At the age of 90, Jay Anderson was still walking the halls of our museum and giving tours to visitors. In his golden years, Jay did not slow down as he volunteered as a docent at the museum.
Jay's mind was so sharp that he helped us develop the display of the Miles and Sons Trucking Co. in our current "Merced on the Move" exhibit. It was just last month at the exhibit's opening night that his presentation of the history of Miles and Sons drew a crowd of more than 100 people.
A month later, on May 7, Jay Anderson quietly passed on, leaving us his love for Merced, his passion for history and the smile of a humble man. He was 84 when he joined the museum's volunteer team. His sister Jewel Blair, a former member of Merced County Historical Society Board of Directors as well as a docent, introduced him to our museum family. He was an ideal fit, a Merced High School graduate, a World War II veteran, a retiree who knew and loved Merced history, and an active member of the community.
Jay teamed up with Karen Chastain and Hahn Knutsen and staffed the museum every second Wednesday of the month. The three of them had such a wonderful time that the news of Jay's passing broke their hearts. Two months earlier, Karen and Hahn staged a surprise birthday party for Jay on one of their workdays. The friendship developed at the museum kept him going, even though the thought of retiring from the museum came up several times. Jay always said that he was here because the "girls" took good care of him.
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No question, Jay was a fixture at the museum. Although he never held any official position at the museum or society, he was well respected and admired by everyone because of his sincere love for the community.
In a recent interview, when asked about his impression of Merced, Jay responded, "To me, it's a unique place. I love it. In 1940 when we were married, we moved to San Francisco and lived there for most of the year and decided this is not life and came back to Merced. You can take the boy out of the country, but you can't take the country out of the boy, you know. And I wouldn't leave it for anything."
Jay believed that while working at the museum he would be able to increase the awareness and appreciation of Merced history.
This sentiment was also exhibited in Jay's dedication to his careers, especially with the Miles and Sons. Working for the firm for 23 years, Jay went through the good times and bad times with the company. In his memoir, he writes, "The more than 23 years I was employed by Bill Miles and Patrick Nolet were the most pleasant years of my working life. I was not treated just as an employee, but more like a member of the family. When W. R. Miles died in the '50s I was honored to be asked to be a pallbearer at his funeral."
We are deeply saddened by the loss of our museum family member. We still can see his tall figure in the museum hallways and his genuine smile. Farewell, Jay! We will remember you. Our prayers and thoughts go to your family, especially your wife Bea.