Donations needed to give Stratford jester and kindly soul Jay Cooper a decent send-off, following his sad death on 15th September
STRATFORD’S self-appointed court jester has sadly taken his last bow and the town is being asked to help give him a decent send-off.
Jahawk Cooper, called Jay, was a familiar face around Stratford. He could often be seen around Bancroft Gardens area wearing his trademark jester’s hat.
Now the Stratford community is being asked to chip in donations in order to give the well-known character a funeral.
Jay died aged 42 on 15th September at Warwick Hospital after battling alcohol addiction and suffering problems with his liver.
As well as being mourned by his mother, Elisabeth ‘Toby’ Black, and brother Darren, tributes have been paid to Jay’s “kind and generous spirit” on Facebook pages.
His family do not have the money to pay for a funeral, and while one has been arranged for next Thursday (12th October), donations are needed in order to pay for it.
A Gofundme page has been set up by his godmother, Nicky Ashfield, so that Jay can be bid farewell with dignity with a service at St Andrew’s Church, Shottery, at 2.30pm; followed by refreshments at the Fred Winter Centre – with everyone encouraged to attend both.
Nicky told the Herald that life had not been easy for Jay.
“I’ve known him since he was four months old,” she said. “We became estranged at one point because at times he was living on the street, and it’s been quite difficult to keep tabs on him.
“He had schizophrenia and suffered badly with mental health, but his love was Stratford and he decided at one point that he was going to be Stratford’s jester and that was sort of what his focus had become.”
Lately Jay had been living in a small flat in the Birmingham Road, and he’d been receiving a lot of support from the Fred Winter Centre and the Street Arts group – “they have both been absolutely amazing,” added Nicky.
She continued: “Life was not easy for him right from the off; his dad committed suicide when he was very little. And his mum Toby has had a turbulent time of things throughout her life.”
Fortunately with the help of Warwickshire Police, Nicky was able to get Toby to Jay’s bedside the day before he passed away. Nicky and the family have also taken comfort from the hundreds of tributes to Jay shared on Facebook.
“Despite his own troubles he wanted to spread happiness. He would juggle and busk, but also do card tricks for children or make them origami frogs to keep. He also loved animals – and he adored his pet rabbits, which he would carry around.
“The tributes to him are absolutely amazing, and I’ve found out things I didn’t know about Jay.
“One lady shared a story about how Jay would come and watch her teenage son busk on the Bancroft and would offer him words of support. Then one day Jay gave his guitar to the boy… who ended up appearing on TV show The Voice – playing the guitar Jay had given him.”
Nicky continued: “There are so many stories about Jay’s acts of kindness from so many people, it has been quite stunning. He wasn’t looking for praise so hadn’t heard most of the stories.”
In organising Jay’s send-off, Nicky has nothing but praise for the tremendous support of funeral directors AE Bennett and Rev Criag Groocock at St Andrew’s.
So far the Gofundme page has raised £1,000 out of £2,900 needed to cover the costs of the funeral.
Nicky said: “We do need some support to be able to give Jay a funeral we think he deserves. So please if you could help us with even a small donation it would be greatly appreciated.”
Memories of Stratford’s jester
Jay was one of a kind. He used to donate a lot of the money he was given to children in need. He collected quite a lot when he was in the Bancroft juggling. He always came into Lakeland (where I used to work) and insisted on putting most of it in the collection box. He never wanted thanks. He would just slip in and out and do this regularly. A very kind human.
Jay used to sit under the copper beech near the Swan Theatre, and from there every morning he would walk to the church to light a candle, and on the way stop to put grain out for the birds. I think I might do this walk in his memory one morning
This is really sad news, Jay was part of the furniture growing up at the skate park and, well, in town generally. He was always a super harmless and nice guy. Sleep well mate.
This is truly sad news indeed. I have very fond memories of sitting with him with my young son (who is now 17) and I. He suddenly produced a hamster from under his hat. When he found out my son was having physio and occupational health therapy to help him with motor skills, he produced juggling pins and tried to teach him to juggle in order to help his co-ordination. This was about 10 years ago but he always spoke to us when he saw us after and would ask “how’s your boy?”. He was a truly sweet man.
Very sad news. Always had a smile. I remember his gorgeous white rabbit too.
Jay would always stop to say “hello” on the occasions we passed in Bridge Street early in the morning. He had an encyclopaedic knowledge of US comedy shows and was genuinely chuffed when he asked my dog’s name and I said “Sheldon, as in Dr Sheldon Cooper”. So like your TV namesake, you were quirky, very likeable and will be missed.
This guy always gave generously to the Poppy Appeal when I saw him in town, when he possibly didn’t have much himself.
So sad. He adored my cats and they adored him and I often found the three of them chilling on my front lawn.
Many years ago my son broke his arm at the skate park. Jay took total control and called the ambulance and stayed with my son until we arrived. He was so kind to my son. In later years he’d always put donations into the foodbank and nappies in the baby bank at Tesco whenever he came in to the store. Will definitely be missed as a local character, RIP Jay.