accounts for his association with UACC. Jeff explains that “I was already interested in education and ways to be involved in the community, so meeting Mike was a catalyst.” Over their years together, Jeff said he just took to the Urban Appalachian Council and UACC quite naturally, and, as always, “people were asking about what food we were brining to any meeting or event.”   

In fact, Jeff Dey comes to UACC through several avenues. His early work with the Northside Community School put him in touch with UAC since this was part of the partnership of GED programs led by UAC. From this he went on to serve on the board of the Lower Price Hill Community School for about ten years. He was involved during the transition of LPHCS into Education Matters and then served on the board of Community Matters—both of these organizations are linked with UACC to this day.

It was by a kind of osmosis that Jeff came to play some crucial roles in the work of UACC. Jeff explained, “It was an organic form of growth that drew me in, and I quite naturally took on more roles as my involvement continued to grow.” While Jeff Dey has appeared to be in the background, his work has been instrumental in some important efforts within UACC. With Maureen Sullivan and Mike, Jeff led a project at the Frank Foster Memorial Library to catalogue the collection and start the process of putting it online.  

The Frank Foster Memorial Library belonged to UAC and was transferred upon the founding of UACC. The collection consists of “books, left by Frank Foster himself, some collected from donations, and a few books we gained from funding opportunities,” explains Jeff Dey. This collection included books on Appalachian history and culture as well as material such as neighborhood studies, reports and some scrapbooks and photos.  There are sections on poverty, race and community organizing. The project of organizing the collection was quite involved. Jeff told me, “We had students from Xavier University and the University of Cincinnati come in with computer tools for cataloging the collection. Our long-term goal is to put the collection online and connect it with other collections around the country that specialize in the history and culture of the Appalachian region and its people. Another part of this is to make everything available to scholars and activists which would make connecting these collections that much more valuable.”

Jeff Dey has leant his expertise to developing the online presence of UACC and forming database access. He has worked with John Bealle on a forthcoming project that we will detail in a later article (there’s a teaser). Looking toward the future, Jeff told me that he and Mike enjoy traveling the Appalachian region and finding ways of making contact with local knowledge of genealogy. Jeff explains, “People tend to get caught up on the technical aspects of genealogical projects now, with all the online databases and services. But some of the real work involves getting out and talking to people who remember people who played important roles in local history.” This kind of work means poring through volumes at small county libraries and interviewing people who are related. This line of writing history and genealogy might be slow, but it pays off with real living connections.

A similar type of effort involved Berea College which notified UACC that they had a sizable collection of photographs as part of the UAC Archive which is housed there. He told me that he and others “invited people to meet at Holy Family Church in Price Hill to look through the photographs to see who they could identify. Berea brought their archiving staff, people looked through old photos, and everyone explained what they knew about each photograph and who was in the photograph. We even had a scanner so people could take copies if they found a family member or someone who was close to them. And of course, there was food and music. Mike and I don’t seem to be able to do anything without food and music.” And we are back to food…

Jeff’s work with UACC is stirred by his own natural curiosity and dedication to urban Appalachians and UACC. It is clear that he is constantly looking toward ways of furthering what has already been accomplished and finding new ways of situating UACC within the larger context of Appalachian studies and advocacy. His work brings his own passions to UACC and it is clear from the results that this has been a blessing. With the orders to stay in place, we have lost some key events in the urban Appalachian calendar this year, but we can all rest assured Jeff Dey and Mike Maloney are hard at work and the pies will return as soon as we are all able to get together again over food and music.

Mike Templeton is a writer, independent scholar, barista, cook, guitar player, and accidental jack-of-all-trades. He lives in downtown Cincinnati with his wife who is a talented photographer. They spend their free time walking around the city snapping photos. She looks up at that the grandeur of the city, while Mike always seems to be staring at the ground.

One thought on “A Conversation with Core Member Jeff Dey by Mike Templeton

  1. Comment Great article as always, Mike. To know Jeff is to love Jeff. He is the kind of caring, magnanimous person you do not come across often and his cooking is divine! He has worked very hard with Mike and Maureen to keep UACC alive and well and into the future.

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