Kevin Jay Jolly
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JOLLY, Kevin Jay Born February 11, 1957 in Seattle, Washington, Kevin was only 63 when his heart gave out on June 14, 2020. He was a kind, generous person, a brilliant thinker and researcher, a charismatic storyteller, inventive writer, data czar, biker and ukulele teacher. At his core Kevin was an incredible organizer who liked nothing more than bringing people together to have fun, always wearing bright Hawaiian shirts made by his wife. A childhood episode in eastern Washington state foretold Kevin's future as a careful planner. He was about 11 when birds began plaguing his family fruit orchard and his father offered to pay Kevin for each bird he could pick off with his trusty BB gun; a dime for each of the first ten, then a nickel apiece. Kevin saw a money-making venture and crept out before dawn to set up a pup tent in the perfect position amid trees loaded with ripe fruit. He spent the entire day on his back with the gun barrel sticking out of the tent picking off one bird after another. Father arrived home after work to find his beaming son standing over a pile of 60 birds and holding out his hand for $3.50, seven times his normal weekly allowance. Luckily for the birds, Kevin's initial success resulted in the payment offer being rescinded. When Kevin was a sophomore in high school the Jolly family moved to San Antonio, Texas, where he later graduated from UTSA, earning a degree in Anthropology and English. His intellectual development in high school and college was shaped by youthful indiscretions and misadventures of many sorts, providing great fodder for future stories. UTSA archaeological field schools in Texas and Louisiana led to his first professional career as a dirt archaeologist in the late 1970s and early 1980s. He took part in many "contract" archaeology projects in Texas, New Mexico and the southeastern US, often in rural settings in advance of flood-control dams and military base development. Abysmal field and living conditions made for enduring friendships and fueled a wealth of archaeological "war stories" he retold quite enthusiastically the rest of his life. Kevin was an extraordinary storyteller armed with remarkable memory and articulate passion. No matter how many times his friends had heard a story, they always looked forward to the next performance. After a beer or two, Kevin would play off a convenient segue and spin the story yet again, echoing well-practiced lines as he led us to the wry and witty punchline and we folded over with laugher. He was a keen participant observer in all of his stories and never the hero. Kevin took great delight in regaling his audience by dissecting his foibles, recent and long bygone. We listened raptly as a simple home repair job led to his descent to a new level of personal hell, each meticulously detailed miscalculation seeming dumber than the last. In 1984 Kevin went on an archaeological dig in New Mexico and met the project historian, Karen Sorrell. He proposed 10 days after their first date and they were married 6 months later. In the years that followed whenever anyone asked him what was the best thing he ever discovered on a dig, he would respond "My wife". Kevin and Karen bought their first computer as a wedding gift to themselves and Kevin dove in headfirst, soon learning to repair, build, and program early desktops. He took a job with a San Antonio publisher who specialized in glossy airline magazines. For several years Kevin took pride in editing South Texas Outdoors, a FREE newsprint magazine featuring fishing, hunting, and camping stories. The first issue headline story captures the flavor: "Hoppin' for Catfish: Summertime Bait for Surefire Fun", an eyewitness account of using headlight-captured grasshoppers to catch catfish on the Frio River. In the late 1980s and early 1990s he worked as a technical writer and taught himself programming and database skills. He also took a year-long sabbatical to write his first novel and spend time with their young son, Donald Emory Jolly. In 1993 the family moved to Austin and Kevin returned to archaeology, working for the Texas Archeological Research Laboratory at UT Austin, most notably on the Wurzbach Parkway project in San Antonio. Kevo used his computing and organizational skills as co-leader and "data czar" of the Higgins Experiment, an innovative archeological excavation that captured 3D field data on 20,000 burned rocks (spent cooking stones). This sparked the 2003 book he co-authored, Archaeology By Design (Altamira Press). In the late 1990s Kevin directed the Historic Sites Atlas Project for the Texas Historical Commission, developing a comprehensive GIS database of Texas archaeological and historical sites that remains a powerful research tool today. In the early 2000s he served as the vice president of technology at RW3 Technologies in Austin. He then took another sabbatical and spent several years writing three more novels. In 2006 he began his final paid position at Apple where he served as an accounting systems designer and programmer until he retired in 2019. He earned a reputation as being one of the few people who could be counted on to tell others NO when their ideas were transparent wastes of time. Kevin could not let unadulterated BS go unchallenged and he skewered the foolhardy, especially those in positions of authority. Not all of Kevin's bosses had the wisdom to fully endorse his insightful analysis, very constructive criticism, and helpful suggestions for improvement. As for himself, Kevin was admired as an inspiring boss who led by diligent example. He hired good people, trained them up, and let them at it with strong support. Most were inordinately loyal and remained friends for life. Much of what defined Kevin's later years stemmed from his wide-ranging interests and passions. He didn't just know a lot of facts, he mastered complex subjects so thoroughly that he could easily and accurately convey the essence to the unwashed. Whenever he took up a new pastime, he followed familiar pattern. He researched the matter thoroughly, acquired the necessary infrastructure and worked to become a hands-on expert. In 2006 he bought his first Ural, a three-wheeled kickstart motorcycle with a sidecar. The workhorse Ural was used by the Russians along the Eastern Front during World War II and designed by reverse-engineering 1930s German BMWs. Urals remained in use and little changed across rural Russia throughout the 20th Century. Kevin loved the history and the simple, sturdy design made for do-it-yourself mechanics. He explored Texas backroads on his Ural, traveling on highways only when unavoidable. He would do his homework and precisely plot a zig-zagging circuit chosen to take gravel roads to see bygone-era general stores, painted churches, and other historical curiosities, always stopping along the way for outstanding brisket, hot links, ribs, burgers, or pies. His website Old Texas 20: Winding Through Texas History has illustrated accounts of many such trips, more than one of which featured emergency roadside repairs. [http://oldtexas20.com] For several years he shared this passion by organizing Ural National Rally Day events that were like scavenger hunts. Participants across the country could earn points for accomplishing tasks like riding in the rain or snow (e.g., 5 points per km), distances driven on unpaved roads, number of breakdowns and so on. Participants had several days to send in documented proof in the form of time-stamped photos and mapped routes. Kevin would go through his emails, tally the points and announce winners in various categories. In 2014 he took another U-turn and bought his first Ukulele, an instrument tailor-made for Kevin's zeal. Like always, he plunged deep and began absorbing everything uke there was to know. He bought and repaired ukes and built his own from scratch. He joined the Austin Ukulele Society (AUS) which meets once a month, which wasn't often enough. So, along with AUS friends Kevin formed the weekly Tuesday Ukulele Group ("TUG"), which is still going strong [http://tuesdayukes.org/]. He also organized quarterly "Uke-alongs" with many folks in the Austin ukulele scene, performed at open mic events, and related activities such as a ukulele polka group and an old time jug band. He traveled to ukulele workshops and Canada to became a certified instructor for elementary children. And he acquired several dozen ukes of every style tenor, bass, concert, etc. He realized that ukuleles are simple, easy-to-play instruments that make people happy. All it took was encouragement and ukes. So, together with his TUG buddies he prepared ukes as "loaners" and shared them at the monthly AUS meetings and at events in libraries and senior centers with a goal of putting a uke in every willing hand. Upon retirement he hatched a not-for-profit plan to share the happy instrument with his fellow senior citizens. Several times a week he took his ukes to seniors and conducted what proved to be very effective physical and mental therapy sessions. He demonstrated that anybody could play and sing along. No pressure, "just hold the strings down with this hand and strum along with the other, like this." When they mentioned a favorite song from any era, Kevin would research the tune and create a uke version they would play on his next visit. Making people happy through engaging social activities brought Kevin joy throughout his life. Kevin Jay Jolly is survived by wife Karen and son Don, his parents William "Don" Jolly and Charlotte Ticknor Jolly of Bryan, Tx, his sister Carol Manthei of Bryan Tx, and numerous nieces and nephews. All who knew Kevin can remember him well by sharing the glow of a good story or song with friends old and new. When conditions allow, Kevin's friends and family will gather to celebrate his exceptional life by sharing stories, songs, and beers. Remembrances may be shared at www.wcfish.com


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Published in Austin American-Statesman on Jun. 25, 2020.
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Memories & Condolences
Guest Book sponsored by Weed-Corley-Fish Funeral Home North - Austin
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3 entries
June 30, 2020
Kevin was such a special person. Prior to the quarantine, he and a few of his TUG friends would come and play the uke and sing along with our residents at Westminster Health Center every week. Here is the first of a few sing along sessions he recorded for us (and others) to use while in quarantine. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dMQ_Z3oGGPg My condolences on the family's loss and for sharing him with us.
Monica
Family
June 29, 2020
Such a beautiful remembrance of Kevin. He was a wonderful light and lift to Lamar Senior Activity Center. Over the past year he shared his joy of ukulele and teaching with a vey enthusiastic group of students. They would arrive at the center on Thursday mornings, with ukuleles in hand, often extra early for class, and happy for the upcoming experience. Soon Kevin would arrive and the music of voices and played instruments would fill our hallways and lobby. The songs were uplifting for those of us working; we enjoyed the good energy coming from the class! At the close of each session, Kevin spent time with individual students as needed, he was a great inspiration to each one and always encouraging. His great love for what he was sharing was evident. Participants left with a smile on their face and always commented that the class was wonderful!
We will truly miss Kevin and are very grateful to have been graced by his involvement here at the Lamar Senior Activity Center.
Lamar Senior Activity Center
Friend
June 26, 2020
The kindest, most inclusive and warmest leader, teacher, mentor and friend. I learned from him, I looked up to him and enjoyed making music with him at TUG, the Brewtorium and our own little jug band, christened "Steam Chicken" by Kevin. My life is fuller and richer for knowing him and I miss my friend.
JD Stettin
Friend
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