Jeff Dickinson: You Make Our Hearts Sing

Jeff Dickinson will forever be known in the hearts and minds of the Bocas del Toro as a charismatic, benevolent, fun-loving, wisecracking “little big man.”

A treasure hunter on the famous Mel Fisher expeditions, a conveniently compact and a uniquely talented diesel mechanic, Jeff was a friend to everyone who had ever had the pleasure -from Saudia Arabia, to Key West, to New York, to Reno- and of course so many here in our community. Bocas del Toro and his loved ones worldwide were shattered to pieces by the news of the sudden loss of our friend on July 1, 2021.

The title of this article refers to a lyric from the 1966 rock classic from The Troggs, “Wild Thing,” which Jeff was known to have delivered some epic performances of comedian Sam Kinison’s version of the tune over the years. Jeff was indeed a wild thing, he did make our hearts sing (also everything groovy…); also so much so that people have written us from far and wide, sending their thoughts and photos so that we could publish a more complete tribute to our friend.

Jeff Dickinson is gone, but absolutely never forgotten.

“He saved my life and then spent days at the hospital with me.”

I met Little Jeff “JD” while working on the snow grooming equipment at Squaw Valley Ski resort. Jeff was hardworking. He always had a spark in his eye and was so funny. We became close friends and shared many adventures. From Locals Night at the Lone Star Bar, climbing to the top of the mountain during a full moon, first ZZ Top concert and showing me how to get on the roof of the the tallest casino in Reno.

In 1984 he got a job working in Saudi Arabia. Before he was to leave we went out riding our mountain bikes. Unfortunately I crashed my bike and broke my neck. He saved my life and then spent days at the hospital with me. Over the years he has popped in and told me about his latest adventures.

I was shocked to hear about his passing. He was a dear friend. The world lost a great man.

In loving memory

-David Lightfoot
Lincoln California

Jeff On The Tonight Show with Jay Leno

Jeff Dickinson you will be greatly missed. You had a big personality and a great heart. You were good. So happy I was able to see you last month in Bocas del Toro and hearing about your treasure hunting days with Mel Fisher.

See link when Jeff was on the Jay Leno show. RIP.

– Chris White

Editor’s note: Jeff appears at minute 4:21 in the YouTube link. It is Jeff in all his glory, on network television, being interviewed about being part of the historic Mel Fisher Atocha Spanish gold expedition; yet it’s still Jeff just being Jeff. Also, see the epic photos below from his treasure hunting days off the coast of Florida.

From Deborah Cruze and Jeff’s Key West Treasure Hunting (and Treasure Finding!) Days

Jeff Dickinson and Deborah Cruze in Key West on a boat posing with gold found on the Mel Fisher expedition


Jeff Dickinson and Deborah Cruze wearing the same gold necklace

A Magician on the Engines

When I had my boat at the marina in Bocas, Jeff was someone who I could call a friend as well as a real help when I needed it.  There were many occasions when he came to my assistance when things went wrong on the boat and were beyond my capabilities – they were never beyond Jeff’s.  The best I could say was he was a magician on the engines.
Thank you Jeff – I will always remember you with affection and miss you always.
The photo was taken on 6th Feb 2018.
– Peter Devenish

Jeff Dickinson and Peter at the Bocas Marina in Bocas del Toro Panama

“How Old Are You? My Mustache Is Older Than You!”

I used to perform music at the Bocas Marina for their Friday night barbecues in the Calypso Cantina restaurant. Being a resident of the marina and a fan of my music, Jeff was usually in attendance and was always very encouraging. Quite a famous mustache man himself, Jeff was particularly fond of a comedy song I crafted entitled “The Ballad of a Broken Mustache,” also known simply as “The Mustache Song.”

One night I concluded a set with that song and Jeff approached me inquisitively. “How old are you?,” he asked. I was 28 years old at the time. “My mustache is older than you!” is what Jeff said, so excited to fire his answer back, practically cutting off my age disclosure, as he was clearly quite amused by his observation. We both laughed about it and it became our thing; an inside joke, among others we developed over the years.

He was man with a well adapted sense of humor, a true zest for life and a genuine interest in what made people tick. I always appreciated his commentary on my music, his imaginative suggestions for my music and newspaper content. It was sweet to observe how he really went out of his way to make sure people were recognized for their talents. I am definitely not the only person he encouraged whilst “doing their thing.”

If you ask me, the world is better place because of Jeff and the way he lived his life. I know I am better off. I’m honored to call myself his friend and I will think of him ever year on my birthday as my mustache itself continues to age.

– Nicholas Corea

My Favorite Mechanic Who Became A Friend of Mine

I had severe problem with my engine. It was so nice to have a person that I could trust and having him to work in my boat without me needing to be there. The work took several days while I was at the comfort of my home without having to worry.

When I spent several days at my boat and tired of my cooking. It was so nice to have pizza delivered to me by my favorite mechanics who became a friend of mine.
I regret not sharing with him my struggles with depression who knows that would change what happened. I have to live with that, my silence.
– Peter Rafael

Jeff Was Everywhere and a Friend to Everyone

Jeff Dickinson at The Pub on St. Patricks Day 2017 with friends
My Photo from 2017 St Patrick’s day at the Pub in Bocas. Jeff was everywhere and a friend to everyone. It was always a pleasure to see his smiling face and hear his funny stories and words of wisdom.
We had an instant connection (Warren and I) with him and often reminisced Key West memories and adventures we had all had while living there. We didn’t know him there but it was fun talking about things we were all familiar with. Like old home week.
Will miss you Jeff.
– Kathleen Hancock Patick

A Favorite Waitress and Her Portrait of Mr. Jeff


Hello, I would like to send this photo of Mr.Jeff. He always said I was his favorite waitress in town and for 3 years I was his almost everyday waitress at Bocart and then 3 years at La Italiana. He came in maybe 5 times a week and we always talked for hours.

One time he asked me to draw him he wanted a portrait of himself. So I got a scrap piece of recycled paper and drew him with a pen. I added his favorite thing to drink when he came in: a glass of red wine.

He loved it so much. I put it on the wall at the bar where he would always sit and everyday he came in, he loved to tell the people next to him to look at the beautiful drawing I had made him. He always laughed when he saw the drawing. He loved it.

– Maria Celeste Gonzalez

Jeff posing with the portrait made by his favorite waitress Celeste

Celebration of Jeff Dickinson in Bocas del Toro

Saturday, July 31, from 1 to 4pm there will be a celebration of Jeff’s life at one of his favorite Bocas del Toro watering holes, Tequila Republic. This event is closed to the general public, however friends of Jeff are invited to attend. There will be limited capacity due to COVID-19 restrictions.

If you cannot attend the Tequila Republic memorial, or it happens to be at maximum capacity, there are rumors of an ensuing pub crawl to some of Jeff’s other favorite establishments. There should be more information about the plans for this pub crawl on Facebook. There are also rumors from an extremely reliable source that there will be a performance of the aforementioned “Mustache Song” at said Tequila Republic memorial.

Tequila Republic also now has a wall of Jeff Dickinson quotes, signed recently by various friends. Interestingly enough, the wall of quotes was actually initiated by Jeff himself when he signed “All the stories are true @ TR [at Tequila Republic]!” So, if you have a good Jeff quote, you are encouraged to add on to the wall.

Official Obituary from Jeff’s Local Newspaper

Eagle News of Syracuse, New York, USA, published a proper obituary for Jeff on July 8, 2021.

Rest in Peace, Jeff Dickinson. Bocas del Toro will always love you!

Jeff Dickinson smiling on a bar over the Caribbean Sea in Bocas del Toro Panama


The Bocas Breeze is a digital and print newspaper proudly serving the Bocas del Toro community since 2004; reporting news, advertising local businesses and promoting tourism in Bocas del Toro, Panama.

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