I don't recall exactly where or when I first met Jeff Coady. Some racetrack somewhere. I won't forget the details of that first meeting, though.
He had a camera around his neck and a warm smile. He stuck his hand out, introduced himself and said, “Let me know what you need. We'll be happy to get it for you.”
And he really meant it.
Jeff was working as the official photographer at whatever racetrack it was I was visiting. Could have been in Texas, Arkansas, New Mexico or any number of states where Coady Photography – the company his father started and that he and brother Jack had worked for since their teenage years – was track photographer. I had recently been named editor of Blood-Horse magazine.
At some racetracks at that time – the early 1990s – it was like pulling teeth to get high-quality images that publications would use to dress up an article and essentially promote racing at that track. Jeff understood immediately that if he could help make the track look good in a newspaper or magazine, help bring out the beauty of the Thoroughbred, the essence of the athletic competition, the enjoyment of owning a winning horse, it made the sport look good.
He wasn't just willing to help publications – large and small – he was eager to do it. He and his family staked their livelihoods and their future on horse racing. He loved the game and loved his family. It showed in his work – the beautiful images that brought the game to life – and it showed in how he went about it.
Our paths crossed many times since that first meeting some 20 years ago. The business of racing and technology of photography and media had undergone enormous change, but Jeff hadn't. Always helpful, always pleasant, always with a smile and a kind word.
He's gone now, taken far too young at the age of 62, but I know Jeff was proud of the fact that the commitment to racing and the work ethic passed on from generation to generation, puts the future of Coady Photography in good hands through sons Shawn, Kevin and Kurtis.
The following was distributed by Jeff's family the day after his passing:
Jeffrey Austin Coady, age 62 of Luling, Texas, passed away on Aug. 26.
Jeff will forever be loved and missed by his wife Nelda, two brothers: Jack Coady Jr. (Mary Lou) of Iowa, Clay Coady (nephew Ryan) of Arizona, his four boys, Shawn of Arizona, Kevin (Robin and his grandson Ethan) of Arizona, Kurtis (Linda) of Texas and Christopher of Arizona. He is also survived by his step-mother Jane Coady of Arizona, mother-in-law Malvonee Hall of Texas, daughters Genia Zamora (Henry and grandchildren Corey and Crista) of Texas, Shanna Swinney (Drew) of Florida and his sister-in-law Sharon Grimes (Mike) of Texas. Jeff was born on Aug. 8, 1951, to parents Jack Sr. and Florence Coady in Scottsdale, Ariz.
Jeff started working for his father Jack Sr's company, Coady Photography, at the age of 14. Working with his older brother Jack Jr., they dedicated their lives to Coady Photography and the horse racing industry. Jeff followed his passion of horse racing photography and traveled around North America working at various racetracks. He began with Turf Paradise in Arizona and racetracks throughout western Canada continued onto some of the most prestigious tracks in the country: Oaklawn Park in Arkansas and Keeneland in Kentucky. Three of his four boys Shawn, Kevin and Kurtis (Third Generation) also work for the company. Over the last ten years Jeff worked alongside his loving wife Nelda at various racetracks.
With Jeff's love and generosity he has always made his family and friends a priority. He has made many lifelong friends in his travels and touched the lives of all that knew him. He was always the first to offer assistance and always lent a hand to those in need. His passing is a loss to the world of horse racing.
A memorial service will be held at the First Baptist Church in Luling, TX at 1:00pm on Wednesday, Sept. 4. In lieu of flowers, Jeff's family request that donations be made to the Oaklawn Park Chaplaincy, P.O. Box 20564, Hot Springs, AR 71903 and or the First Baptist Church, P.O. Box 90, Luling, TX 78648. Memorials will also be held at Oaklawn Park and in Arizona at a later date.
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