Yellow balloons floated into a sunlit sky Tuesday afternoon as more than 1500 people gathered on the soccer field in Kennesaw to mourn, remember, and celebrate the life of Jeffrey "Jay" Ingram.
The 32-year-old father of two after being while jogging on North Booth Road Thursday morning.
"Coach Jay" was many things to many people. He was a youth soccer coach, a physical education teacher at Kennesaw Charter Science and Math Academy, an active member of his church, a loving husband to wife Corinne, and a father to Aiden and Kailyn.
Helicopters passed overhead during the 2 p.m. service, and cars whizzed by on Stilesboro Road. If these passersby had taken notice, they would have seen men dressed in yellow button down shirts, girls wearing yellow nail polish, kids in yellow soccer jerseys, and dozens of boys sporting newly shaved mohawks. They would have heard crying and laughter and music, and they would have smelled grass and dirt mixed with the scent of yellow flowers and latex balloons.
The color yellow represented who Jay was at his core—"predictably unpredictable," "energetic," "competitive," "a rock star" whose coffin is now covered in hundreds of signatures and messages from adoring friends, family and fans.
As Jay's friend and former youth group leader Mark Paul put it: he was "a hero," someone who lived life "like his soul was burning on a special kind of fuel."
Addressing the crowd, Matt Payne recalled how his older brother used to pick him up from middle school driving a yellow Geo Metro, windows rolled down, and with no shirt on. "He drove it like it was a Rolls-Royce," Payne said. "Every time, I was like, 'That's my brother.'"
Jason Page, a friend and co-worker at Kennesaw Charter, said Jay was the kind of teacher who could throw a kid into a trashcan, and the kid would love him for it.
He was, in fact, the kind of teacher who threw kids into trashcans.
Jay was known for his Crocs, his ever-evolving hairstyles, and his endless repertoire of pranks. But beneath all the jokes and hijinks, he ran a structured classroom. He never left a kid behind, Page said.
He had a way with kids, and he was brave enough to teach elementary school students archery with pointed arrows, not foam ones, Page laughed. Jay trusted his kids, and they felt that trust.
Page said Jay was integral in building Kennesaw Charter and School members have said Coach was the soul of the school, "but I say he is the soul of our new school," Page said.
A Special Heart
Above all, Jay was a loving husband and father, Payne said of his brother.
Payne described the special love Jay and his wife Corinne shared. They attended college together at Georgia State University and saw "Toy Story 2" on their first date. One Valentine's Day, Jay surprised his wife with a large (but not very tall) box. Out of it sprung Jay, covered in styrofoam packaging peanuts.
"As big as his smile was, it was never as big as when he was talking about his wife and kids," Payne said.
Payne, who was born premature and hooked up to a heart monitor as an infant, said his heart stopped beating when no was else was in the room but Jay. "My brother was 7-years-old, and he called 9-1-1 and saved my life," he said, adding that even now, Jay is saving lives.
Jay died from head trauma but had no internal bleeding and no other major injuries, Payne said. He was an athlete. He took care of himself, didn't smoke and ate well. He had healthy lungs, a good liver, pancreas and kidneys.
All of Jay's organs . His heart went to a 50-year-old, his lungs to a 27-year-old, a kidney and liver to a patient with liver failure, and a kidney and pancreas to a patient with diabetes and kidney failure.
The transplant team said "he had the most perfect heart they had ever seen."
"I think those who knew him already knew that," Payne said.
Community members have set up a contribution account for the Ingram family. One hundred percent of the donations go directly to Jay’s wife Corinne and their two children. Donations can be made at any location. When making a donation, please reference the Jay Ingram Family Benefit Contribution Account.
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