Jay Kerley, 43, of Sugar Grove, passed away Monday, October 31, 2022.
From even before he arrived at birth, Jay Kerley made it his way to share his joy by getting one over on people, even surprising the doctors and his parents who were expecting a baby girl. And once Jay’s younger brother and sister were born, he had a captive audience for his antics. His brother, Phillip, often finding himself on the receiving end of Jay’s ‘humor’ such as the time when Jay coated him from head to toe with baby powder, then later painted his face with ashes from the fire, leaving only his eyes not blackened.
Another of Jay’s traits that became readily apparent during his childhood was his hard-headedness. Jay’s father, Jeff, recalls that when he and his brother would get into trouble, Phillip would immediately become apologetic, but Jay would state 100 very good reasons why the thing he had done was fine and that he should not be in trouble for those very reasons. In the words of his parents, “This wild child has brought this family a lot of joy.” While Jay’s humor, hard-headedness, and quick wit would remain always with him, he was also incredibly active, especially in his young life.
As a young man, Jay played baseball, basketball, soccer, golf, ran cross-country, and excelled at slalom water skiing and snow skiing. In high school, he lettered in both golf and cross-country and received the Coaches Award in golf. Jay also enjoyed and became deeply skilled in hunting and fishing and did both as often as he could. Too, Jay was deeply devoted to Christ.
Jay attended Appalachian State University and earned his degree in Criminal Justice in 2007. Though Jay’s sister, Krista, was six years younger, she was quickly approaching her own college graduation which is, the family jokes, the reason Jay finally hunkered down and completed his degree after six years.
While attending college, a firefighter friend of Jay’s took him to visit Cove Creek Fire Department where he soon found his new home away from home. Jay began his career in public service as a volunteer fire fighter and, unbeknownst to him, met his future father-in-law as his Fire Captain at Cove Creek. Over the years, Jay would serve his community and communities all over the country as a fire fighter.
From his humble beginnings as a volunteer for CCFD, Jay would go on to save lives as a medic for Watauga EMS, an engineer at Boone Fire Department, Assistant Fire Marshall for Watauga County, and finally as the Life and Safety Coordinator at App State. Jay was also deployed to fight raging forest fires in Alaska and Idaho.
As is apparent by his career choices, Jay lived to serve and is well remembered by communities far and wide as someone who cared deeply for the people around him, even those he might have just met. It is said of Jay that perhaps he was a man small in stature but his presence always filled the room. His firefighter brothers and sisters all attest that during the chaos and destruction of an emergency, Jay was the guy you wanted on the scene. In serious situations, Jay remained calm and cool and brought that same peace to those around him.
Jay Kerley always did the right thing, and he always did things right. A true southern gentleman, Jay asked his former fire captain to come help work on his deck as a ploy to ask permission to date his daughter, Amber. Permission was granted and Jay and Amber were recently married, blending their families to include their two sons, Jase and Elias, to whom Jay was the consummate father. He loved nothing more than spending time with the boys, taking them fishing and hunting, teaching them anything he could think to interest them, and sharing the importance of great music, oftentimes calling out a song that was playing and telling the boys, “You need to listen to these lyrics, really listen.” Though the opportunity had not yet arrived, Jay was preparing to be the scout leader for Elias’ cub scout troop.
As much as Jay loved people and cared for everyone in his community, he also loved animals. His dogs, Tater and Porter, and his horses, Denver, Gracie, and Faith, were consistently on the receiving end of Jay’s devotion. He once rode Denver to Bethel Elementary to pick up Jase from school. While all the students were wildly and duly impressed by Jay picking up Jase on horseback, that was only one small way in which Jay brought his unique and loving brand of joy to life.
Jay was an artful storyteller and could bring any tale to life, though those close to him would caution that while the story may absolutely be true, the embellishments were born of his inclination to humor, and weren’t always how things had actually transpired. Jay could fill a room simply by walking into it.
He didn’t live a perfect life and shared many of the same trials and tribulations we all do, but those were not the parts of life Jay focused on or paid much attention to. He focused on bringing people laughter, love, and joy; on lending a helping hand the moment one was needed; on saving and rescuing people in crisis, and on loving his friends and family deeply and completely. His life was not long, but he lived his years with humility, integrity, caring… and humor. He was a remarkable man among even the most remarkable of men, and there is no measure of the depth of this loss. He will be lovingly remembered and profoundly missed.
Jay was preceded in death by his maternal grandmother, Ruth Ann McAuley, and maternal aunt and uncle, Sherre and Eric Tolbert.
He is survived by wife, Amber, son, Jase, and stepson, Elias, of Sugar Grove; parents, Jeff and Debbie Kerley of Statesville; sister, Krista and four-legged friend Gabriel of Statesville; brother, Phillip and wife Kellie, niece, Kendall, and nephew, Paxton, of Statesville; paternal grandparents, Raymond and JoAnn Kerley of Taylorsville; maternal grandparents, Harold and Polly Anderson of Taylorsville; father and mother-in-law, Phil and Cindy Presnell of Vilas; brother and sister-in-law, Josh and Jessie Greene; and niece, Brynnleigh, Boone.
Funeral services will be conducted at 3:00 p.m., Saturday, November 5, 2022, at Alliance Bible Fellowship. Pastor Seth Norris will officiate. Interment will follow in Presnell Cemetery. The family will receive friends Friday from 5:00 until 8:00 p.m. at Hampton Funeral Home Chapel.
Flowers are appreciated or, in lieu of flowers, a contribution to a scholarship fund for Jace and Elias may be made at Hunters Heros, https://www.huntersheroes2013.com.
Online condolences may be sent to the Kerley Family at www.hamptonfuneralnc.com.
Hampton Funeral and Cremation Service is in charge of the arrangements.