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In Memory of Jay C Covington


4-7pm on Tues, Jan 21 at First Baptist Church of New Richmond, WI

Funeral Services

7pm on Tues, Jan 21 at the First Baptist Church of New Richmond, WI

Jay C Covington of New Richmond died at home Friday evening, January 17, 2014. Jay was – as he liked to say – 83-and-a-half years old and had been married to his lovely bride, Ernestine Etheredge Covington, for 57 years. Jay’s death from congestive heart failure was a peaceful home-going.

Jay Covington was born just as the Great Depression tore its way through the heart of west Texas — February 10, 1930, in San Angelo, Tom Green County, Texas, to Jewel and Mary Gilliland Covington. The youngest of four children, Jay was preceded in death by two brothers, John and Jerry, and a sister, June.

Jay began playing euphonium at the age of 11, the same year he learned the catechism of the Presbyterian church and acknowledged his need for salvation.

In the San Angelo High School music department, Jay was low brass section leader and alternate drum major for the marching band. He graduated in 1947 and attended Angelo State College in San Angelo for one year before transferring to North Texas State University (NTSU) in Denton, Texas, where he became a member of the One O-Clock Lab Band and toured with the concert band, marching band, orchestra, opera orchestra, and the brass ensemble.  In the spring of 1951, the end of his junior year, he developed the mumps and had to drop out of school and, therefore, lost the military service exemption extended to college students which had to that time kept Jay out of the Korean War.

He was offered the opportunity to audition for an instructor’s position in the U. S. Navy School of Music and was accepted just as his draft number came up. His audition was to sight read a composition chosen by School of Music Instructor Dr. Harold Brash: The Sorcerer’s Apprentice by Paul Dukas from Walt Disney’s movie Fantasia (1940). Jay was so nervous and played so badly he knew he had bombed the audition; but that evening Jay was invited to play with the Navy band, and during the evening, playing alongside Dr. Brash, he noticed the Dr. listening to his performance and nodding approval to another instructor.

From 1951 to ’55, Jay served as low brass instructor and guest soloist for the U. S. Navy School of Music in Washington, D.C. As guest artist, he traveled throughout the Mid-Atlantic states, soloing with local orchestras and holding clinics on the euphonium. Some venues where he was highlighted included the Presidential Regatta on the Potomac River, D.C.; Battery Park, the Waldorf Astoria Hotel, and Rockefeller Center in New York City; and the community band of Allentown, Pennsylvania, one of the nation’s top community bands of the era. Jay’s primary solo numbers included All Those Endearing Young Charms by Irish composer Thomas Moore (1775) (recorded with the Navy band); “Flower Song” from the Opera Carmen by French composer Georges Bizet (1875) which ends pianissimo on a sustained high B-flat; Spanish Caprice by Czech composer and violinist Josef Suk (1909), a composition initially written for concert piano; and Maid of the Mist from the 1915 movie of the same title.

Also during his years in D.C., Jay, along with Navy band members Julius Wittinger and John Beer, attended Grace Baptist Church and the Washington Bible Institute. Jay grew in his relationship to Jesus Christ and in his understanding of the Bible during this time and, upon returning to Grace Temple Baptist in Denton, Texas, was baptized.

After fulfilling his commitment to the U. S. military, Jay returned to NTSU, graduating in 1956 with a B. S. in accounting.  During this year at NTSU, Jay conducted instructional clinics on the euphonium for the Meridian Music Company and the Texas Bandmasters Association. He quickly learned that speaking before groups was not something he enjoyed. For the next forty years, Jay’s day job was first as an accountant then as managerial staff for milk processing companies in the Dallas, Texas, area – something he humorously commemorated for the rest of his life by wearing a “Got Milk?” ball cap.

In June of 1956, Jay married Ernestine Etheredge of Sweetwater, Texas, whom he had met in the choir at Grace Temple Baptist in Denton. From 1956 to 1965 the euphonium was laid aside while the couple began a family – daughter Christine, born in 1958, and son Arnold Jay, born in 1962.

Though accounting was his day job, music was still Jay’s passion. From 1956 to 1972 Jay served as church music director for a succession of Baptist churches in the Dallas area: Valwood Park in Farmers Branch, Midway North in Dallas, First Baptist of Carrollton, and Royal Haven Baptist in Dallas.

In 1965 Jay joined the musicians’ union and for the next 21 years played a variety of gigs in bands and pit orchestras throughout the Dallas area, including the Lester Harris Band summer concerts series, Ringling Brothers Circus, the Shrine Circus, and the Shrine Band.

In 1986, Jay retired from the musicians’ union and, in 1996, retired from the dairy business. He and Ernestine sold their home and hit the road as full time RVers. Their favorite locations to pad down the RV included the Grand Tetons and the St. Lawrence Seaway – the mountains and the seas. Through all those years Jay continued to perform in a wide variety of community bands as well as leading worship in U. S. national parks along the way.

In 2007 it was time to relinquish life on the road. Jay and Ernestine took up residence with their daughter, Christine, and her husband, Ken, in New Richmond, Wisconsin. Jay still continued with the euphonium. Most recently, Jay played during worship services for the First Baptist Church of New Richmond, Wisconsin, for the University of Wisconsin–River Falls University and area community bands, and for local community events and nursing homes. He is honored to have been accompanied by Mr. Caleb Kudlo (currently working in Israel) and Mrs. Sue Christian of Hudson.

During most of their married lives, Jay and Ernestine contributed financial support for causes closely related to spreading the word of God, primarily through the American Bible Society, Gideons International, the Navigators, Samaritan’s Purse, and Wycliffe Bible Translators.

Jay is survived by his wife, Ernestine, two children, and seven grandchildren: daughter, Christine Covington Lairson Hunt, her husband, Kenneth S. Hunt, and their children, Christopher S. Hunt (wife, Michele), Carrie Hunt Kearney (husband, Dan), Stephanie Diane Lairson, and David Spencer Lairson; and by son Arnold Jay (A.J.) Covington, and his wife, Angela Ascencio Covington, daughter, Sandra Ascencio, and sons, Alex Jay Covington and Isaac Jay Covington. He is also survived by five great-grandchildren: Collin, Ian, Logan, Calvin, and Isla.

Visitation is scheduled for Tuesday, January 21, 2014, at First Baptist Church of New Richmond [(715) 246-2700, www.fbc-nr.org] from 4:00 to 7:00 p.m. with the service to immediately follow.  Pastor Kevin Morris will officiate. Pallbearers include A. J. Covington, David Spencer Lairson, Kenneth S. Hunt, Christopher S. Hunt, Adam Zappetta, and Dana Pinke. An honor guard will be present.  A private burial will take place at Fort Snelling National Cemetery. Preparations are being coordinated by Gabriel Schauf of O’Connell Funeral Home, Hudson, Wisconsin [(715) 386-3725, www.OConnellFuneralHomes.com].

The family wishes to express deep appreciation for the loving medical care provided by Dr. Beth Adams of Stillwater Medical Group, Stillwater, Minnesota, and her nurses Shelly and Erin, and by Hospice nurse Jan Arkell, for their caring compassion and medical expertise that made these last weeks and months so much easier to walk through. The family also deeply appreciates the warmth and loving support of their friends and family at First Baptist Church.

The Covington family requests that people who would like to make a memorial donation consider the Gideons International [(615) 564-5000, www.gideons.org], Samaritan’s Purse [(828) 262-1980, www.SamaritansPurse.org], or Wycliffe Bible Translators [(407)-852-3600, www.wycliffe.org].

Responses to Jay’s gentle love and wry wit can be summed up in these messages recently received via Facebook and e-mail:

“Jay means a lot to [us]. Jay has the greatest sense of humor and is such a character. He’ll be truly missed. Bless you all.”

“Your dad was a joy to be with, and we loved the richness his euphonium always brought to the worship team. He will be greatly missed by many!”

“Jay was so kind to me. And I recall him helping out on worship team! I remember his words of encouragement in his southern accent. I recall his love for Christ … and in Christ, reunion is assured.”

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