Jay Barnett, who strove to become an Eagle Scout despite fighting a rare form of cancer, died of his condition Wednesday at his Ferndale home. He was 17.
Born in Annapolis and raised in Ferndale, Jay was a graduate of Hilltop Elementary School in Glen Burnie. While a pupil at Glendale Middle School in 2002, he was diagnosed with neuroblastoma, a rare and aggressive form of cancer that attacks the nervous system.
A member of Boy Scout Troop 447 in Linthicum, he was working to become an Eagle Scout at the time of his death.
"He didn't quite make it. He was working really hard, and his troop is giving him an honoree kind of Eagle Scout," said his mother, Virginia Macleay Epstein of Ferndale. "He never gave up, he was always talking about the future, of becoming a pediatrician who would treat children with cancer."
In his honor, the Jay Barnett Scout of the Year Award has been created.
"Jay was a remarkable person. He was determined to make Eagle Scout, and we ran out of time for Jay," said Steven J. Pope, his scoutmaster. "He was enthusiastic about being a Boy Scout, and he was enthusiastic about life."
After the discovery of the disease, Jay was treated at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York, where he spent parts of the past four years. He and his mother lived at the Ronald McDonald House on East 73rd Street.
"We gave Jay the nickname of the Mayor of the Ronald McDonald House," said Rick Block, who works at the residence. "He had one of the worst cancers but was always upbeat and was visiting the other kids. The staff, the volunteers here, everyone wanted to be with him."
A year after Jay's diagnosis, New York Rangers defenseman Brian Leetch named him honorary team captain at a charity event, the ninth annual Skate with the Greats, held at the Rockefeller Center ice rink.
"It's hard being away from home. ... The treatment is pretty exhausting," Jay told a Sun reporter at the time of the 2003 hockey event.
While living at the McDonald House, Jay was flown to England and visited the set of a Harry Potter film and met its director, Christopher Columbus, who gave him an extra role in the film version of Rent, which has not been released. Jay was filmed under the Brooklyn Bridge.
Jay also enjoyed films and occasionally made his own with a video camera.
He was invited to a press screening of Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith because of his enthusiasm for the series. He also received a phone call from actor Ewan McGregor, who plays Obi-Wan Kenobi in the film, and a package from director George Lucas.
"That day, Jay was feeling awful, but we still went to see the movie. It was all he could do to walk into the theater, but he was very excited and happy to see the movie. He thought it was awesome," his mother said.
Jay sang alto in the Maryland State Boychoir and toured with the group. He was to have been presented the honorary Choir Master Award on the day of his death. The choir sang at his funeral Saturday at St. Martin's-in-the-Field Episcopal Church in Severna Park, where he was a member.
In addition to his mother, survivors include his father, Jessie Barnett III of Salisbury; his stepparents, Jeff Epstein of Shenandoh Junction, W.Va., and Sylvia Barnett of Salisbury; a half-brother, Brayden Barnett of Salisbury; a half-sister, Brianna Barnett of Salisbury; a stepbrother, Neil Epstein of Silver Spring; and grandparents Robert and Ruth Macleay of Severna Park, Judith Riley of Baltimore, James and Shirley Cantow of Forest Hill.