Jay's Tribute


Words can’t begin to describe how you and your family have helped me. It started years ago when Kate came into my life and helped me through so many times all because you raised her to be a kind loving young woman with more compassion and heart than could ever be expected from one person. As I told you on the phone I truly believe in my heart and soul that she is the reason I am able to do the things I do today here in Hawaii especially relating to my photography. Here is the story of how all that came to be.

Back in October of three years ago I was planning a big surprise day for Kate’s birthday. I knew she wanted to go on the Manta dive in Kona and how much it would mean to her so I told her not to schedule anything for that day and didn’t tell her the plans. We had seen mantas out on the water before and she was totally enthralled with them and said many times she wanted to do the night dive, so I scheduled us to dive on October 6th. Before that I happened to be in Kona and stopped by the Kona Oceanfront Gallery to see if they had any jewelry I could get for her also for her birthday. Knowing how picky she was especially about fashion and jewelry I knew my task would be hard finding something she would like. I found the Wyland Manta Ray necklace and immediately knew I had to get it for her. When I went to buy the necklace I started talking to Jill who was the store manager and we just hit it off and when I showed her some pictures on my phone of my photography she was very excited and said I should audition to get into the gallery’s next big show called “Best of the West.” I didn’t pay much attention to the thought as I had very little faith in my photography or ever becoming a professional photographer.

Her birthday came and I sat her down and gave her the necklace and her eyes lit up and she loved it. I told her that was just part of it and to grab her swimsuit because we were going to go diving with the real things that night and she went nuts. That night the mantas put on an amazing show and she was pretty scared because it was night and diving at night can be scary. For the whole hour dive she clung to my hand as we sat on the bottom of the ocean watching these amazing animals dance in a brilliant display before us. Even under water I could hear her scream with excitement. When we got back home she was on such a high and couldn’t stop talking about it. It brought me joy beyond compare to see your daughter, the girl who cares about everyone else so much, be able to enjoy herself on that special night.

Fast forward a few weeks and Kate and I were in Kona and I took her to the gallery to introduce Kate to Jill and show her how much she loved the necklace.  Jill started asking about if I had given any thought to printing some of my photography and entering the art show. Upon hearing this Kate went to town on me saying I had to do it and she would beat me senseless if I didn’t.  Her exact words were, “Listen to this lady, she makes a living off selling art and she says you will do great here, you have to be an idiot not to try and sell your photos.  If you don’t do this I’m gonna beat you.”  

From that day forward Kate was my number one supporter and kept the fire lit under me to follow through and get my photos printed up for the art show. Every time I would slack off she would give me a huge lecture about how amazing my stuff was and I needed to believe in myself. Every time I got a new print done and took it to show her for approval she would light up and say “that’s beautiful, where’s mine?” The whale breaching metal print that I brought to you was her favorite picture and she kept it over her bed everywhere she lived.  

It came time for the “Best of the West” art show and I took my photos to the gallery and the owner, Mark Hannah took interest in my work and said he would feature me in the show.  Kate was the first person I called and when I did she said “I don’t know why you are surprised, I’ve been telling you forever that your stuff is amazing and it will sell.”  Even then I was skeptical about trying to sell photos as I know how difficult being an artist can be here but she had my back every step of the way.  

The night of the show I had to be at the gallery early to set up and Kate was going to meet me there later. I was so nervous and stood by my photos sweating my ass off scared that people were judging me and my work. Then Kate walked in wearing a beautiful black dress, my favorite one, looking like the most beautiful woman I’d ever seen. She came up and gave me a kiss and told me to calm down and my photos looked great. I was so honored to stand next to her for the next 3 hours as people would come up and start talking to me about my photos. My nerves went away and I was able to enjoy the rest of the night.  There was a voting competition where guests were invited to write down the name of their favorite artist and at the end of the night awards would be given.  When Kate found out she grabbed a huge handful of blank ballots and began to fill them out with my name.  I had no idea until she came up to me and confessed with that “guess what I just did” smile and all I could do was laugh. I didn’t win the competition or even place in the top three. However I sold more photos that night than all the other artists combined. This led to the owner of the gallery inviting me to stay on as one of the full-time featured artists. From that point forward I have continued to grow and expand my collection in the gallery and continue to sell many pieces.

If I had never gone into that gallery to buy that necklace I would have never met Jill. I would have never been invited to enter the art show. I would have never taken Kate down to the gallery to show off how beautiful she looked wearing the necklace to Jill. Kate would have not have found out I had been given the opportunity to do something great with my photos. I would have never sold more art the night of the show than all the other artists. I would never have had the joy of sitting there watching the girl I love so much look up at me with such hope and happiness.

She saw something in me that I would have never done on my own. My art wouldn’t bring happiness to the people who buy it without the support and drive she instilled in me. She had faith in me when I had none and her drive and determination to see me succeed conquered over my fears and inhibitions.

I pray these words bring you some comfort and peace. Please share this story with any family or friends if you want.

As I come to the one year anniversary of being a full-time artist in the gallery and the annual art show approaches I know I won’t be alone that night.

I also want you to know that as my company continues to grow and expand I have been given the inspiration to do something in honor of Kate in the continued effort to help others. I would like to take a portion of my sales profits and donate them to an organization that could aid others. I was thinking something along the lines of helping women who have been abused or something to do with counseling for youth or suicide prevention. Please let me know if you know of any organizations or the best way that I could continue on Kate’s love and compassion in a way that best honors her.

Thank you for everything and always being there for me.

Love Jay

You have forever changed my life. You were my light in the darkness shining bright. The world is truly not the same without you. You were my best friend, inspiration, confidant, and partner. You paddled into my life one day and have forever changed who I am. Through your love, prayers, and unwavering support you helped me through some of my life’s hardest battles. I thank God for every second I was blessed to spend with you.
— Jay