As many of you know by now, Jay Underwood, a member of the East Hants Writers group from its conception, has passed away. Personally I will remember Jay for his vast knowledge, keen editing eye, quick wit, wry humour and, above all, his ability to charge forward with whatever project he started in spite of his health issues. He was truly an inspiration.
Julian “Jay” Underwood: 1958 – 2014
Julian “Jay” Paul Underwood — 55 died January 07, 2014 at his home in Elmsdale, Nova Scotia from complications of Type One (Juvenile) diabetes, which he contracted at the age of twenty-five. He believed his condition was brought on by the toxic chemicals in Agents Orange and White, to which he had been exposed at CFB Gagetown NB, and Camp Aldershot NS when he served in the Reserves. Though he joined the Agent Orange class action lawsuit, he was never compensated by the Canadian government.
Born at Royal Air Force Hospital Changi, Singapore, April 16, 1958 he was the younger son of Peter and Joan (Joels) Underwood of New Glasgow. Jay was educated in Singapore, England and Canada, and graduated from East Pictou Rural High School with honours at the age of seventeen in 1975. An amateur geologist, mineral and fossil collector, he earned his “O Level” certificate in geology from Oxford University at the age of fifteen, while a student at Wallingford Grammar School, England.
He attended St. Francis Xavier University, and received his diploma in journalism from Holland College of Applied Arts and Technology, Charlottetown PEI in 1979. He later received additional certificates in journalism from the University of Western Ontario (law) and Ryerson Polytechnic (design).
He began his career in journalism as night shift proof reader/obituary writer at the Thomson Newspapers Guardian Patriot in Charlottetown, before becoming a reporter/photographer with the New Glasgow (NS) Evening News. While working in New Glasgow he was made a fire warden for District 16 (East River Valley Volunteer Fire Department.)
Jay met his wife Kathy Patriquin when he was transferred to the Truro (NS) Daily News in 1980. While in Truro he served as information officer for 1st BN, The Nova Scotia Highlanders (North) before moving to Timmins, ON in 1982, where Jay was named city editor of the Daily Press. After only five months in Northern Ontario they returned to Nova Scotia, where Jay became editor and publisher of the Springhill Parrsboro Record. The newspaper won several Atlantic Community Newspaper Association (ACNA) awards.
While in Springhill he served on the town’s industrial adjustment committee and was a member of the Chamber of Commerce. He served on the first board of the shelter for abused women in Amherst.
In 1987 Jay was then moved to Elmsdale to take control of the Enfield Weekly Press, which he had helped to get started by selling some of the first advertising in the community newspaper. He was briefly a member of the East Hants Chamber of Commerce, and an early member of East Hants Crimestoppers.
He acted as statistician and, briefly, manager of the East Hants Jr. A Penguins of the Maritime Jr. A Hockey League until diabetes began to take his sight. Jay previously had worked as statistician for the East Hants Labbatt Dry Ice Penguins of the Atlantic Senior Hockey League. He served on the board of East Hants Arena Ltd. when that group raised funds for the construction of the new arena in Lantz.
Jay was hired by the Halifax Daily News in 1990 as senior copy editor, and one of the first to work on the Sunday edition of that newspaper. He was a member of the newspaper’s editorial board and wrote many editorials and “op-ed” pieces. He was a member of the class action lawsuit by employees of Southam Newspapers to recover pensions and benefits owed to them. He was disabled by diabetes in 1992, but continued his writing by publishing fourteen books on Nova Scotia railway history. He established Pennydreadful Publishing in 2010, and assisted four other writers to become published.
He was a frequent contributor to the Canadian Railroad Historical Association’s journal Canadian Rail, and had served as president of the Nova Scotia Railway Heritage Society since 2003.
Jay was appointed as a member-at-large on the board of trustees of the Public Archives of Nova Scotia in 2011. He was a long-serving judge of the Colchester-East Hants Regional Library’s Ada Mingo Teen Writing Awards, and acted as facilitator of the library’s independent writers’ round-table. Jay was a staunch supporter of the community value of the Elmsdale branch of the library.
Predeceased by his father in 2012, Jay is survived by his wife Kathy, sons Andrew (Nelia) in Comox, B.C., and Derek (Andrea) in Enfield; by his mother in New Glasgow; sisters Jane (Vida) Gay’s River; Sara (Craig) Stratford, P.E.I.; brother Simon, Sylvester N.S., his nephew Jeremy Livingston (Rebecca) and three nieces, Amy Dewtie (Jeff); Jessica Livingston-Thomas (Leighton) and Helen Livingston, his father in-law and mother in law, Charles and Beverly Patriquin, sister-in-law Kelly Steeves (Roy), their sons, Johnathon and Justin, their grandson Jackson, and Kathy’s grandmother Florence Palmer Harnish of Wentworth N.S.
A celebration of Jay’s life will be held at Ettingers Funeral Home in Shubenacadie, Nova Scotia on Saturday, January 18, 2014 at 2:00 p.m. Jay’s body was cremated and his remains shall be interred at a later date in the Presbyterian cemetery at Springville, Pictou County, his first home in Canada. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Nova Scotia Railway Heritage Society, the Canadian Diabetes Association or to a charity of your choice at any branch of the Bank of Montreal.