Today was a heartbreaker for quite a few of us here at The Washington Times. We learned early this morning that our friend and coworker Jerome Joseph “Jay” Votel lost his battle with cancer at the age of 52.
Jay, one of the most gentle and genuinely friendly souls here in the newsroom, was the dedicated editor of the newspaper’s real estate homes section for years, but he also showcased his expertise and his passion in writing about music, which is how I came to know and treasure him.
Jay knew about high-lonesome music played on mandolins and fiddles, music with a little West Virginia dust on it, and music played around campfires and in jukejoints along two-lane blacktops.
He and I sat alone a few weeks ago and he told me — clear of voice, full of courage — what he was facing and how he planned to fight for as much life as he could — not just for himself, but for his wife Nancy and for his children.
I was stunned, I told him: “Jay, I don’t know what to say.”
“What can you?” he smiled.
We spent the better part of the next hour talking about pickers, the new Alejandro Escovedo CD coming out and the lineup at the upcoming Kerrville Folk Music Festival in Texas — an annual pilgrimage that he feared he would not make this year.
Like all of our conversations, it had — thanks to Jay — a musical quality: a little melody captured in his soft Virginia accent and the joy he took in talking about bluegrass, or songwriters or gigs on the Eastern Shore.
It’s a nice way to remember my friend. Jay, we will miss you.
— David Eldridge, digital communities editor, washingtontimes.com