Monday, November 10, 2014

You are in a better place, Jay

SHERYL'S BROTHER, JAY Collins, passed away Sunday in Peoria. He was 45.

Metallica anyone? Devil's Music!
Jay had his share of demons and challenges in life. When we first opened Second String Music at Eighth and Washington, Sheryl gave him a job as our web developer, but it didn't work out because of his erratic behavior. He wouldn't stay on his medicine, and the end wasn't pretty.

The move to Peoria a few years ago was good for him. He'd come back once in a while, visit with the family and hang out with his son, Spencer, who lives in Camp Point. He had his own apartment, had help staying on his medication and recently lost 50 pounds. He liked it over there - it was away from Quincy and away from a bad environment.

A couple of weeks ago he was back in town for his birthday and came into the store, and we ended up going out to his favorite old haunt, Spring Street. We are glad we got to see him one last time.

We are not sure about the circumstances of his death. There was no sign of foul play, so it could have been anything from a stroke to a heart attack. We will know more later.

Sheryl and her sister, Steph, are doing okay. They are both shocked and saddened, but Sheryl says she suspected something like this would happen someday. We went over to see their father, Jerry, last night, and he was busy dealing with the millions of details involved with a funeral and getting Jay's other two children in Maryland back to Quincy for the funeral.

Steph and Jay at a Blue Devils Game
I have experience when it comes to a family member leaving too early. It's gut-wrenching and a million questions swim around your brain, and in the end, you realize they are in a better place.

The visitation is Friday at Duker & Haugh and the funeral Saturday. We'll have details later today.

Smooth seas and the sun on your face, Jay. We will meet again in better circumstances, I'm sure.


  1. I want to pass on my heartfelt condolences to my cousins at the sudden passing of Jay. I did not sleep well after talking with my dad last night. I know that all of you are grieving and must be experiencing a tremendous amount of sadness and mixed feelings.

    Jay was my cousin, and I remember him fondly. As kids, I saw "JJ" at the holidays as we wreaked havoc at Grandma and Grandpa Collins house. Fun times playing in the back yard, throwing a football or making mischief and having adventures on the streets of Farmer City, Illinois. JJ was fun to be around. He was spontaneous, emotional, sometimes wild and melodramatic, for better or worse, but he was my big brother when we had family time in Illinois.

    I always looked up to him, not only because he was older, but because he was so crafty and smart. I'll never forget how he brought his Atari computer game system and hooked it up to the television in the kitchen. Here I was, afraid even to touch Grandma's TV, but JJ could hook a computer up to it! He taught me how to play Asteroids and other games, and I admired his intelligence and savvy.

    My dad brought me to Quincy my senior year of high school to tour the Harris facility and meet a technical writer, since I was heading for college as an English major but had no idea what to do with my life. I remember I got to stay in JJ's room for the visit. He was out of the house by then, but I felt privileged to have my big cousin's bedroom for a night amidst Star Wars toys and rock posters and science fiction novels. I felt a kinship with him even then, being a teenager, with so many big questions ahead.

    These are just my memories of those simpler times. Today I am reminded of how quickly those times pass, how short this precious life is.

    I wish I had spent more time with him during recent family visits, but he seemed to prefer quiet company, and I respected the privacy he seemed to want to have at crowded family gatherings. I thank his dad for bringing him along to try including him in the group.

    I know that experiencing war took its toll on Jay. Veterans Day never passes for me without thinking of him. As a librarian these days, I read a lot of books, including "The Yellow Birds" by Kevin Powers, a recently-published novel about young American soldiers in Iraq. My book group met last month to discuss the novel, and I shared anecdotal stories of my cousin's wartime experiences, and how it shaped the rest of his life. I would be doing Jay and his family a disservice not to remember and share.

    With love,
    Matthew Collins

    1. Thank you Matt. It is nice to hear your memories of him. It helps to read these and I appreciate your candor.