"What a privilege it is to know someone it is so hard to say goodbye to."
Jay Reinke would have turned 48 today, July 19, 2018. He was slated to be one of our "Spotlight" stories; however, he unfortunately passed on February 20, 2018. As someone who was quite active in our community, we felt it was fitting to pay tribute to him even though he was unable to complete the "Spotlight" interview himself.
Born in Medford, Wisconsin to Walter "Bud" and Marc (Rudolph) Reinke, Jay was raised in Phillips, Wisconsin, where he enjoyed fishing, hunting, boating, and making duck calls. He graduated from Phillips High School in 1988 and completed an Associates Degree in sales and marketing with Northcentral Technical College in Wausau. In August of 1991, he married Tammi Honsa, and they had two children, Nichole & Parker. Jay and Tammi later divorced. In September of 2012, he married Amber Vander Ark.
His sales and marketing career started with insurance sales and followed up with operating a local auction service; working for Wheel Way; being a personal banker for Wells Fargo Bank, Mid-Wisconsin Bank, & Northwoods Community Credit Union; and serving as the national sales manager for Industrial Air Products (IAP).
Outside of his career, Jay served his community. He was an alderman for the City of Phillips, Scout Master of Pack 540 for the Boy Scouts of America, a member of the Board of Directors for Flambeau Hospital, and the chairman of the Chequamegon Chapter of Ducks Unlimited. Jay volunteered as an auctioneer for many local organizations, and most of the community knew they would see him running the 4th of July auction and the market animal sale at the Price County Fair.
After Jay passed on, the condolences poured in on the funeral home's website, and his funeral was attended by hundreds of people with standing room only. My Price County reached out to some of his friends and family asking if they would share memories of Jay. For some, it was too difficult to share. Others wanted to pay tribute in this way.
Jay was clearly a loyal father, wanting to be with his children as much as possible. His daughter, Nichole, who had Jay's first grandchild on July 14th, named Clay Jayson McCann, remembers her father while she was growing up at his house. "It would be so hard to pick just one memory, honestly. But I always remember him tucking me in at night when I was a little girl. It was always my dad tucking me in, and he would lay in bed with me until I would fall asleep. We would talk about everything and anything, and he taught me a little saying that we would say every night, too, which was "Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep. Keep me safe all through the night, and wake me with the morning light." Those are the moments I think about most when I think about him."
Jay's work "family" spoke out about Jay. Jenny Marshall, an IAP representative from California worked a lot with Jay on her projects and stated, "Jay will be missed by all the people who worked with him. Jay had an easy-going style, good sense of humor and gave you a feeling that everything will be okay. We are all better people for having known Jay."
Mick Theis, co-owner of IAP and Jay's childhood friend, shared, "All of us that worked with Jay appreciated his love for family and life. Jay approached life with a positive outlook. He never seemed to have a bad day; he was always cheerful, optimistic, and upbeat. While Jay's five plus years at IAP were far too short, we are thankful for the time and memories we have. Caring, genuine, and thoughtful are just a few words that come to mind in remembering Jay and the wonderful man he was."
Another childhood friend, Davette Lynne Hrabak, also mentioned some of Jay's attributes. "The words that come to mind when I think of Jay are personality, dependability, and loyalty. Those of us that had the pleasure of growing up with Jay know that he will be remembered and live on in the hearts and minds of all the people he touched over the years. As the community knows, stories of "Jay" proliferate, whether it be of childhood activities, school time fun, family relationships and outings, work activities, auctioneering, hunting, fishing, or hanging out and relaxing. His impact will, in some ways, live on in the lives of people that he has never met as people who knew and interacted with Jay will further use the teachings, stories, or jokes that they experienced when interacting with him. Jay had a way about him; he got along with most everyone, accepted people for who they were, and took time to let others know they were important. He listened and joked with them, and he did this with people he knew since childhood or people he just met; he did this with everyone. Jay was a chameleon of sorts as he could interact with others in a large group or relax and enjoy himself during times of solitude. Basically what sums my memories up is: "I don't know of anyone that did not have a brighter day after running into Jay somewhere."
Lynne Bohn shared her Facebook post that she wrote the day of Jay's funeral. "Jay has been in my life since the day I was born. The youngest son to my Godmother, at my baptism he stood by her side and announced that he was, therefore, my "Godbrother," which became a lifelong "joke" for us. I looked up to him greatly as a child. Being younger, I'd always tag along when he and my big sister, Davette, played together. They both made me feel welcome. Jay always made sure to pay attention to me. Whether we were playing games or hanging out by his "bar" in Marc's basement, shooting some hoops on either ours or their driveway basketball "court," playing in his tiny cabin that felt huge to my little self, or walking down the steep hill (where he made steps and a guide rope and always helped me) into the valley to visit the river, Jay always made me feel included, safe, and loved. He'd play the piano for me at his Mom's house or when we all went out to eat at Kozy Town in Fifield. He loved to talk like Donald or Daffy Duck to make me laugh. As kids, we had fun times around the dinner table having our own conversations while the moms and their friends had theirs, plus I'll never forget those shopping trips the five of us took together and the silly laughter and talks us kids had in the car on the drives there and back with our moms. As an adult, Jay was still there for me. He definitely put in a good word for me on a couple websites. And he always knew how to make me laugh, one time telling me that we were married in about five foreign countries after I signed some documents at the bank, which became another joke of ours. When I sit down and think about it, there are so many good memories. He will always be in the hearts of my mom, sister, and me. He is a forever friend, and he is "family." He was a wonderful man taken too soon. Until we meet again, Jay, I will keep your memory alive in my heart and know I was lucky to have known you and had you in my life. Rest in peace, my 'Godbrother.'"
Gregg Griesel, co-owner of Wheel Way, worked with Jay and also became his friend. "I am missing my friend, Jay. The 2018 golf season is well underway. Things are just not the same without Jay Reinke. The season usually began with a phone call that I so looked forward to every year. I would answer with a resounding "Jayson!" and he would reply back with an enthusiastic "Greggor!" Later, we would see each other at the golf course, greet one another with a gorilla handshake, and, on the course we would encourage each other, as well as offer advice and critique each others' golf swings. I keep hearing those memorable words, "Nice and easy now." I would get halfway through my back swing and Jay would yell out, "Kill that son on a .....!" Who can forget about Jay's signature putting style, between the legs backwards. As we would pass each other between Holes 1 and 3, everybody would hear our boisterous exchange of "Jayson!" and "Greggor!" Then, of course, there was the big debate over my magenta colored golf head covers. Jay always insisted they were pink. Of course, I, in turn, argued that they were a manly magenta. Let's face it, the sunlight has caused them to fade over the years, and Jay was right, they are basically pink! In June, Jay and I always looked forward to the Phillips Golf Fun Day. As was a tradition, Jay would want to stop for breakfast on the way. I didn't mind. In fact, sometimes I rather insisted! In loving memory of Jay "Jayson!" Reinke, I just wanted to share a few thoughts. Thank you for allowing me to reminisce about the good times we had together on and off the golf course. From one big voice to another, I will always remember and cherish the times we shared. My love and heartfelt sympathy to the entire Reinke family. All my prayers, and may God bless you and keep you."
Rose Brown knew Jay from the community. "I enjoyed knowing Jay, who affectionately called me Rose Green instead of Brown. I will never forget the holiday dinner made at Mid-Wisconsin Bank where he taught me to properly grill potatoes. Marc taught him well. He was a great guy who made sure everything was "fair enough." He will be missed by many!"
Finally, Jay's wife, Amber, had these thoughts on this day, "Today would have been Jay's 48th birthday! To say this world lost an amazing person way too soon would be a gross understatement. Jay touched the lives of everyone he met. None of us understand why it was his turn to go! We all miss him and want him here with us. It is so true....We never know how much time we have. Jay never thought any of this would happen. He was so positive throughout his whole illness and he never doubted he wouldn't beat it, which made the rest of believe he would be okay. Tonight we will celebrate Jay's life as a family. We will reminisce, laugh, cry and raise a glass of Seven and Seven with a slice of lime in honor of him! Today will not be easy for any of us, but we will get through by leaning on each other for support. Don't take the time you have for granted with the ones that you love. Hug and kiss them and tell them you love them every chance you get. All we have in this life is this moment in time. We never know what the next moment holds."
After reading through those memories, it is safe to say of Jay, "What a privilege it is to know someone it is so hard to say goodbye to."