Jay Van Vechten had such an engaging personality it was hard to turn him down. That became obvious after thousands of people showed up every spring, 12 years after he and Lowell founded the Boating and Beach for People With Disabilities here in Boca. That will be Jay’s legacy. He died over the weekend at 75.
Most people who move to Boca later in life don’t leave a legacy. Their important work is behind them. They move here to retire, or they’re busy raising a family.
If you Google Jay’s name, you’ll see him pictured with celebrities as the New York PR man he was. He didn’t talk about it unless you had a similar background. Like most Boca people, he didn’t look back. Looking forward was another story entirely.
Putting the bash together, person by person, piece by piece, was never easy. The logistics alone were a challenge. So was enough money to cover the costs. But if you go to the web site, you’ll see more than 60 sponsors and partners eventually climbed on board. A national foundation became the presenting sponsor. It’s mantra is “the largest, free fun event for people with disabilities in the country.”
The last meeting before the bash this March went smoothly. Everybody knew his or her job. They had enough food for the free barbecue. They had enough captained boats for the free boat rides up the Intracoastal. The music acts were in place. That was all Jay and Lowell and their army of “happy to do this” volunteers.
Jay was on a walker from a fall in 2001 that probably changed his life. “Oh, poor me” was not in his frame of reference. But it’s apparent why he started the bash. He identified with disabled people who didn’t have access. Now, thanks to him, one day a year they do.
His last Facebook post was 12:20 a.m. July 10. There’s already a bevy of sad salutes to him. No surprise. This is a man who will be missed. Whose later life made a difference. We hope this pandemic is over soon so those of us who knew him can celebrate who he was and what he left behind.
By Marci Shatzman