N.J. "JAY" DEMERATH III
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DEMERATH, N.J. III "Jay" Devoted father, husband, brother, grandfather, uncle, and friend, passed away on February 5, 2021. He was a cheerful and positive presence, and took delight in people of all kinds. He would greet people at the door with a hearty, "Well, look who's here!" He was a researcher, a writer, an administrator, and always a teacher – constantly trying to help his sons be more concise writers, more interesting conversationalists, and better close harmony singers. He also wanted them to develop jump shots and spin serves. Born in 1936 in Boston, Jay attended the Lawrenceville School, and then Harvard College, where he met his wife Judy Richie Demerath in the glee club. He earned his PhD at University of California, Berkeley. He first taught at University of Wisconsin – Madison, where his Introduction to Sociology course, taught with lifelong friend Gerry Marwell, was picked up by Wisconsin Public Radio. After serving as Chair of the Department of Sociology at Wisconsin, he accepted a two year stint as Executive Director of the American Sociological Association, and in 1972 he became Professor and Chair of the Department of Sociology at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, where he would remain for rest of his career. The common focus of over a dozen books, and countless articles and presentations was how religion and politics intersected. He first explored this in the American Civil Rights movement after gaining permission from Martin Luther King, Jr. and Andrew Young. The book that emerged from the study, written with Gerry Marwell and Mike Aiken, was entitled, Dynamics of Idealism: White Activists in a Black Movement (1971). After numerous other projects, including a local case study of Springfield, MA, with Rhys Williams (1992), Jay took his interests to a much broader scale, undertaking a global comparison of 14 secular states that allow for religious politics. He published his findings in Crossing the Gods: World Religions and Worldly Politics (2001). Jay was also a forerunner in the study of the non-religious. He coined the term "sacralization" to refer to "the process by which the secular becomes sacred or other new forms of the sacred emerge" (2007, p.66). Later in his career he became the Emile Durkheim Distinguished Professorship of Sociology at UMass. He relished wordplay. When he retired, he changed the title in his email signature from "Distinguished" to "Extinguished" Professor. He was a loyal friend, corresponding with, hosting, visiting, and supporting, people from all over the world, and from the many different chapters of his life. A lifelong New England sports fan, his sons are still coming to terms with the fact that his favorite Boston Celtic was Danny Ainge. He was a stylish and vigorous dancer. His partners often left the floor with wan smiles as though they had just successfully survived a cycle in the washing machine. But Jay knew we all deserved credit for surviving the cycles of life's washing machine. He was an unabashedly enthusiastic cheerleader of his sons, daughters-in-law, nieces and nephews, grandchildren, and friends; sharing their latest news and exploits with all who would listen. Jay was predeceased by his loving wife Judy, who passed away in 2011, and to whom he was devoted during their 51 year marriage. He will live on in the hearts and minds of his sons and their wives, Loren and Janine, Peter and Ellen, and Ben and Mary; his brother Jeff and his sister Julie; and his grandchildren, Oliver, Rafaela, Olivia, Emma, Gus, Annie, Sophia, and Jacoby. There will be a virtual Memorial for Jay via Zoom on March 13 at 4 p.m. EST. Donations in his name may be made to the American Friends Service Committee, www.afsc.org or the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion, sssreligion.org His family would also cherish your thoughts and memories of him. Please share them with us at: douglassfuneral.com


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Published in Boston Globe from Mar. 2 to Mar. 7, 2021.
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March 8, 2021
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