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A gift gone too soon

Enser_local_babj_3  He was one of the few people I have ever known whom everybody liked -- and who seemed to like everybody. That was Jay Bonfatti's wonderful gift. It was a gift he shared with all of us here at The Buffalo News, and with many people in the greater community, for the two decades that he lived here and worked as a reporter.

   Now that gift he gave to all of us is gone. Jay passed away in his sleep Wednesday night  while on a family vacation in Martha's Vineyard. He was just 52. His death has devastated those of us at The News who knew him as a colleague and who valued him as a friend. He was our Falstaff, our John Belushi, a guy whose plus-size body could barely contain his enormous heart and his bursting good humor. He was, as a colleague noted during an impromptu in-house memorial this morning, the heart and soul of our newsroom. We loved him, and we will miss him terribly.

  Jay's world extended far beyond the newsroom, to the world of the music he loved, to the countless folks whose lives he touched, to the numerous friends -- nobody was better at making them -- he had in all walks of life. Jay was like a crossover artist in music, whose appeal transcends boundaries of race, age, class and religion. But Jay's milieu was not music --although he was handy on guitar -- but people, and human nature, and the boundaries that sometimes divide our lives. Jay did not see any of those boundaries. All he saw was human beings, and the best aspects of each of them. He never married, or had children. But there was no lack of love in his life. It was as if we all were part of his extended family -- with his smiling, Buddha-like countenance at the center. And now, from here on, we will have to figure out a way to go on without him.

   Jay's life touched many lives. We would love to hear from the people who knew him, who remember him, who would like to share their thoughts of a man who died way too young, but who never grew old.

-- Donn Esmonde

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