- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 26, 2008

Jerome Joseph “Jay” Votel, an editor for The Washington Times and folk-rock musician, died Wednesday at his home in Sterling, Va., after a battle with cancer. He was 52.

Friends and colleagues said Mr. Votel’s two passions were news and music as he spent most of his life writing, reporting and editing and playing instruments solo and in bands.

“He was as diligent and caring a colleague as I ever met in my life, and he will be sorely missed,” said The Times’ Executive Editor John Solomon.

Mr. Votel spent nearly four decades in the news business, earning his first byline at 14 while covering his high school basketball team for the Northern Virginia Daily in Strasburg, Va.

After he graduated from college, Mr. Votel worked for newspapers in Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia and the District.

He worked at the Capital-Gazette newspaper in Annapolis and the Kent County News in Chestertown, Md., before coming to The Times more than seven years ago.

“He had a real interest in newspapers,” said Tom Marquardt the Capital-Gazette’s editor and publisher. “As they say, he had ink in his blood.”

Mr. Votel’s interest in music dated back to his teens, when he sang and played guitar in folk Masses at a church in his hometown of Winchester, Va., said his mother, Jo Votel-McFarlane.

In the summers between semesters at Shepherd State Teachers College, now Shepherd University, he entertained patrons of the Big Meadow Lodge and other spots along Skyline Drive in Shenandoah, Va., with his folk-singing and guitar.

Mr. Votel played with several bands during and after college, and in the 1980s he moved to the Eastern Shore, where he learned to play the mandolin and founded the bluegrass band Hit ‘n’ Miss.

Jay’s last band, Allegheny Uprising, started in the 1990s as a trio with husband and wife Betty Jo Rockwell and Scott Rockwell and later included Barry Bryan.

The Rockwells left the group to focus on work as a duo, but Mr. Votel and Mr. Bryan continued playing, and this year added two new members, Nick Kinney and Melissa Wright.

Mr. Votel’s wife, Nancy, said she and her husband enjoyed traveling and camping. They had camped in Yosemite and Yellowstone national parks and in Nova Scotia, Canada. They also frequently visited folk-music festivals around the country and took road trips.

Mrs. Votel said one of his most salient traits was his devotion to friends.

“The friends he made, he kept for a long time,” she said. “And his friends were loyal to him, too.”

Those friends said Mr. Votel was a great newsman, musician and person.

“Best of all, he was a great listener and had a clear view of the world,” said Maria Stainer, The Times’ assistant managing editor for continuous news. “Whether he was polishing a phrase in a story, mentoring a freelance writer, or tuning up a mandolin, Jay had it under control.”

An excerpt from a March entry on Mr. Votel’s blog explained his philosophy on music and life.

“[Music] is very temporal, a pretty good metaphor for life,” he wrote. “Nothing gold can stay, as the poet said, and the music is something to enjoy while it is there.”

Mr. Votel is survived by his wife and two daughters from a previous marriage, Janelle Tinsman of Columbia, S.C., and Jacqueline Votel of Boonsboro, Md.

The Washington Times remembers Jay Votel


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