Jeff Rader

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Jeff Rader, 32; roadie found true love in R.I.

When Jeff Rader was a teenager, his mother would come home to find the house full of kids playing music. Jeff got his first drum kit at 13, and at one point had as many as three sets, says his mother, Jeannie Rader. She had to soundproof his room.

Jeff, 32, didn't grow up in a musical family, but he fell in love with rock 'n' roll at an early age. "Jeff always wanted to march to a different drummer and be his own person," his mother says.

Jeff became a professional roadie in the mid-'90s, traveling with bands like Great White and Tesla. It was a lifestyle his mother didn't understand.

But immediately after the tragedy at The Station, the Rader family began to receive phone calls and e-mails from musicians and fellow roadies who had known Jeff. Jeannie Rader was amazed at how many people loved and respected her son. "It made us in the family feel very good," she says.

Jeff was at the Great White concert as a fan, with his girlfriend of six months, Becky Shaw, 24, of Warwick. Jeff and Becky met at a previous Great White concert, his mother says. Becky is why Jeff, who lived in Danville, Calif., with his mother, visited Rhode Island as often as he could.

Becky's roommate, Megan C. Connelly, 24, of Warwick, said the couple were crazy about each other. When they were apart, Jeff would take his video camera on mountain hikes and send the tapes to Becky. He'd also send her photographs, including a beach picture with "Wish you were here" written in the sand.

The night of the fire, Jeannie Rader got a call from Becky's roommate at 5:30 a.m. California time. She turned on the television news and saw her son. In the news footage, she watched him turn and point others toward the exit. He was one of the first to react. "He knew the club, he knew the band," she says.

She's heard accounts from survivors that Jeff made it out of the club, but went back in for Becky. Both were lost.

In the days after the fire, Jeannie Rader said, Jeff's family has been comforted that their "free spirit" had found his place in life.

"The last couple months have been the happiest he's ever been in his life," she said. His promotions-and-merchandising business, Iwear, was taking off, she said. And he was in love.

"That's our one consolation in all this," Jeannie Rader said. "He was doing exactly what he wanted to do, and he was happy."



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