“Whoever enjoys his life is doing the Creator’s will” _ Jewish proverb
On January 18, 2016, Hyde Park lost…well, how do you describe I. Jay Aarons? Hyde Park’s ambassador to the world, the neighborhood’s best citizen and most ubiquitous presence, our dearest friend, the sweetest guy you ever met? All that and more.
If you weren’t friends with I. Jay, it’s because you hadn’t met him. I Jay was ubiquitous, and friendship with I. Jay had no beginning and no end. It didn’t begin with a bang; suddenly you just noticed he was in your life and you had known him forever, like family. He was the glue that bonded you to a million people, to a community, a real community, the one outside your door, the one that is Hyde Park, and Austin.
I. Jay gave of himself like few people ever do. He was thoroughly involved in his community as a leader, but never as a politician, though he had a gift for getting along with everyone. As a community leader, I. Jay served on the Steering Committee of the Hyde Park Neighborhood Association for as long as anyone can remember, and his towering presence and big smile were familiar fixtures at the annual Hyde Park Homes Tour. His faith was important to him, and he was long a part of Congregation Beth Israel, where he served as treasurer and board member. He also served as a board member of Shalom Austin/Jewish Federation.
I. Jay exemplified all that is best in people, and what we think of as best in Hyde Park: involvement in the lives of the people around you, giving of your time and energy, caring deeply, never uttering a cross or negative word about another being. He loved simple pleasures: word games, crossword puzzles, card games, where he was renowned for the complete inability to maintain anything resembling a poker face. I. Jay grabbed every opportunity he got to participate in theatre in college at Rice and here in Austin at Zach Scott, and there was nothing that he loved more than singing and dancing. If you saw I. Jay dance, then you saw I. Jay in his element. And, by the way, you saw a fabulous dancer.
More than anything, I. Jay loved his family. His newest role in life, being a grandfather, was his favorite, and to see him doting on his granddaughter, Emily, was to see a man in full. When Emily was present, I. Jay would be smiling. Emily sparked I. Jay to the last day of his life.
Just a week before he died and in a great deal of pain, I. Jay insisted on attending the Hyde Park Neighborhood Association meeting in order to present the 2016 budget. He got a standing ovation. Many of us couldn’t believe that he would want to do that, in his condition, knowing that his time was limited. Many people’s bucket list consists of climbing mountains and sailing the seas. I. Jay’s bucket list was all about contributing to the community he loved and being with the family and friends he loved. In this, the things that matter, he may have been the richest man in the world, and we were very lucky to have him in our lives.
“Now cracks a noble heart. Goodnight, sweet prince…”
By Michael Crockett