Earlier this week, as I was driving home from work, my phone rang. A photo of one of a friend of mine since before kindergarten popped up. We hadn’t talked in a few months, so I was eager to hear from him. There was something about his tone that told me he wasn’t calling to just chat. He got right to the point and informed me that our friend and fraternity brother, Jason, had passed away.
To say that I was shocked was an understatement. Jason, who was a best-selling author under the pen name Jay Noel, and I had just had a conversation less than two weeks prior. That evening, I chatted with other brothers from our days in Sigma Nu, remembering ‘Reyes’ and the good ol’ days of the mid-90s.
That’s when I first met Jay. He was already a candidate in chapter of Sigma Nu that was hoping to form on the campus of Southeast Missouri State University. I was soon extended an invitation to join the group of men who were working to gain chapter status.
Jason was the Marshal of the group, the educator of all things Sigma Nu. He had a passion for not only all things fraternity but also teaching. I loved hearing him explain the history of our fraternity. He reminded us of our roots, as we prepared to help Sigma Nu grow.
The chapter purchased a house during the summer of 1994. Nine of us moved into that four-bedroom at 433 Themis Street. Jason was one of them, living down the hall (everyone did, actually). I fondly remember our late-night chats, lunches at Godfather’s Pizza, and shots of Wild Turkey before the executive sessions (maybe I should leave that part out… )
After the chapter meetings, a small group of us would pile into Brother Gillespie’s Zephyr (and eventually Impala) and head to the Rhodes 101 Stop across town for frozen Cokes. Reyes, Gillespie, and brothers Arbeiter and Hampton were always a part of the crew. We’d talk about life and crank up the radio, singing whatever song came up on the classic rock station at the top of our lungs. It was a brief period in our lives but one of the most memorable for me.
After Reyes graduated, he moved back to St. Louis. Because I was from that area too, we stayed in touch, meeting from time to time. This was long before social media though, and when my wife and I moved to Alabama in 1997, I lost the in-person contact with just about everyone (I’m bad about that). However, we as Sigma Nus, all stayed connected via a group email. It was actually Reyes who introduced me to blogging. He talked about it in 2004, and I was extremely skeptical. Who knew one day I’d be blogging about his life. Thank you for that inspiration.
Then of course, with social media, everyone was connected once again. And as I mentioned, Reyes was a writer and would frequent the comic con events in my area. I am grateful that we got to reconnect at those shows, remembering those Sigma Nu days but also talking about our families and how quickly our children had grown up. We found that we also had mutual friends as well.
Jason, rest in peace. You will be sorely missed by all who knew you. Thank you for your friendship and the memories we created.
I'm a former TV news guy turned marketing manager. I like to blog, podcast and watch pro wrestling.