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Life harshly challenged and handicapped Jay Mumford. His story is tinted with sadness.
The obstacles, challenges and handicaps marked his youth and never relented the remainder of his life of 61 years.
All Jay ever wanted was to belong, contribute and be appreciated. He endeavored tirelessly to realize those objectives. Finally, he battled for months before recently losing his battle with a vicious form of mouth cancer. Jay thought he was dealing with an abcess until he was diagnosed with inoperable melanoma.
But throughout it all, he seldom, if ever, complained. Complaining was not in his DNA.
I was associated, off and on, with Jay for some two decades in my capacity as sports editor of The Wilson Times.
Some say he could be stubborn, but I found him to be fiercely loyal.
Jay juggled his time between The Times and a couple of other publications with his numerous duties with Domino’s Pizza.
He was always available around the clock. He seldom slept; he seldom ate. Jay was adrenaline-driven.
He savored his role as a sports journalist, but was happiest when he chatted about his friend, Martha Brown, and his trips to visit her in Boston — where stops occasionally included Fenway Park (home of the World Series champion Boston Red Sox).
But poor judgment harmed him personally, professionally and legally.
Jay, however, would not be discouraged — or complain. He found the intestinal fortitude to pursue the next opportunity. But when opportunities with newspapers finally deserted him, an already-tough life tumbled downhill.
Understand grief was no stranger. Jay dealt with the deaths of his brother, sister, father and mother.
Upon the death of his mother, Jay was left with little. Health issues beset him.
Still, Jay might show up at any event — eager to help and equipped with his scorebook, notepad, recorder and camera.
During the hot summer of the Wilson Tobs season, a Tobs game was rained out. As I stepped out of the press box, I saw Jay in the walkway. He could barely walk. He spotted him and started in my direction. I motioned frantically to him to not attempt to climb the Fleming Stadium stairs.
When I met him at the rainy walkway, he informed me was suffering from a disease that had robbed him of much of the strength of his legs.
Weeks later, I communicated with him by telephone and he was being treated for the condition (the name of which I can’t remember) and assured, “I’m doing great.”
Several days later, I was traveling along Raleigh Road in the vicinity of Barton College. I recognized Jay. He was walking on a sidewalk by Wilson Gymnasium with a puppy cradled in his arms. He seemed in a hurry.
Next, I learned he was in and out of the hospital. During a couple of visits, the response was always the same: “I feel fine.” Of course, Jay wasn’t going to complain.
Soon, he was transferred to Kitty Askins Hospice Center in Goldsboro — his final destination.
My visit there included an entry sheet for the 42nd annual Bowl Contest.
For 40-plus years, a group of football fans — myself included — in the area have participated in this contest of selecting winners of the college bowl games. The prizes are worth the nominal investment.
Jay not only participated but always turned in entries for numerous cronies. He was a regular.
The prospect of participating in the 2018 bowl contest excited him. At his funeral Monday, I learned he had begun the process of selecting the winners of the contest’s 33 bowl games. But his condition deteriorated — he never finished.
Wilson businessman and former Fike High athlete Donnie Prince, a compassionate human being, and the caring folks from First Baptist Church were there for him in his final days. And Jay got wonderful care from Wilson Medical Center and Kitty Askins Hospice Center.
Thank you for enduring a personal take on Jay Mumford’s life. Jay, you deserve to rest in peace.