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The Madera Tribune

From furniture to caskets; kindness carried on

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webmaster | 05/31/13

Richard Curtis Jay was a remarkable person. Among his many laudable attributes was his concern for the underprivileged of Madera. It is a well-known fact that it was the plight of a destitute, local woman that took him out of the furniture business and transformed him into a mortician. That same concern for those less fortunate than himself was passed on to his descendants and continues to this very day.

It was in 1893, the year of Madera County’s birth, that Jay learned about a Madera resident who had died penniless and had been refused burial by the town’s only undertaker. Jay was incensed! Being a furniture dealer and having some skill at woodworking, he proceeded to direct his expertise toward another arena. Jay promised the family that he would make the woman’s casket.

This he did, and almost overnight he changed his profession. Within a few months Jay was Madera’s only undertaker, and in 1899, he became county coroner and public administrator. Within a few years his son, Robert, joined Jay in the business, and under his father’s tutelage, the younger Jay learned what it meant to serve the community. Concern for the poor continued when Robert took the reins.

Fast forward to 1916. A Chinese gentleman had died in the Madera County Hospital. He had no family and apparently no friends in Madera. In addition, he had a poor reputation, especially when it came to the use of opium. It was said of him when he was admitted to the hospital “He liked to look upon the pipe when it was hot.”...


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