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BHS Register

The Student News Site of Burlington High School

BHS Register

The Student News Site of Burlington High School

BHS Register

Remembering Jay Cassell

Former BHS Special Educator Jay Cassell
Courtesy
Former BHS Special Educator Jay Cassell

Jay Cassell passed away last July. For those of you who didn’t know Jay, he was a long-time special educator at BHS and he was instrumental in starting our Rowing club. Jay had a passion for sharing both the outdoors and experiences like canoeing, caving, fishing and baseball with students. Below I have shared my reflection of Jay after he passed and thought I would include it here for those who may have known Jay or those of you who didn’t and are curious to know more of who he was. However, the reason for my writing is a request from Mike Gray, a former social worker who was also a close friend of Jay’s.

Message from Mike Gray:

“Recently I’ve been thinking a lot about Jay Cassell and thinking of some way of honoring him.  At some point I’m going to a baseball game in his honor as we did many times. Jay was quietly very generous, especially with people he worked with. He would despise me for mentioning this, or remembering him because he liked to leave quietly. Today, I’m making a donation to the food shelf in Burlington in honor of Jay. If you’d like to join me click on the site below. Kind of a flash mob donation I hope. It’s a tough time for food shelves after the holidays. Hopefully it is a good way to remember Jay, whether he wants to be remembered or not.”

When donating on-line there is a box to fill in with the name of a person you are honoring or remembering. Please write Jay Cassell in that box. Share freely friends!

https://feedingchittenden.networkforgood.com/projects/50979-the-chittenden-emergency-food-shelf

— Remembering Jay —

Jay provided me with guidance as I became acclimated to BHS and sought out resources to bring a program back to life. He grounded me with humor, and above all, friendship.

I co-taught an engineering class with Jay every year from when I arrived at BHS until his retirement – 9 years. I would introduce him to our students as “MacGyver” because he seemed to miraculously always have an odd supply to solve a problem or desired item a student would want for their project solution. He could fix most anything or if he couldn’t, he knew of a guy in the area that could.

We co-taught a construction class where we built a children’s playhouse for the district EEE program. The playhouse had a fully functioning window, a front porch with railing, and a window box! We assisted students in building a contraption to grind grain – we poured two textured millstones out of concrete and using an old shop stool we made it turn with the use of a bicycle for a UVM TASC competition. He chaperoned a group of students with me traveling to NH to compete in the Technology Student Association annual conference where our students learned quickly the need for more preparation, but Jay was there to help them find the positives and to soak in the opportunity. Prior to this conference Jay was also the person l who tracked down button-down shirts, slacks, and dress shoes for a few students in need. This was Jay – quietly providing all students with what they needed to be successful.

Jay and I shared a love to continue learning and working with our hands. He was always up to working through a new unit with students. He enjoyed working one-on-one sharing tips and tricks with tools. Together we took a furniture making class at the Vermont Woodworking School where we each made a shaker-style hall table. He loved woodworking.

Jay was a traveler who enjoyed solo bike adventures – lengthy ones, like Florida to Vermont…or whenever he got bored. He was a storyteller — with endless stories to share. He was thoughtful. Jay seemed to remember the littlest details of interests someone would have and along his travels, both near and far, he would pick up items he felt you would like. For me, it was items for the classroom – a glass display case found on the side of the road, trinkets to use as examples in class. For my family, he picked up an old toy car for Silas and later a toy box. For my wedding, a vintage vegetarian cookbook. He was generous and kind.

It has been some time since I’ve seen Jay. After his retirement, I would hang out with him and another colleague here and there, but he seemed to like his alone time and wasn’t big on the technologies of the computer or phone.

He will be missed.

 

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