Of course I’m not alone on that one.
Despite our last names we weren’t related.
Jay and his beautiful wife, Betty, moved to Rockdale in 1982 and immediately became a part of the fiber and fabric of life in our town.
He did all the usual things, joined organizations, worked with others on projects, was present for all the big events.
Wonderful. But what I’ll think of the most was the many times we all saw Jay going out of his way to help people, to enrich their lives however he could. And, if we saw him doing that all those occasions, think of how many times he and Betty helped out when there was nobody around to see.
I’ll give you an example.
My two step-daughters moved to Rockdale 12 years ago when they were 8 and 6. Big-city girls then, they were crazy about horses— especially the 8-year-old—but just had never had the opportunity to ride any.
Jay found out. Being Jay, he did something about it one spring morning, invited us out to his and Betty’s place, saddled up a couple of horses and our girls took turns riding one while he led. He led them around that pasture for as long as they wanted. Which was roughly forever.
I remember standing there, watching eight-year-old Briana’s eyes shining like stars on a moonless night. She leaned over and said something to Jay.
I asked him what she had said. “She said ‘you know, this is my dream’,” Jay replied.
That was our friend, Jay. If he could make your dream come true, he’d sure try.
Jay liked me. Well, I didn’t say he was perfect.
He and Betty, along with Collier and Peggy Perry and Emmet and Jennie Perry, hosted the picnics, first at the Collier Perry Pecan Orchard on the San Gabriel River and later in Jay and Betty’s pasture.
That’s a long time. You know at the time the picnics ended in 2010, 27 years was 12 percent of the life of our country.
I always felt closer to the Washingtons, Jeffersons and Adamses out at Jay and Betty’s picnics than I have anywhere else.
That’s because they were there.
Many times I stood in the gathering twilight, flag flapping in the breeze, early celebrants over the hillside popping firecrackers in the distance, and told the crowd that this kind of gathering was exactly what they had in mind back there in that sweltering room in Philadelphia so long ago.
I believe Jay felt it too.
I’ll always remember him cooking hot dogs outdoors in a pit in the triple-digit heat of a July Fourth afternoon, visiting as the crowd filed by to a red-white-andblue decked chow table.
And I will smile.
That same pasture was the site for many a Sunrise Service, also hosted by Jay and Betty.
Jay, you want to know why those Sunrise Services drew bigger crowds than the July Fourth picnics where I spoke?
Well, you know those preachers who addressed the worshipers as the glorious and redeeming sun peeked over your stock tank?
They had better writers than I did.
Rest in peace, my friend. firstname.lastname@example.org