Jon Shay was a community icon and a blessing

Shay had wealth of sports knowledge, led the Dansville Rotary Club Tip-Off Tournament

By Frank Williams
The Express
Jon Shay in his Dansville office, pictured in September 2017.

DANSVILLE — Needless to say I’m not alone in sharing the sadness in learning of the recent passing of Jon Shay.

Yet I rejoice in knowing that his earthly and physical sufferings and setbacks have come to an end. I couldn’t think of any other words that would accurately describe this wonderful man, but to say he was indeed a community icon, and a blessing.

When I came to Dansville in October of 1978 I didn’t know anybody except Dave Mance who had hired me at radio station WDNY. To be honest, I can’t pinpoint the first time I’d ever met Jon Shay, but I’ll bet you dollars to doughnuts that it was at a ballgame we were broadcasting somewhere. Through my 42-plus years here I’d see him many, many times, and God knows that it was always a joy to chat with him. Whether it was at church, a ballgame, or just at Dunkin’ Donuts in the morning, he was always friendly and personable, and was quite well informed. He certainly was a wellspring of knowledge when it came to Dansville sports. If Jon gave me a historical fact along the sports line, I’d always be sure to mention it during a broadcast because I knew it came from a very good source.

I’ve seen a lot of people do a lot of nice things for people in many, many regards … but Jon Shay was the epitome of community service. It's funny, that every time something “positive” or “beneficial” happened in the area, I would always find out that Jon Shay was behind it, or involved in it in some way. Whether it was athletics, the hospital, the Rotary Club, or any other beneficial local project Jon was “all in” on it. I mean “ALL IN.” Jon would always give it his “all” and then some. He always worked tirelessly for the good of others. I always thought that the “H” for his middle name stood for “humanitarian." It should have.

MORE: 'A part of everything': Community pays tribute to Jon Shay, a pillar of Dansville

I recall when the Dansville Rotary Club Tip-Off (Basketball) Tournament became a reality, it was Jon, Jim Day and countless other Rotarians, volunteers and sponsors who made it happen. But it takes a good leader … and in Jon’s case its easy to say “GREAT” leader! People in general, coaches, players and fans commented so many times down through the years … ”What a well run tournament that is!” The thought rushed through my head … ”Gee, that’s no surprise … look who’s running it … Jon Shay.”

I don’t think I’ve consistently attended a tournament or any such event that celebrated “everybody!”  The players, coaches, cheerleaders … everybody got a t-shirt, or a pin, or something … every year!  Each time we’d broadcast those games I’d look at the advertising book and think “WOW!” Jon had a way of making people “want” to get involved. I think that just knowing that Jon was behind it was enough. You knew it was a “good cause” if Jon Shay was an advocate.

The generations of the Shay family should all be very proud. All of them that I’ve ever met have always had a place in my heart. Jon and Linda’s family are no exception …they’ve done a great job of raising their girls and grandchildren for sure! Jon always had a warm way about him and a great smile too! He simply loved people, and loved to work on their behalf. My tongue would go dry attempting to name all the things he’s done in his legendary lifetime.

There is certainly a “hole in my heart” as so many times as I would  see Jon and say to myself, ”What a good man and a great human being.” If we could have only “cloned” him! No, there never will be another Jon Shay … but I can honestly say that everyone who knew him was blessed in some way by him, or by something good he’s done in the community to help them. Jon truly lived by the J.O.Y. theory….”JESUS” (first), “Others” (next), and (finally) Yourself. Almighty God thank you for blessing us with the caring and giving life of Your servant, and our great friend … Jon Shay … amen!