Campus mourns loss of Jay Chitty
Published: Wednesday, January 24, 2007
Updated: Sunday, February 22, 2009 10:02
On a typical Sunday afternoon last semester, Jay Chitty '07 would be posted on the black leather couch in Hart 102, watching football on the big screen with friends while simultaneously checking sports scores on his laptop. "The only reason he would get up was to get his Spaghetti-O's or Mountain Dew," roommate and fellow sports enthusiast Wilson McCrory '07 recalled. A math major and co-captain of the tennis team, Jay, 22, died on Dec. 31 when his family's single-engine plane crashed in west Charlotte. His parents, Jim and Kay, and his 14-year-old brother, Taylor, also died in the crash. Jay is survived by his sister, Haley, 25, who works for the Campus Crusade for Christ and was not aboard the plane with the rest of the family. Family, friends, teammates and professors filled the pews of the Davidson College Presbyterian Church last Thursday to mourn Jay's death and celebrate his life at a memorial service led by College Chaplain Rob Spach. Jay's uncle Steven Young '79, men's tennis coach Drew Barrett and seven friends shared memories and reflected on Jay's sincerity, humility and appreciation for life's simple pleasures. "If Chitty says he's into something, he's into it 100 percent," said Keith Farrow '07, comparing Jay's enthusiasm for Keebler soft batch cookies to that of a five-year-old's excitement on Christmas morning. "While most people would generally exercise some restraint, Chitty would eat them all in a day. He was that way about his favorite things: UNC sports, fantasy football, the Cleveland County Fair." Describing Jay as a "small town, simple pleasure kid," Farrow recalled Jay's love for the Cleveland County fair, which Jay attended in his hometown of Shelby, N.C., every year. "At best, the Cleveland County fair is somewhat entertaining," said Farrow, who accompanied Jay to the fair during their sophomore, junior and senior years, "but Chitty just loved it. It was something he grew up loving and never outgrew it." Jay also loved rap music and would put on impromptu rap performances for his teammates during tennis practice. He was a fan of Sage Francis, a socially conscious underground rapper known for his complex wordplay. Jared McKiernan '07 said that Jay used to joke that he would date "any girl who attended a Sage Francis concert." Former men's tennis coach Jeff Frank, who recruited Jay and coached him for three years, described Jay as an "easygoing, genuine guy" who "loved to spend time with people doing the things he loved." Jay was a finalist for the Bryan Scholarship, Davidson's top athletic award with a strong academic component. Jay worked as a tennis counselor at Frank's tennis camp last summer, where his his brother Taylor attended as a camper. Frank said that Jay was "the goofiest kid" who could "laugh at himself and never, ever, ever took offense" when people teased him. "Jay was the nicest kid I've ever coached in 34 years," Frank said. "Everyone who knew him liked him, respected him and had really good things to say about him." Fellow tennis player Phillip Compeau '08 described Jay's greatest strength on the tennis court as his "willingness to stay in a match forever, to grind out a three-hour match, which would have daunted even the most mentally tough players." At Jay's memorial service, Compeau recounted a match this fall when Jay was down three match points to a player from Richmond in the second set. "Over an hour later, unsurprisingly, Jay was walking off the court a winner," Compeau said. "The first thing he did was to hurry over to his bag and pick up his phone. Jay's dad had left him a voicemail with the good news that Jay had passed the actuarial exam that he took last summer. 'Yes,' [Jay] said, 'I'm going to get a job.'" Jay's roommates described him as laid back about his school work. Jay would not hesitate to put off his math homework for a late night session of his favorite video game, Madden. Carson Sanders '07, who lived with Jay since sophomore year, said that Jay "just wasn't wrapped up in himself. He was very content to watch college basketball or go get ice cream." For Sanders and others who were close to him, the shock of the tragedy is still very real. "It's a lot quieter now, magnified by the fact that every day you could count on returning to the apartment to find Chitty sitting in that chair, watching sports," Sanders said, pointing to a big leather chair near the television. "There is still a very real part of me that would not be surprised if he walked through that door right now." Sanders emphasized, however, that the show of support at Jay's memorial service and the small gestures coming from friends and classmates has made coming back to Davidson much easier than he had anticipated. According to reports in The Charlotte Observer, the plane was registered to Jay's father, Jim, a real estate appraiser and owner of J.F. Chitty & Associates in Shelby. He was an instrument rated pilot and a member of the Shelby Municipal Airport Advisory Board. Jay's mother, Kay, taught math at Cleveland County Community College. His younger brother, Taylor, was an eighth-grader at Shelby Middle School. In honor of Jay Chitty and his family, Davidson is establishing the Jay Chitty Memorial Scholarship. The goal is to raise a minimum of $50,000 to create a permanently endowed tennis scholarship. For questions regarding the scholarship, contact Wilson McCrory at email@example.com or 704-577-0803. To make a gift, contact Rachel Smith '02 in the Development Office at firstname.lastname@example.org, 704-894-2673 or Box 7173.