Dr. Robert B. Pankey

Jay Segrest was the type of guy that you could depend on, no matter how difficult the situation was.  In 1998, Jan and I put together a Beach to Bay relay team.  Beach to Bay was a six person marathon relay event with over 15 hundred teams.  It is held in Corpus Christi, Texas, during the month of May just as the heat gets over 90 degrees.  Each person runs 4.3 miles in their leg of the race.  Jan and I watched his son, John, run through the finish line at the Beach to Bay race the previous year and Jay said to me, “We should do this race next year, Primo!”  So, our families all began to train for Beach to Bay and we set up the assignments for who would run what legs in the race.

Jay drew the dreadful “Navy Base” portion of the team marathon.  He had to run through the Navy Base where there were no people to cheer you on, no trees, no shade and hardly any wind.  After training extensively over a year, Jay and his wife, Marty, were ready to run the race with our team.  I ran the first leg, so I had the rest of the day off to watch our runners and help give them support.  However, nobody can get through the Navy Base except the runners and I couldn't lend any support or monitor Jay's progress as he ran.  I knew that Jay was having some problems with one of his knees during his training sessions, and was somewhat concerned as to whether he would be able to complete his run.  But Jay seemed determined and was the kind of guy that wouldn't back out of anything once he committed himself to it.

As the first three runners on our team finished, I circled the Navy Base to watch for Jay to finish his leg of the marathon.  I hardly ever worried about my good friend Jay because I knew he could do anything if he put his energy to it.  As an ex-Korean veteran, he survived his duty in the Army.  As a businessman, Jay survived multiple business setbacks and never once filed for assistance from the Government.  As a father of three boys, he helped put each one through college generally at the same time.  Jay was not only a successful businessman, but he was also a great teacher.  He sold medical supplies to patients in need.  His specialty item was selling blood glucose monitoring devices.  He would take these monitors to his clients suffering with diabetes, show them how to properly use them and teach them about nutrition, health and wellness.  Jay was never discriminatory with who he gave council to.  He would go to the poorest neighbourhoods in Corpus Christi and help those with disease.  Jay was certainly one you could depend on, to be there whether you needed help or not.

As I waited at the end of the Navy Base, I began to worry even though my instincts told me not to.  Minutes ticked on and it became apparent that Jay had either quit or was having trouble.  All I could do is wait at the exchange zone!  Over an hour passed and still there were no signs of Jay, so I decided to run out past the exchange zone to see if I could find him.  After about two hundred yards, jogging in the opposite direction of all the rest of the runners coming in, I could see this faint figure of a man, badly wobbling, sweating profusely and determined to finish the race and hand the baton to our next runner.  I asked Jay if he was okay and he replied, “My knee is hurting badly, but I'm going to finish this thing if it takes me the rest of the day.”  I joined Jay and we jogged into the exchange zone together on the last hundred yards of his run.  That hundred yards became what I consider one of my fondest memories of my friend Jay.  You could see the struggle in his face and body, the struggle that had plagued him so many times in real life, but his eyes were alive and his soul was determined to finish the last few steps of his responsibility.  You see, Jay never was a quitter.  When faced with adversity, he always found a better way.

I was in Winter Park, Colorado at a Conference when my wife called and told me that Jay had passed away in his sleep.  My first thought was that of disbelief.  After all, here was a man of 55 years of age, in the prime of his life and in good health.   Jay died of a pulmonary embolism that basically led to a heart attack.  Some have titled this as the “widow-makers disease.”  To have a life so full end so quickly, without warning!  It was certainly a tragedy.  When I look back at the way Jay lived his life, I've come to believe that he just poured his heart out to so many people that maybe there wasn't much strength left in it to keep it going.  I sat in my hotel room, stunned, and my thoughts began to focus on what great lessons I had learned from my good friend who I most always referred to as “Primo,” the Spanish word for cousin.  As I cried in the shower, I kept thinking about how Jay would do his best for his family, friends, clients, and even his Beach to Bay team.  He was an inspiration in my life and I hope that I can somehow become one-half the man and father that Jay Segrest was.  Even though he lived a short life of 55 years, the memory of his kindness, nurturing and constant desire to excel will live on in the many people he touched.

On the day of Jay's funeral, there wasn't enough seats at the funeral home to accommodate everyone.  Many had to stand outside in the recessional.  The day before the funeral, I had the opportunity to view his body while he lay at rest.  As I approached his casket, I recalled the endless hours we spent fishing for ocean trout and redfish, and always coming home without for some reason.  The only time we did catch something, my dog ate the fish fillets left out on the cooler as Jay and I were cleaning the boat!  After all the lessons that Jay had taught me, a bouquet of flowers just did not seem like an appropriate gift to give to him on his final journey.  So, I bought Jay a gold plated fishing spoon with the inscription, “I'll miss you, Primo,” and tucked it neatly under his hip pocket.  I just hope he doesn't catch all the good ones and saves a few for me when it becomes my time to join him.


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