HOUSTON, TEXAS – James Morton Townsend IV, “Jay” passed away suddenly at his home in Houston, Texas, of heart failure on Monday, Sept. 28, 2009.

He was predeceased by grandparents, Charles W. Harris Jr., and the Rev. and Mrs. Morton Townsend. Jay is survived by his father, James M. Townsend of Houston, Texas; his mother, Frances Harris Townsend of Smithfield, Va., and Fort Lauderdale, Fla.; and his brother, Jonathon Harris Townsend of Houston, Texas.

He is also survived by his grandmother, Sylvia Harris of Fairfax and Smithfield, Va. Jay leaves behind many loving aunts, uncles, cousins and friends that will miss him dearly.

Jay, 26 years old, was in his final year of architecture school at Rice University in Houston. He was a 2002 graduate of Smithfield High School and the Governor’s School of the Arts. Jay has achieved the honor of Eagle Scout, became an inspirational artist, and wonderful cook. Although stricken with cancer at age 5, Jay fought back and was a survivor for 21 years.


A memorial service was held at Rice University Chapel on Friday, Oct. 2. A memorial service will be held at Trinity United Methodist Church, Smithfield, Va., Thursday, Oct. 8, at 4:30 p.m. with reception following. Friends and family are invited to bring cards and notes sharing their memories. A family graveside service will be in Lancaster at St. Mary’s Whitechapel Episcopal Church, Friday, Oct. 9.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Ronald McDonald House of Houston or the Ian Wilson Larmore Foundation, CDP, 6201 Leesburg Pike, Suite 405, Falls Church, VA 22044-2201. Both organizations support children and families battling cancer or other life threatening diseases.

IMG_0045This may surprise some of my friends, especially those who know how much I love music and singing, but this was the first time I have ever sung karaoke, three weeks ago in Chicago with Jay.

9 thoughts

  1. It’s a shame that some of the ones with talent and guts leave us so soon.When you have a health problem, that is not a reason to just stagnate. I am sorry for the loss of your friend.

  2. Thanks for posting this Lamar.

    I have arranged and sponsored death rites for Jay at the Ka-Nying SheDrup Ling Buddhist monastery in Kathmandu, Nepal, via the website monlam.org.

    Jay will be missed, I’m glad that y’all got to go to Houston and meet up with everyone else, though. Be well,

    1. Namaste, Michael.

      What an amazingly thoughtful and appropriate tribute. There are very few of us who could ever expect or hope to be honored in death by complete strangers on the other side of the planet. I think Jay would have found your gesture incredibly cool and righteous.

      And Alex, amen, and thank you for your kind words.

      In many ways, the people who fight the hardest to live life to the fullest have no idea they’re in a fight; they’re just too busy loving life.

  3. we should’ve insisted you guys make it over to our labor day party… i know david was really upset he didn’t get to see him one last time.. 😦

  4. what an inspirational soul. thank you for the thoughtful and beautiful post. it’s always wonderful to hear about such a fighter.

  5. Lamar,
    I happened upon this site when I was, yet again, looking at my precious son’s obituary…something a mother should never have to do. The pictures and sentiments caused me weep again at the heartbreak for me that Jay is no longer a phone call away, safely at Rice University, doing the work and play he loved so well. But this site also gave me a sense of Jay’s spirit living on in the memories of others, which brings me some peace and happiness. I would love to have the pictures you have posted. Each one represents an important part of his young adult life.
    He always told me how much he enjoyed being with ‘his friends’. I know that being with his friends was one of the most important parts of his life…which often motivated him to overcome various health issues.
    If you don’t mind, let me hear from you.
    Sincerely, Fran Townsend, Jay’s mom.

  6. I taught Jay and also Jonathan Calculus at Smithfield High School. Jay was an inspiring young man. I am saddened by his death and offer my sympathy to his family and friends.

    Today I was working on some old pictures and came across some from my teaching days. There is one of Jay displaying a Calculus project. I would like to share this with his family. However, I have no access to addresses. If you can help, please contact me.

    Olivia Foster

  7. I was so saddened to learn of Jay’s passing. He lived with courage and an appreciation of life few of us will ever experience. He will be missed by his family, particularly his parents and brother, but rest assured that he touched many of us with gifts that will last forever.

  8. I was so saddened to learn of Jay’s passing. He lived with courage and an appreciation of life few of us will ever experience. Jay will be missed by his family, particularly his parents and brother, but rest assured that he touched many of us with gifts that will last forever.

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