Jay and his boat sailed out of our earthly lives May 14, 2013. Final phone calls to family were on May 13, at sea on calm waters, content and watching the dolphins with a small bird that had just landed in his boat. Ill-timed events occurred on the voyage; the trimaran brought his body ashore on May 25. God was with Jay on that trip so he wasn't lost or alone.
Jay was Alaskan to the core. First born to Jeanne and Ken Rydberg, Jay grew up on the best rhubarb and hockey in the world. A graduate of North Pole High School and University of Alaska Anchorage, he excelled in hockey, leadership and laughter. Any drive around Fairbanks or Anchorage reveals Jay; he added color to this world on innumerable painted exterior walls across Alaska and Washington.
Jay had meticulous skill; his painting and remodeling work endures. If Jay, a registered nurse, was ever your nurse, you never forgot him. He went the extra mile for many people. Jay was accustomed to pain, yet his life was no tragedy. He had a knack for learning the hard way and living boldly. Faith was his cornerstone. His brilliant sense of humor and timing kept us all laughing hard. His dance moves - unforgettable.
Jay's Crohn's caused him abdominal pain for two decades, repeated hospitalization and surgery to remove his guts - and he never complained. He responded to the surgical return of his good health in 2012, with a triumphant, celebratory back flip off the bridge downtown in Fairbanks. Twice. The man knew how to make a splash!
Jay cherished his son. For proximity to Justin, Jay moved to Florida last year. Seeking out wise sailors, he soaked up sailing knowledge like a sponge. Said to be immune to seasickness, he experienced frightening waters at sea and stood at the hull doing what needed to be done. Jay dreamed of taking his boat to Haiti to do missions work.
Jay was tan, strong and free of physical pain. Jay described sailing as "addicting, relaxing, mesmerizing, occasionally frightening, and altogether wonderful." While listening to MercyMe, watching the stars under his bimini, Jay phoned Justin and wrote letters home to Fairbanks.
He flourished in Florida. Jay chuckled at the unofficial motto of his new home, "Key West: where the weird go pro." When an injury resulted in loss of vision to his right eye a few years ago, Jay made the best of his necessary eye patch. In Key West, he even bought a pirate blouse and vest to make people smile. He was a hit with the tourists.
Jay was a listener; intently he listened and he cared. He never forgot your name. In fact, Jay didn't need to know you or your name to be willing to help you. He gave first, and didn't ask questions later.
Jay is survived by his pride and joy, Justin, and former wife, Leeana Polemio Smith, of Fort Myers, Fla., who tenderly cared for him in sickness and more sickness and in health. Jay is also survived by Fairbanks family, Ken Rydberg, his devoted dad; doting sister, Jill (Jeff) Lesseig; nieces, Izzy and Camille, and nephew, Jimbo.
We shall all ride bikes on Badger Road, and run up Browns Hill and Angel Rocks and sit naturally in hot springs on his behalf.
Jay was preceded in death, a year-to-the-day, by his mother and No. 1 fan, Jeanne Rydberg, resident of heaven.
Amazingly, Jay wrote the best eulogy his mom could have ever asked for while watching "Transformers" with his son. He treasured family time; he had no problem saying "I love you."
Jay's charted course was always with God. We rest assured he is enjoying a far better adventure.
A memorial celebration will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday, June 29, 2013, at Bethel Church.