Jay Proetto passed away in downtown Haines on Nov. 7, 2015. Autopsy results revealed that his death was due to a heart attack. He leaves behind a cousin, Marian Malec of Wildwood Crest, New Jersey; his cat Mattie; his friend and roommate, Kimberly VanNostrand and many friends near and far.
John Jay Proetto Jr was born on Dec. 6, 1947. Jay grew up in the Philadelphia area and southern New Jersey. He graduated from high school then served in the U.S. Air Force from 1967 to 1971, including service as a medic in Vietnam.
After military service, Jay moved to California where he attended college, earning a Bachelor’s degree in anthropology from the University of California Riverside. In 2005, after living briefly in Sitka, he moved north to Skagway, where he worked as an interpretive ranger in the Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park where his tour was featured as one of the top three Skagway attractions in a 2013 Seattle Times travel article.
Jay moved to Haines in July 2014 and was very involved in the community. He volunteered for Haines Animal Rescue Kennel, the Southeast Alaska State Fair, and for the Alaska Chilkoot Bear Foundation.
His friend Donna Clayson of Whitehorse, YT, remembers his love of aviation and classic cars.
“I remember when I set up a flight for him in a Cessna 172 in the Wheaton Valley. He was so excited!” she said.
He also loved classic cars and would frequently post photos of them on his Facebook page.
In online tributes, friends remembered Jay as an excellent historian and naturalist, avid bicyclist, animal lover and a Philadelphia Eagles fan. Friend Craig Cline of Skagway thinks of music first when he thinks of Jay. About Jay’s many interests Craig said “I think Jay had nine lives in his one incredible life – just like a cat.”
His memorial service was held on Dec. 6, at the American Legion in Haines, where Jay was a member. Friends plan to scatter his ashes in Skagway in May 2016.
– Submitted by Kim VanNostrand