That’s what most people called him.
There was also, ‘The Doctor,’ ‘Jay-Bird’ and, to his longtime friends, simply ‘Jay.’ And I called him Mr. Whorton a few times before he admonished me for my formality.
And then it was simply, ‘Dr. Jay,’ ‘The Doctor’ or ‘Dr. Reverend Whorton’ if we were in a mischievous mood, which was often when we went on one our weekly lunches. I knew Dr. Jay for over 15 years, but it was really only in the last ten that we got to know each other.
What started out as a general business acquaintance evolved into friendship. A friendship built on mutual respect, sharing truths with each other, empathy and on most days, having a similar sense of humor about this crazy life we all lead.
How does that happen? How does an 80-something-year-old outgoing, advertising guru become friends with someone half his age who has a tendency to be reserved with occasional forays into dourness? Because Dr. Jay was genuine. He was real. He was honest. He was interested in who you were. And he had that rare gift of being able to draw out a laugh in just about anyone. He always greeted you with an earnest smile, his booming voice and a handshake. For the ladies, he usually greeted them with “Happy Day” and for men, the words, “Hello Brother.”
And everyone was his brother.
The man, in many ways, had a tremendously large family. A family who he loved and who loved him back.
Dr. Jay was not ashamed to tell people he grew up, “poor and on the mountain.” He took pride in the fact he was a letterman at Jacksonville State University. He loved to tell how he married the most beautiful girl on campus — his longtime wife, Laura. He wanted you to know he worked for 40-plus years at the MDJ with his close friend and boss Mr. Brumby. And he loved to tell you stories upon stories. I have shelved dozens of his stories that include everything from his experiences at all-night wakes with the west Georgia gypsies to almost getting shot when, at the bequest of Mr. Brumby, he visited the penthouse of Howard Hughes.
There are many quotes and stories in these pages that reflect the type of person that Dr. Jay was.
I have one in particular that defined him to me and what made him so special.
We were eating at the Marietta Diner a few years ago when a lady with a walker and an oxygen tank came lumbering by our table. Obviously struggling and in a bit of pain, Dr. Jay greeted her with a hearty, “You are looking good, lady!” She stopped and talked to us for a minute, relating her latest medical maladies. Dr. Jay listened, nodded and left her with a few words of encouragement. She smiled and thanked him. And it struck me. That is the good life. That is the way to live. That is the Christ-like life. Saying hello to one and all. Treating everyone with respect and love. Encouraging those around you. Making everyone feel loved, cared for and special. Wishing all a good morning, a happy day.
And, as many who knew Dr. Jay, the lady at the diner that day was not the only person he made a point of talking to. He made many people in the community have happy days. From the underdog to the top dog, he shook everyone’s hand and made everyone feel unique.
He had a “special lady” — an adult with special needs — who worked cleaning tables at the Captain D’s. He always made sure he saw her and always left her with a hefty tip. (And, no you are not wrong, you don’t generally tip at Captain D’s.)
He knew the two managers at a local Krystal’s by name. Two African-American gentleman he would always tell them he and his associate — this is when he would point to me — he was going to buy out, because “Krystal’s has the best chili in town.” No, he never did buy a Krystal’s, but he left those two men always laughing and in good spirits.
And he harbored a deep affinity and focus on helping those in need.
The stories could go on and on.
I’ll miss my friend. I know I am not alone. We can talk about legacy. We can talk about impact. What does it mean? What is the purpose? What is our time on this earth good for? I don’t know all the answers. But, in the end, if I can make one person smile everyday like Dr. Jay did, then that is a great way to be remembered. Maybe, when you boil it all down to what really matters, it is all the only way.
Thanks, Dr. Jay.
Mark Maguire is editor of the Journal’s highly popular Cobb Life and Cherokee Life magazines.