Keep on sharing memories of John Jay Iselin.
This is a page for family and friends to gather, share their memories,and celebrate the life of our close friend John Jay Iselin. Please feel ...
This is a page for family and friends to gather, share their memories,and celebrate the life of our close friend John Jay Iselin. Please feel free to celebrate his life with us by leaving your memories and photos.
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I worked under Jay, as he preferred to be called, during his tenure as the President of The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art. Jay knew everyone by his first name from the newest porter to the Chairman of the Board at Cooper Union and treated everyone with respect and kindness, no matter their position at the College. He knew so many people, his Rolodex in his outer office was the size of a small Ferris Wheel.
In my position at the College I would often write various letters for Jay; let's say that I learned a great deal about split infinitives and redundancies, one in particular was when I inadvertently used the term "new initiative", "that's redundant John, let's just say initiative".
I would always use a legal pad during meetings with Jay and in the margin would invariably write words and phrases he would use which i would look up upon returning to my office; Jay's vocabulary was incomparable. One of the most fascinating abilities he had was to talk at length extemporaneously with focus, wit, charm and purpose. He loved nautical metaphors which he used frequently and effectively.
I noticed that when attending a social function at the College he rarely if ever had any food or beverage in his hands. His hands were always free to greet guests, give someone a needed pat on the shoulder or even bring a guest a beverage or sandwich. When I visited him in his office he would ask if I would like coffee or soda and if I said yes he was off to the kitchen to get it, the President himself, he didn't ask a staff person to do it. To me this was an example of humility to be both admired and emulated. His egalitarian approach to life serves as an example to me to this day.
Jay's generosity of spirit and kindness will be a part of me for the remainder of my life. I have learned much from Jay both in my mind and my spirit and am deeply indebted to him and a better person for having know him; God bless and keep him.
Dear Lea: When I sat briefly with you and Jay at the Golden Years of Newsweek event, I told you my most vivid memory of the time I spent under Jay when he was Nation Editor of that magazine in its finest hours. I wanted to repeat the story so you can share it with your daughters because It warms the cockles of my heart as a child and parent and it will surely warm their hearts as children and parents. When I wrote in Nation, You invited me to dinner to get better acquainted with me , but when I came to your town house at cocktail hour Jay wasn’t home yet. He had had to go to California on business and was late in coming home. You served us, and we were drinking when Jay arrived.
I will always remember him coming in the door. He waved a present for your daughters. They had fallen in love with a song that I guess they heard on the radio, but it wasn’t available in New York record stores yet. Jay remembered all that and bought it for them in California. It was Procul Harum’s recording of “A Whiter Side of Pale.” Your girls were so excited, they had to hear it immediately, and that was the first time I heard that song that I love to play to this day – probably from the circumstance of that first hearing. Or maybe it Is because, as a 22-year-old woman said on You Tube, where I googled it for the right spelling of Procul Harum, “It is the greatest song of that period, and I certainly wish that songs like that were being written now, when I am the age to enjoy them to the maximum.” I was with my friend Kenneth Miller at a picnic yesterday and he said, “Why don’t you write that to Lea? So many of us remember Jay doing loving things like that.” So it isn’t just making sure that we could all see all of Shakespeare’s plays, and Evelyn Waugh’s “Brideshead Revisited”, and Monty Python – it’s so that his daughters could hear “A Whiter Shade of Pale” when they first fell in love with it – that’s the quintessential Joy of Jay. Sincerely, John Culhane
Jay and Lea Iselin have been our neighbors in Upstate NY for 5 years since we moved here from NYC and NJ. Their property abuts ours on both sides and we've never needed fences because they have always been so warm and welcoming.
We saw Lea and Jay over the years whenever they were up and either we or they were walking or driving up the road and we always stopped to chat and exchange neighborly notes.
I remember Jay once greeting me after I'd had a show or my art work in Hudson, NY with how thrilled they were to live next door to a "famous neighbor." I laughed and said to him "look who's talking" as we thought he was the famous neighbor.
We knew about Jay's role at Cooper Union from which my brother in law had graduated in the arts, many many years ago. However, we'd forgotten about his important role with Channel 13 of which we had been strong supporters all of our lives in NYC and NJ. As I look at his picture now I recall the kind and strong face and personality from Public TV.
My most wonderful visual memory of Jay will be of him raking and dragging leaves on a huge white sheet to dump them into a gully next to their house in the Fall. No matter what may have befallen him Jay was always delightfully cheerful, warm to the point of hugging and always interested in what the other person was doing or feeling.
We know he had enormous respect and affection from all of our neighbors and we will, personally, miss him sorely as I'm sure will others.
Our warmest and deepest condolences to Lea and the entire family.
Marlene and Bernie Vidibor
You are inspiration. You will be greatly missed.
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