Jeffrey Vandergrift, an on-air radio personality for Bay Area’s WiLD 94.9, had been missing for a month. He was last seen on February 23, just a few hours after he talked about struggling with mental health on the air. While the SFPD continued their search for him, his wife – Natasha Yi – was ready to give up hope.
On March 22, the SFPD ended their search when they found his body in the water near Pier 39. It was the type of news his wife expected, but there was no being prepared for it as he was gone far too soon. There was no foul play involved, but investigators are still trying to piece together what happened to him.
Vandergrift, who most people knew as JV, was just 55 years old at the time of his death. Diagnosed with Lyme disease in 2021, JV was open about the impact it had on his physical, mental, and emotional health – all of which were steadily declining as the disease ran its course.
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JV’s wife, Natasha Yi, took to Instagram on Friday to share an emotional and heartbreaking tribute in his honor. She expressed how difficult it was to write about him as the tears and pain made it hard for her to breathe, and how agonizing the past month has been as the SFPD continued their search for his body.
“But the pain I feel now is something I have never felt before. My heart is crushed, and I cannot see myself ever moving forward, ever feeling joy or being at peace,” she said – adding that she’ll spare us of the details out of respect of his family. She feels devastated that the love of her life is now gone forever.
Natasha went on to talk about how much JV loved his work, loved his fans – all the listeners and viewers who tuned in daily to hear him talk on the radio – and, most importantly, loved his wife and family. She said their bond as husband and wife was ‘truly unmatched’ and that he ‘never wanted to leave any of us.’
“I know all of you cared for and loved JV, so please continue to keep him in your thoughts and prayers. Remember his laugh, kindness and the immense impact he had on many of you and our entire community,” she continued – adding that she ‘will cherish the time we had together’ and miss him dearly.
WiLD 94.9 Remembers Jeffrey Vandergrift as a Bay Area Legend
Upon learning of the news, Bay Area’s WiLD 94.9 – the radio station he and his wife worked for – sent out a tribute of their own. “JV, we will miss you. You are forever a Bay Area icon,” they wrote on Twitter, adding an update on his body being found and asking listeners to keep Natasha Yi in their thoughts.
On Thursday, they took to Instagram to share another tribute in the form of a video montage, which included photos of him, his wife, his family, and his colleagues with audio clips of him on-air playing in the background. They directed listeners to BayAreaLyme.org to learn more about battling Lyme disease.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Lyme disease is a vector-borne disease caused by the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi and, sometimes, Borrelia mayonii. It’s transmitted through the bites of infected backlegged ticks and results in fever, headeache, fatigue, and skin rashes.
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If left untreated, Lyme disease can and will spread to other areas of the body – such as the joints, heart, and even the nervous system – where symptoms will worsen (similar to what JV was experiencing). The disease impacts roughly 30,000 people in the United States every year, according to CDC estimates.
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