Jan. 18 marks the 30th year that Jeff Messens has been performing duties as a fishery biologist. Twenty-eight years were spent at the Neosho National Fish Hatchery. Here longer than any other employee, he knows the processes necessary to nurture and harvest fish like the back of his hand.
In 30 years, Jeff has seen employees, managers, buildings and tons of fish come and go at the hatchery. It is estimated that he has helped to grow approximately 25,000,000 fish for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service during his employment.
In 1987, while checking water quality, Jeff discovered the endangered Ozark cavefish in Hearrell Spring. Populations of the Ozark cavefish only exist in approximately 25 caves in Southwest Missouri, Northwest Arkansas and Northeast Oklahoma. Since that time, the hatchery has protected Hearrell Spring and its fragile cavefish.
Jeff grew up in southeast Michigan and discovered he wanted to work outdoors early on. He began his career after graduation from Lake Superior State University at Sault Ste. Marie, Mich. Jeff moved to Neosho in 1985 for a permanent full time position after four years of temporary service at Jordan River National Fish Hatchery in Michigan. Neosho hatchery manager at that time was Norm Hines.
After transferring to Neosho, Jeff met and fell in love with a pretty, petite, blue-eyed school teacher named Diana Jessup. They were married and made Neosho their home. He and Diana have been loyal members of "Friends of the Neosho National Fish Hatchery" since the startup of the support group. Diana volunteers weekly at the hatchery gift shop / book store as assistant manager since her retirement from the Neosho School System.
Jeff's interests outside of the hatchery include antiques, deer hunting and SCUBA diving. He has completed dives in Beaver Lake, Ark., the Florida Keys, and Cozumel, Mexico. Jeff is also an avid collector. He has an impressive collection of postcards and memorabilia associated with fish hatcheries and Neosho in particular. He has collected pieces of original china used at dinner service from the fish car era of the 1900s, when fish were distributed by rail car.
Jeff takes pride in a job well done and does whatever it takes to complete a task. In instances where he might not have the proper tool, he fabricates one. Working with ingenuity and persistence, no job is too difficult. Congratulations Jeff and thank you for your 30 years of service in conserving, protecting and enhancing fish and wildlife and our community.
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Hatchery Manager David Hendrix served as guest speaker at the Bella Vista Fly Tyers meeting in Bella Vista, Ark. Ninety members of the club were in attendance. The presentation was so well received that the club voted to have their February meeting in Neosho and to tour the hatchery.
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Page 2 of 2 - Members of Teen Challenge held a planning meeting in the Rainbow Room over the weekend.
Janice Eaton is the automation clerk at the Neosho National Fish Hatchery.