I wrote this for Jay’s wake on Nov 21st. He might have objected to someone eulogizing him, and if so, then this is not a eulogy, simply my thoughts on my brother. –Paul Neary
A story I’ve told many times to people to whom I am describing my brother Jay occurred when he was about 10 years old. He liked to go into my father’s workshop and tinker with the tools. One day he got his hands on two thin strips of wood and nailed them together into an X. He found an old lamp cord down there with a plug on one end and two bare wires on the other. With a couple more nails, he attached the wires to the center of the X. Then he went up to the living room and plugged his invention into the wall socket. As you might expect, sparks flew, lights dimmed, and the fuse blew. My mother came running over to where he was sitting in a cloud of smoke and asked him what in the name of God he was doing. As he sat there, looking at his charred contraption, he quietly said, “I made a fan.” I don’t think he was scared, just puzzled that he had put this thing together as best he could, it kinda looked like a fan, but it hadn’t worked.
As he grew, he acquired some more skills and got past this dangerous phase. He took apart almost everything in the house he could get his hands on, often without any clue as to how to put it back together. Eventually though he became, as I liked to call him, a “genius with his hands.” Most of us here knew of and benefited from this genius.
But it wasn’t for his mechanical skills that we all loved Jay. While speaking with many of you this week, I heard the same things over and over: “The nicest guy I ever met.” “He’d give you the shirt off his back.” “A big, gentle bear.” “Interested in so many things.” For me, these were his greatest qualities. That he would work a double and still come over and help figure out a problem with my car, even though he might not have slept in 24 hours. That he could show up at a party and have the room laughing and talking for hours as he debated about computers, solar energy, politics, boilers, why he favored putting butter on chocolate chip cookies, or whatever else was on his radar screen that month. That he would invite you to his house and stuff you with beer, chips, hot dogs, soda, and cold cuts for hours, and when you said it was time to go he would plead, “No, you can’t leave!”
As I stand here tonight, I know each of us feels the same hole in our heart that this big, gentle bear has left. I know we all miss him terribly. And I know we will never forget the nicest guy we ever met.