Jay was a member of Central Christian Church in O'Fallon, the American Legion, VFW, Masonic Lodge 576, and the Telephone Pioneers of America. Jay enlisted in the U.S. Army at 17 and served on occupation duty in Japan at the end of WW II. Following his U.S. Army service, Jay enrolled in college back in Indiana, but his father's unexpected, accidental death prompted him to return to military service -- this time in the U.S. Air Force -- to support his mother, which he did faithfully and unselfishly for many years. Jay later served in Japan, Korea, Greenland, Norway, and he had four assignments at Scott AFB, allowing him to remain close to his widowed mother in southern Indiana. His Norway assignment facilitated meeting his future bride, Una Aabo of Aarhus, Denmark, and they arrived in O'Fallon with their infant son in 1964.
Jay had a natural talent for electronics maintenance and after 21 years of honorable military service, he retired from the U.S. Air Force as a master sergeant in 1968. He went on to a second electronics maintenance career, this time with the Southwestern Bell Telephone Company in St. Louis, and retired in 1991. His hard work ensured his two children had an opportunity he didn't -- to go to college. There wasn't a job Jay couldn't do; building his mother's first indoor bathroom, stringing barbed wire fence, maintaining his own cars, restoring a dormant well. He always worked hard -- because he had always been self-reliant -- and he never complained. Photos of Jay with stringers of Norwegian trout and stringers of catfish, bass, and crappie from Sportsmen's, Washington County, Carlyle, and other local lakes are testament to how much he enjoyed fishing. They also attest to his fishing prowess. Jay was also known for his abundant backyard vegetable garden, and took particular pleasure in giving away the fruits of his garden labors.
Jay enjoyed family camping trips and long walks with his family in O'Fallon's wooded areas and around Sportsmen's Lake. He knew where the morel mushrooms were hiding and he shared wild grapevine swings with neighborhood children -- to their delight. In his later years he enjoyed taking walks on the streets near his and Una's home.
Jay was a soft-spoken, unassuming man with a wonderful sense of humor, and he always had a kind word and an equally kind gesture for others. He also never met a dog he didn't like, and every dog liked Jay. Even in the last few weeks of his life, he sang to his loving wife, Una, daily, and he always -- always -- told his family he loved them and was proud of them. Before his speech waned, Jay made a point of saying he tried to be kind to others. He was! Jay walked with Jesus Christ throughout his life and was blessed by almost 50 years of marriage to Una, and by over 40 years of close friendship with the Burroughs, Lovett, McIntosh, Riley, and Boyd families.
He was preceded by his parents Geurnard and Lillian Mae, nee Burnett, Harrel.
Jay is survived by his loving wife, Una, nee Aabo, Harrel of O'Fallon, whom he married on Dec. 2, 1961, a son Dane E. (Gillian) Harrel and their son Adam, all of O'Fallon, a daughter Suzanne E. (George E.) Chapman and their children Emily, Graham and Aaron Chapman all of Cumming, Ga., two sisters, Jessie Lee Myers and husband Bob Hudson of Riverside, Calif., Janet Mae Harrel and husband Glenn Stone of Vicksburg, Ind., and many dear and special friends.
Memorials, in honor of Jay, may be made to Central Christian Church or Hospice of Southern Illinois. Condolences may be extended to the family at www.schildknechtfh.com .
Visitation was be held Thursday, Oct. 20 from 4-7 pm at Central Christian Church, 1420 Illini Drive, O'Fallon, Ill.
A Celebration of Jay's life was Friday, Oct. 21, 2011 at 10 a.m. at Central Christian Church, O'Fallon, Ill., with the Rev. Darrin McCormick officiating.
Burial was at O'Fallon City Cemetery, O'Fallon, Ill.
Arrangements entrusted to Schildknecht Funeral Home and Cremation Services, O'Fallon, Ill.