Remembering Jay Starker

Jay Barry Starker
October 7, 1932 – July 26, 2012

Jay Starker was born in Brooklyn, New York in Oct. of 1932. He was part of the Bohemian group in New York’s Greenwich Village in the 1950’s. He continued his work in the arts as a ceramist, leather grinder, silver and goldsmith, musician and painter. He opened a shop in Sarasota in 1960.

“In every work the seeds of new thought are brought to bloom. To the extent that whatever comes forth is appealing to one’s senses, it becomes a welcome addition to our life inventory of pleasantries. The human race is continuing its ancient bent, and once again the art of this time represents what has successfully transpired plus the added magic of the “great manipulator.” I hope to be a part of this process in some small way that jubilance may be brought to one’s life.”

Some thoughts from me, his daughter India.

Since my local friends speak French and my friends elsewhere speak English I will write in both languages.

A great pacifist, my father. Dream number one was that the peoples of the world join hands and walk across the borders. It was way before the euro zone but when travelling from France to Italy or Belgium and passing by the abandoned buildings where there was once border control I think of his dream.

Another item on his mind was the interminable  Israel Palestine conflict. He said  they should become a single country (if we have to continue to put up with the damn notion of countries). Papa is the only pro Palestine Jew I know personally but there are others. He named the new joint country the *Republic of Abraham*.

On the same theme is the latin phrase that returns often in his work, Amor vincit omnia or Love conquers all. Maybe I first thought that it was agape or love of fellow humans he was referring to but now I see he probably meant all kinds are to be celebrated and eros was in mind when he wrote in 1969 concerning Enoch Powell,
“It’s just too bad that a West Indian maiden didn’t stop by and open the buttons on his fly.”
Or the suggestion that foreign troops in Afganistan marry the fantastic beautiful and intelligent local women.

Dad thought that as the races intermingle a lot of idiotic behavior would go away thanks to those bi-cultural kids.  No doubt!


Puisque mes amis locaux parlent français et mes amis ailleurs parlent anglais, je vais écrire dans les deux langues.

Un grand pacifiste, mon père. Son rêve numéro un était que les peuples du monde se donnent la main et traversent les frontières pendant une longue promenade. C’était bien avant la zone euro, mais quand je traverse la frontière entre la France et l’Italie ou la Belgique et j’aperçois les bâtiments abandonnés où il y avait une fois le contrôle des frontières, je pense à son rêve.

Une autre préoccupation était l’interminable conflit israélo-palestinien. Il a dit qu’ils devraient devenir un seul pays (si nous devons continuer à vivre avec la putaine notion de pays). Papa est le seul Juif pro Palestine que je connais personnellement, mais il y a d’autres. Il a nommé le nouveau pays joint *La  République d’Abraham *. Il s’agit d’un projet nous avons encore à mettre en action.

Sur le même thème est la locution latine qui revient souvent dans son travail, Amor vincit omnia ou l’amour triomphe sur tout. J’ai du penser au départ qu’il parlait de l’agape ou l’amour de son prochain mais je m’aperçois qu’il voulais sans doute dire que tous les genres sont à célébrer et c’était eros qu’il avait en tête quand il a écrit en 1969 au sujet d’Enoch Powell,
“C’est dommage qu’une jeune fille hindoue n’est pas passée défaire les boutons de sa braguette …”
Ou la suggestion que les troupes étrangères en Afghanistan épousent les femmes fantastiques belles et intelligentes  de la région.

Papa pensait que avec le mélange des ethnies,  beaucoup de comportements idiots disparaîtraient grâce à ces futurs enfants bi-culturels. Forcément !

Amor vincit omnia 😉

48 Replies to “Remembering Jay Starker”

  1. You are so right India. He was a peaceful man and fair minded. He was fair minded about the shenanigans in the Middle East and knew exactly what the realities were and how they were purposely misconstrued. One of the many reasons I respected him and always considered him a good friend.

  2. India, Chaya, Franz,

    I used to tell people that Jay Starker had the kindest heart in all of Sarasota. We spent many holidays with your family on Siesta Key when he was married to Chris. My husband died in June, and I had called Jay to invite him to the gathering at the house. He told me he’d been very sick and couldn’t make it. And then, he too, was gone. I was glad to see Marty Fugate’s post recognizing Jay’s contributions to this community.

  3. What a wonderful and talented gift to this world was Jay. I was young living on a ketch in marina jack, spent time with Marelyn on the junk and Emile on the Giggling witch. Watched Jay in front of the palm ave theatre , white suite, cane pushing an antique baby carriage hawking films. A few years ago I found him again on main st and bought a photo of of his the Giggling witch and spent a few hours in wonderful memories with him. He lives on in many hearts!

  4. Dear India, Chaya and Franz,
    What a guy your papa was! What a warm, wonderful, brilliant, multiply gifted, incredibly human man! And what a papa. The last summer I worked for Jay was 1967. He told me on the phone that he needed me right away. When I got to Provincetown, Dick Hester was pretty much managing the shop, and Jay was ensconced in the little cabin next door with you girls, India and Chaya. Marilyn was gone, and Jay was doing everything in his power to provide for you, protect you and parent you in her absence, and it was 24/7. He said the shop would have to take care of itself. I admired him so much for the loving care he took of you girls during what must have been an emotionally stressful time for you and for him.
    That summer was economically difficult at the shop, as well. Short of cash, he put poems in the jewelry showcases and told people, “These are the real gems.” Then he went to the local Ford dealer and came home in a new Ford F-150. I asked him if he’d lost his mind. He explained that he had bought the truck to improve his credit, so he could buy materials; saying that, in America, the more you owe, the more you’re worth, and the more you can borrow. I remember bales of straw in the bed of the truck. He took you girls to the beach in that truck every day that wasn’t rainy. He devoted himself completely to your needs.
    India, when I met you two years earlier, in the summer of 1965, you proudly introduced yourself as “Bessie Elizabeth India Starker.”
    In 1969, I visited you all in Sarasota, in the wooden house with the copper roof, the open music room upstairs and the army barracks building in the back yard, Marilyn was back. We had dinner and then put you girls to bed. Jay told you a story, as usual. On the way into your bedroom for the story, I asked him what kind of stories you liked. He said it didn’t really matter. What mattered was that your names were spoken often in the stories.
    Franz, I know he loved all his children, and I hope you felt his love. The father/son thing is never trouble-free. I don’t know how it was for you guys, but I know for sure that he loved you.
    My condolences to you all,
    Mad Peter

  5. July 31, 2012
    Jay was a very unique and creative person that I feel honored to call friend and Father in Law. As an artist that delved into a vast array of mediums, he touched many with his extensive body of work and production. He will be missed.
    ~ Michael Kniseley, Orlando, Florida

  6. July 31, 2012
    My Uncle Jay was a true Rennaisance Man, a Master of many disciplines, jewler, leather worker, photographer, artist, poet, composer, and musician. He played over 30 instruments. They doen’t make people like him anymore. He was one in a few million. Jay was joy. He loved people and accepted all no matter where they came from or their social status. He was interested in everyone’s story no matter how grand or small. His life has impacted me, all he met and the city of Sarasota which he loved and that loved him back. God Bless you Uncle Jay, I promise I will live the rest of my life trying to be a better person in the memory of the many examples you set. Love you with all my heart and soul, Pizi.
    ~ Jessika Arman, Sarasota, Florida

  7. July 31, 2012
    Jay and his store played an integral role in my famly’s life and in Sarasota’s history. May he party on with the many great talents that have proceeded him in death.
    ~ Lisa Kates, Sarasota, Florida

  8. July 31, 2012
    I have known Jay and the Starker family off & on since the late 60s. Jay was one of a kind. An artist and thinker. My prayers for the family.
    ~ George ‘Chrome’ Buchanan, Sarasota, Florida

  9. July 31, 2012
    Dear Jay , Zebo and Family,
    Memories of the aroma of the shop on St. Armands elicits a beautiful scene . Young kids longing for a connection and touch of cool in Jay’s presence.
    We understudied well and were thankful to be able to walk many a mile in your sandals.
    Thank you , Jay

    Love, Nise
    ~ Denise Martin, Sarasota, Florida

  10. July 31, 2012
    Jay was an unique character, a wise and intellectual Sage of his time… May he rest in Peace. God Bless, Jay B.
    ~ Arnold Powers, Sarasota, Florida

  11. July 31, 2012
    Jay and Teddy and the rest of his family played a big role in my teens! Loved my dye-colored hands from the sandal making and loved hanging around the store. He was one of a kind and will be missed.
    ~ Carol LaRose, Maplewood, New Jersey

  12. July 31, 2012
    Jay B. was a wonderfully funny and kind man who was a “welcomed addition to my life’s inventory of pleasantries.” He soared away from this planet on the wings of a thousand smiles and the spirit of his three extraordinary children. Happy trails, Daddy Jay!
    ~ David Butler, Cary, North Carolina

  13. July 31, 2012
    Daddy Jay will always be a part of who we are…. He was a pure soul with beauty, and acceptance for each one of us and always saw the good in each person and their special worth on this earth… I will love him forever and ever.
    ~ Chaya Starker, Sarasota, Florida

  14. July 31, 2012
    As he did for many, Jay made our wedding rings 15 years ago. He was a good friend to my mother and always had a story to tell when I’d come in the shop and visit. His message of love and peace, enjoyment of artistic expression, and his vibrant wit will be a loss to all who had the pleasure of spending time with him.

    Peace to his family, so glad to have known you Jay.

    Sabine Steinberg Bertolett

  15. July 31, 2012
    Jay made our wedding rings just over 41 years ago. His shop was on St.Armands Key at that time. We (and our friends) have purchased many of his items over the years including his leather sandles. His talents and tales will be missed.

  16. August 01, 2012
    Papa J was a man who imprinted your heart and soul with his love of the arts, his vast amount of knowledge, his willingness to share and enlighten, and his spirit for life. I will miss him dearly as will many but his memory will live on through the stories we share, the laughs we have, and the love we give each other. I feel truly blessed to have had you in my life and to call your daughter my best friend!
    ~ Lee Penna, Secaucus, New Jersey

  17. August 01, 2012
    Jay was my special friend. I first met him when he made me leather sandals. My Mother did not approve and Jay said that if they were good enough for Jesus, they are good enough for your daugher. Jay made our wedding rings 35 years ago and has been a dear friend ever since. A visit to his shop was always an occasion! I will certainly miss him.
    ~ Selina Auvil

  18. August 01, 2012
    What an incredibly artistic soul Jay was. Just a few years ago I attended the opera he wrote and had performed locally. I remember his shop on Main Street, the lovely jewelry he created and of course the sandals. And I remeber him playing his keyboard at many parties, including at my house. More than that, I will remeber Jay as the most accepting and open person, never having a bad word to say and always keeping a good attitude, even with his failing health. My condolences go out to his immediate family and extended family of friends. He was definitely a special person, influencing the history of our area.
    ~ Katie Gerhardt

  19. August 01, 2012
    I knew Jay for a very long time and had always enjoyed his views of life and his love for classical music and the arts. He was one of a kind and that is what we need, more people like my friend Jay.
    ~ Chuck Rawls

  20. August 01, 2012
    Jay I will miss you and our trips to the store on Thursdays…………Love you buddy…………I met you in 1961 when you made my first pair of sandals……love to talk with you ,I always learned something
    ~ Sharia Jackson, Sarasota, Florida

  21. August 02, 2012
    Jay was such a special person. We have known him for years and will miss him. The world was a better place because of Jay and his talent. We shared many deep conversations as well as good laughs. He created special jewelry pieces for our family which we will treasure as well as his memory. Barb and Paul Gerhardt
    ~ Paul and Barb Gerhardt, Osprey, Florida

  22. August 02, 2012
    Visitng JB Starker’s leather shop in the 60’s was a magical place and time for me as a young girl. He made my first pair of sandals which I designed and he told me I had a “head like his apprentice, complicated.” I loved the smells of fresh cut hides, oils, stains and pathchouli, and too the long hair and beards that looked like woodland moss.Their store validated my artistic bent and I will never forget all through my “Hippie” days how my sandals and that purse with the deer bone on it carried me through the famous times of “God is alive and magic is afoot.” Thank you JB and the Starker family for giving some Sarasotans a path of difference added to the then feeling of counter culture.
    ~ Ann Wood Fuller, Micanopy, Florida

  23. August 02, 2012
    Jay Starker had so many friends from so many walks of life, I am sure others, like myself, think a memorial service to be a fitting, and needed, tribute to an unusual man and life. Please notify community at large when one is arranged — at Selby Gardens? Arlington Park? Other? I shall miss our wide-ranging chats while sitting on park benches.
    ~ D.A. Tyler, Sarasota, Florida

  24. August 05, 2012
    Jay has taught me how to laugh, learn, love, and play more than anyone I have ever met. I will carry him in my heart forever, for he IS my forever friend.

    Karen Zurich, Santa Rosa, California

  25. August 06, 2012
    Jay, we were very, very privileged to have had a friend like you. We will always remember the afternoon we spent at your shop playing old Cuban songs. We will miss you, but we will have you in our hearts.

    ~ Phil and Libet Stanhope, Sarasota, Florida

  26. August 08, 2012
    Jay was a lovely man, a talented jeweler, a gifted photographer, a cultured, kind, open-hearted, patient, wise man and, in his fashion, a learned philosopher. All who met him immediately warmed to him. He was a good guy. Rest In Peace, Jay.
    Condolences to India, Chaya and Franz.

  27. August 09, 2012
    I have such clear memories of Jay – as a small child wandering around his shop on Main Street to him making my engagement ring in 2008. Always with funny stories, passion about his work and, of course, plenty of sandals! God bless Jay Starker, he touched so many with his art and talents.
    ~ Randall Auvil Goblirsch, Davenpoort, Iowa

  28. August 18, 2012
    Ein Staendchen fuer Dich J. Berri Starkermann- Mein Lebensfreund, Musikant und Deutschverderber. In Dankbarkeit fuer alle schoenen Studen, die unser Leben Froehlicher und sinnvoller gemacht haben.

    Was immer wir zusammen musiziert und gesungen haben haengt irgendwo im Universum, fuer ewig vertont.

    Vom Alten Kameraden zum Lusitgen Zigeunerleben-Die Lorelei und Lili Marlen-von Alle Vogel sind schon da bis zu Schwarzbraun ist die Haselnuss und Sah ein Knab’ein Roeslein stehn (Erika’s Lieblingslied). Dein alter Steinway wurde lebendig unter Deinen feinfuehligen Haenden.

    Niemand verstand und fuehlte den Inhalt dieser alten deutschen Volkslieder besser als Du. Ich weiss, dass Dir von allen Weisen das “Annchen von Tharau” am tiefsten im Herzen lag und somit singe ich Dir zum Abschied die dritte Strophe:

    “So wie ein Palmenbaum ueber sich steigt, hat ihn erst Regen und Sturmwind gebeugt, So wird die Liebe in uns maechtig und gross nach manchem Leiden und traurigem Los. Annchen von Tharau, mein Reichtum, mein Gut, du meine Seele, mein Fleisch und mein Blut.”

    Auf Wiedersehen mein Berri. Dein Utchen von Stein.
    ~ Ute Stein, Sarasota, Florida

  29. August 19, 2012
    met Jay multitalented artistick kind humorous soul in 1964 became lifelong friends. Attended the ballet he wrote many years ago, more recently the opera he wrote and performed locally.
    a visit to his shop was always a joyous thought provoting mental stimulating ocassion song and music included.
    My one of a kind jewlry is even more special to me now. I will miss Jay but remember him forever. Namaste. Sorina.
    ~ Sorina Jansen, Sarasota, Florida

  30. August 25, 2012
    Grew up in Sarasota, so knew Jay as a boy when he was a young man. He helped liberate my mind. One night in particular we were at a party and we were improvising on our instruments and Jay went into this beat rap/poetry that just blew us all away. I think he was wearing a robe. I’ll remember him always.

  31. August 25, 2012
    So sorry to learn of Jay Starker’s passing. His shops and work were part of a Sarasota Era.
    ~ George Bishopric, Fort Lauderdale, Florida

  32. August 26, 2012
    My heart goes out to the Starker family. Although I did not know J.B. Starker well, he was certainly a part of my life in the 1970s & ’80s. Who didn’t own a pair of custom sandals back then? And the Palm Avenue Theater when he owned it was so much fun to go to. My 21-year-old daughter has a necklace he made . . . the list goes on and on. His talent will live with us forever. Bless you all.
    ~ Nelle Jurgeleit-Greene, Haines, Alaska

  33. When Jay was about 14 years old he moved into the basement of the house where his parent’s lived , out of their apartment on the first floor. His grandparents, who Jay would often have exchanges with in Yiddish, lived on the top floor. This was on Warwick Street in East New York Brooklyn. Upon moving into his basement room he immediately painted a mural on the wall. Jay painted. He played cello, his mother’s piano, a fiddle he picked up in a junk store, a harmonica and guitar. Jay wrote poetry all his life. This is a poem he wrote then.

    As I Stare Into The Rain
    Long falls the scrawny, boney rain night
    Discolorfull and greyfull.
    Dogs are becoming sexy on a street corner,
    Fogged up cars pass by,
    People, chilly and ill at ease pass by:
    Houses are illuminated by the lanky hope, streetlamp.
    A few moments of silent thought have gripped me, staring-
    As all objects become infinite.

    When I spoke to Jay, a few days before his death, I quoted to him another poem I had preserved that he had written as a teenager in Brooklyn called In Maytime
    Jay and I and other friends would sing rounds and folk songs. We liked to sing at the handball court after a game or two. A favorite of ours was a Hebrew song Ha Yamim Cholfim that we had learned in a Zionist youth group. A rough translation is the following:

    The days pass,
    The years go by,
    But there is the melody,
    The chorus,
    The friendships,
    That last forever.

    Shelly Snyder

  34. I am just learning of Jay’s passing.
    JB Starker and his skills of conversation and creating just about whatever he wanted to made me celebrate his simplicity and ecological view of recycling. He taught me many things and shared Haitian cooking, views of the world and stories. He was a man who needs to live on as a true artisitc and spiritual example. I must admit, I did not understand him then as I do now.
    I am pleased he found my pool pleasing and healing when he came to relax and soak his leg wound.
    He deserved the best and will be remembered as the best of heart, spirit, peace and friendship.
    I provided him little, but he gave and gave to me.
    This world and community is better for you having lived in it, J. B. Starker.
    Pam Steen, Bradenton, FL

  35. February 09, 2013
    i first met jay when we were both about 16 years old, in brooklyn. my first experience with him was going down to the basement of his parents’ home and seeing a simply enormous mural he had painted on the swirled with colors and shapes; from that time and for about two or three years we hung around together. from all the comments i have read in the guest book, jay was just like those when he was sixteen. i have never forgotten the night he and i and his cello took a subway ride to rockefeller center and, about midnight he sat down to play his cello for every one who might pass by.i guess that takes us back to about 1948. may he rest in peace.he was always an original human being, then and now.
    ~ murrauy, chicago

  36. I grew up in Manatee and Sarasota Counties during the 60’s. We all went to the dances at the Sarasota Armory and The Bradenton Auditorium, and if you weren’t wearing white Levis and a pair of J.B Starker sandals, you just weren’t COOL! Loved those sandals.

  37. I too met Jay & Zebo in the late 60’s. I remember the musical warm experience in the harpsichord room. Till this day
    I have an appreciation for Gordon Lightfoot. I did not know how to drive a stick shift until I had to take Marilyn to the
    Hospital for an emergency in her car! That was a jerky ride! The memories of the Starkers are sweet! I hope to see them
    In the resurrection, soon. Love M.

  38. I last spoke to Jay around Christmas time, 2011. He was unwell, and couldn’t talk but a couple of minutes. I promised myself I’d call more often. Time passed, and I’d written him some unanswered messages. I happened to see India on Facebook yesterday, and learned of his passing over a year ago. I am so sad. He befriended me at one of the lowest points of my life, and I have never had a better friend. As others have said, he was a true Renaissance man, a philosopher, musician, writer, artist. I shall never forget him, and the joy that always lit up his face everytime I saw him. He was truly a blessing in my life! Ciao Bella, Jay!

  39. (a handwritten letter)
    Dear India,
    Shelly telephoned me this summer to tell me of Jay’s death. I was very saddened to hear of his passing. He was a unique person. Although, as adults, we rarely saw eachother, I remember him vividly from my high school days in East New York, Brooklyn.
    I think Jay’s most outstanding trait was his ability to make everything more colorful, more amazing, more audacious, more splendid than it would appear to the mundane mind. He easily dispensed with the commonplace, and replaced it with wonderment. His departure from this earth leaves an arrid space. My sincerest condolances to you and your sister.

  40. India, I’ve been cleaning out my favorites and came to this page, and was compelled to skim through all the tributes to your papa. It is amazing to me how MUCH he meant to SO MANY. Looking back on my life, if I had to list the 10 most outstanding people I’ve ever known, in terms of how much they affected my life, he’d be right there. Interestingly, he never told me that he was Jewish. I believe I always knew, but when I’d ask him, he’d always say he was Buddhist. He was absolutely a man of God, following the commandment to “Love Thy Neighbor As Thyself.” He seemed to love everybody, and if he was your friend, you were never alone. The one regret I have in moving back home from Florida was that it meant that over time I lost contact with him. I will always think of him as the best man I ever knew, and as one of my dearest friends!

  41. Jay was a friend when I moved to Provincetown in 1968. My first place in town was Zebo’s leather shop. I winterized it, and spent the winter there. He was an interesting guy! But I was all of 19, and he was a different generation. I do remember Marilyn, and vaguely remember 2 little kids.
    Sad to hear of Zebo’s passing last night. I knew him a lot better than Jay. He was more my speed, but they were both unforgettable characters!
    And the people I met in the 4 other apartments became close friends. We often lived in the same complex or street, as we did our twice a year move.
    I’m sure Jay was a wonderful and interesting dad!

  42. And interesting story about that Ford truck. A year later, I was working as a mechanic at Cape End Motors. I’m sure I rode in that truck a few times, when we picked up supplies.
    When I lived in Zebo’s shop, my GF lived above. She was married to Tony Costa. After his arrest, I felt the need to get out of town for a while… What a mess! When he came back to town, he’s sometimes sleep on the couch. Little did we know of his penchant for dispatching women…
    Thanks for the stories. What memorable times.
    (feel free to delete this message if you want. It’s a bit off-topic)

  43. Years have passed. We shared memories of living in G.V., NY in the 1950’s. How I miss him and a Sarasota that too is gone. Jay and my own kid brother, both Renaissance men and last of their kind. Nothing but memory to assuage loneliness now. There is nothing left but the sea.

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