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Roger D. Jay

Roger Jay
Roger Jay (Baltimore Sun)

Roger D. Jay, a Wyatt Earp expert and American West magazine and journal writer, died of encephalitis Dec. 25 at Gilchrist Hospice Care in Towson. He was 69 and lived in Tuscany-Canterbury.

Born in Scranton, Pa., he was the son of Charles E. Jay, a Scranton Electric Co. employee, and Clara Monie Jay, who worked in the office of the Mitchell Welding Co. of Scranton. He was a 1963 graduate of Scranton Central High School and earned a bachelor's degree from the Johns Hopkins University in 1967. He worked in hotel management in Florida and Atlantic City, N.J., before beginning his writing career.

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"As a child, Roger came to Baltimore during summer vacations and played with his cousins, who lived in what was then a wooded area of Joppa Road in Towson," said his wife, Ann M. Smith, whom he met while visiting college friends in Baltimore in 1979.

She said her husband had done extensive genealogical research on his family. He was related to both the Scranton family for which the city of Scranton, Pa., was named and to John Jay, a statesman and the first chief justice of the United States.

Nearly 25 years ago, he became interested in the American West and its 19th-century personalities. He published numerous articles in popular magazines, including Wild West, and in scholarly journals such as the Western Outlaw-Lawman History Association Journal.

"His research led him to a deep interest in the mythic reputation of Wyatt Earp, and he spent the past 10 years [surveying] original census data and personal information on the famous lawman and the entire Earp family," said his wife, a retired Enoch Pratt Free Library staff member who headed the information access division.

Mr. Jay did much of his research at the Hopkins Sheridan Libraries and at the Pratt. When books were not available in Baltimore, he used the inter-library loan service.

Mr. Jay was the 2006 recipient of the award for Outstanding Western Outlaw Lawman Association Article. He wrote on "The Gambler's War in Tombstone: Fact or Artifact?"

"I considered Roger one of the best writers who ever wrote for Wild West," said Greg Lalire, the publication's editor, who lives in Leesburg, Va.

His wife said he was an enthusiastic lacrosse fan and devoted follower of the Hopkins team. Mr. Jay resided in an apartment building within sight of Homewood Field and attended nearly every Blue Jays practice and game since he moved to Baltimore in 1979.

"Roger was part of a small group of Hopkins alumni who are loyal Blue Jay fans that attend both local and out-of-town lacrosse games together," his wife said.

Mr. Jay enjoyed weekly visits to Baltimore restaurants. He frequently patronized the Ambassador, located in his neighborhood, and also had meals at the One World Cafe and Donna's in Charles Village. His wife said they would clip lists of best restaurants and work their way through critics' recommendations.

"On Sundays, we took long walks down Charles Street," said his wife. "We would examine the reconstruction of the street near Johns Hopkins and watch the progress of the 26th Street rebuilding along the railroad."

Mr. Jay spent part of the summer at Prout's Neck near Scarborough, Maine.

"He was a beach bum at heart," his wife said.

A memorial service will be held at 3 p.m. Saturday at the Lemmon Funeral Home, 10 W. Padonia Road in Timonium.

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In addition to his wife, survivors include two nieces, Maryah Smith-Overman and Brianna Smith-Overman of Durham, N.C.; a nephew, Ian Smith-Overman of Washington, D.C.; and two cousins, Alison Schunk and Deborah Lally, both of Timonium.

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