In Memoriam Jay Gaynor

Jay Gaynor

We have lost a leading light.

Jay Gaynor, Director of Historic Trades, died suddenly yesterday morning.  Needless to say, all of us tradesmen and women here are in shock.

Jay possessed a consummate knowledge in his chosen field of historic technology.  But he wore his erudition easily.  And he encouraged us all to know more and find out more.  But not just having information was enough.  He always looked for ways to make giving that knowledge fun, interesting and very cool.

He was interested in everything, from tools to his hobby of longbow shooting.  And he was generous with his time and his knowledge.  And he had a disarming sense of humor that kept us knowing that we should be serious… but not deadly.

Probably his singular achievements, from our point of view: the 1995 award-winning exhibition Tools:  Working Wood in the Eighteenth Century with its accompanying book he co-authored with Nancy Hagedorn, all this done while he worked as Curator of Mechanical Arts for CW.

And of course, his major brainchild:  the Woodworking Symposium, held every January for the last 16 years, bringing so many of us, professionals, history buffs, and hobbyists together.

Most importantly, he expected and trusted all of us here to be professional and thorough, as employees, as artisans, as historians, as people.  That was how you earned his respect and his gratitude.

Jay was initially reluctant to take the reins of Director.  He enjoyed his work as a curator tremendously.  But as he subsequently proved, he was uniquely qualified for his position skippering this huge ship of Historic Trades, by his knowledge, his generosity and professional demeanor.  All with a light, but firm touch.

And who can forget his awful woodworker jokes sprinkled throughout each symposium session! And the requisite ceremonial removal of the necktie that signaled, “We’re on!” at the start of each one (applause every time) for the attendees.  And for us presenters, it signaled, “Here we go, oh gosh, we’re in trouble now!”

Ladies and Gentlemen, would you please rise up, drink a parting glass, and honor the man.

Thoughts and prayers for his friends and family.

Your comments and remembrances are welcome below.

The Hay Shop.


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19 Responses to In Memoriam Jay Gaynor

  1. Dan Lacroix says:

    What a tremendous and sad loss! Your description of Jay is so spot on, and brings back a flood of fond memories from the many 18th c. woodworking symposiums that I’ve attended. As you pointed out, Jay was always so generous and helpful with his knowledge whenever I consulted with him about period tools. His fantastic work has always been an inspiration for me. My condolences to you all who worked with him closely, and to his family.

    Dan Lacroix

  2. Mary says:

    I’m sure he has asked St. Peter to hold his tie and is telling him his latest joke…
    A cooper, a cook, a milliner, a carpenter, a journeyman silversmith, a master cabinetmaker, a blacksmith, a farmer, a basketmaker, a printer, a brickmaker, a shoemaker, a tailor, a weaver, a wheelwright, a wigmaker, a gunsmith all walk into a bar…

  3. Royden Daniels says:

    I am shocked and saddened with the news of Jay’s death.
    He will surely be missed by all of us woodworkers.
    Royden Daniels

  4. fred says:

    i met jay back in 2009 at the jan conference. he was a great guy and took the time to talk to a newbie like me. fair winds jay…condolences to the family.

  5. Jay was one of the best people I ever worked with. I can’t believe he is gone. I’ll treasure my days working with him on the annual woodworking conference. Fine Woodworking was lucky to have Jay as a partner. My deepest sympathies go out to Jay’s CW friends and family members.
    –Asa Christiana, FWW

  6. Bill T. says:

    When I saw the announcement yesterday, I was surprised and dismayed. I last saw and chatted with Jay just a couple months ago, when there was a M-WTCA meet at CW. I attended the annual January woodworking conference for several years, but unfortunately had to miss the last couple. I am hoping to make it to the next one. It just won’t be the same without Jay. My condolences to all Jay’s close friends and family. I know he absolutely will be missed by many.

  7. pfollansbee says:

    What sad news. I can’t imagine CW without him. It’s just now right. Thank you for a nice remembrance of Jay. He will be missed by many, many people. My thoughts go out to them all..
    Peter Follansbee

  8. Steve Latta says:

    This came as such a shock! Jay was such a great guy who always had joke – even if it made your eyes roll. He clearly knew his stuff and exactly what he wanted making him such an easy guy to work with. Over the years we had many talks and I liked his values, approaches to work and sense of dedication. He will be missed by so many. God’s speed. Steve Latta

  9. Martin says:

    Like Jefferson said about Franklin: ‘no one can replace him, Sir; I am only his successor.’ No one will ever replace Jay, we will miss him.

  10. Joe Maday says:

    I met Jay for the first time this past January at the woodworking conference. Truly a nice person and educator. He leaves big shoes to fill. I now feel cheated and saddened of this news. He will be missed. Condolences to Colonial Williamsbugh and His Family.

  11. Adam Cherubini says:

    Shocking, terrible news. The woodworking world can never be the same without Jay. His larger than life personality coupled with his willingness to share, his passion for his work… CW will have to fill the job vacancy, but Jay’s presence, how he inspired others can’t be replaced.

  12. Harlan R. Janes says:

    I had not realized Jay’s importance to my interest in historic trades until I learned he was no longer with us. His CW Symposium on 18th Century Woodworking will prove to be a turning point for many in our common interests, and it was all about Jay as the Ringmaster, but not about Jay. He would want us to move forward, and backwards, but it’s hard right now seeing the way forward without him behind the podium telling eye-turning bad jokes, and in the background being helpful to everyone interested in learning and discovering. He certainly made a difference in the lives of many of us in his own unique way. He will be missed. His life is valued. Godspeed, Jay. Well done.
    Harlan Janes, SAPFM member

  13. Curtis B. Rice says:

    I had the true pleasure of meeting Jay and dealing with him when he came to see a plane I had. He came to visit me three times and did get 2 planes from me on two of those occasions. Jay was such a gentleman, a professional and so infectious with his knowledge and demeanor. He was so thoughtful and later sent me an autographed copy of his book that included one of the planes he had gotten from me. I will now cherish that book even more and the memory of a truly fine gentleman. Condolences to his family, friends and co workers. Godspeed Jay.

  14. Marti Sterin says:

    I knew Jay from Ohio Village and last saw him two years ago when we had our first ever reunion. I was hoping to meet up with him when we are there next week. The whole Ohio Village family joins you in mourning your loss

  15. Marti Sterin says:

    Before Jay came here he was part of the Ohio Village family. I last saw him at our one and only reunion two years ago. We will all miss him

    • Marti Sterin says:

      I’m sorry for the duplicate – I didn’t realize that the first had been posted.

  16. Fran Panek says:

    All the “history people” in the extended Ohio Village family, and probably a good bit of Ohio, were both startled and saddened with the news that Jay had passed. I always loved his wit, his wisdom, and even his weirdness that could help clear up a befuddled moment, or just make me laugh for the sheer fun of it. He was a perfectionist with a heart – a tough act to follow, and one that will likely not be followed for a very long time. Rest well, old friend…we will miss you.

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