Activist Jay Bolton Dies of Heart Failure

Activist Jay Bolton Dies of Heart Failure

A devoted conservationist and environmentalist, Centreville's Julian "Jay" Bolton, 66, loved the outdoors. So perhaps it's only fitting that when he died last week of congestive heart failure, he did so outside his home.

His wife of 28 years, Virginia, had just finished shoveling snow in their front yard in The Meadows community, last Monday, Feb. 17, when he came outside to start their truck. It was about 4:15 p.m., and he was going for a dialysis treatment.

"He was out of breath, walking halfway to the truck, so I got a chair for him," said Virginia. "He sat in it, looked up at me and said, 'Honey, don't get concerned, but go call 911 — I think I'm dying.'"

She ran inside, grabbed the phone and dialed. After giving their names and address, she raced back to her husband. "I tried to bring him back, but he was already gone," she said. "He had no pulse."

Bolton had kidney disease, but he'd been looking good recently, said his wife, and was starting to feel better. He'd been on dialysis 1 1/2 years, three times a week. However, he'd also had congestive heart failure for years, and it was worsening.

"He could only get oxygen from 32 percent of his heart," said Virginia. "And the kidney disease made it harder for his heart to work." Just that morning, she said, he'd talked about possibly getting an oxygen tank. And lately, when he walked, he'd have to go slowly and stop a lot.

Born in Washington, D.C., as a boy during World War II, Bolton grew up on a chicken farm on Waples Mill Road in Fairfax and recalled his mother selling chickens to her co-workers in Washington to make ends meet.

He attended college and, for nearly 20 years, was a technician and cartographer for the Naval Oceanographic Office in Suitland, Md. He and Virginia were both Civil War re-enactors and met at a North-South Skirmish Association event. Said Virginia: "I shot a musket with the 49th Virginia Infantry."

Bolton was divorced, and Virginia's first husband had died. The couple married in September 1975 and enjoyed doing things with his daughter, Jennifer Duckworth, now 35, of New Carrollton; her daughter, Patricia Huppmann, now 36, of Fredericksburg and their daughter together, Catherine Bolton, 26, of Centreville. They also have one granddaughter, Brandi Huppmann, 12.

He belonged to the NRA and the Mount Olive Civic Association, but a major part of his life was the Izaak Walton League conservation group. He was a member of the Arlington/Fairfax Chapter on Mount Olive Road in Centreville for 30 years and was president of the Northern Virginia Chapter for 15 years. He served as state president — encompassing all 27 Virginia chapters — for 2 1/2 years.

Bolton loved camping and fishing and was a true conservationist. "Jay really believed in clean air and water, and he went to Richmond many a time to fight for them," said his wife. "He'd speak before the [Fairfax County Board of] Supervisors and the General Assembly and send letters to congressmen."

Local Izaak Walton League spokesman Birt Kidwell said Bolton testified for bills preserving state Game Department and inland-fisheries funding. Bolton also supported Return to Nature, promoting wildlife study in elementary schools.

Supervisor Michael R. Frey (R-Sully) said what he'll remember most about Bolton is his "tremendous passion" — not just for the environment, but also about development in Centreville. And though they sometimes disagreed, Frey said, "I liked Jay. He cared greatly about the community and had been involved for a long, long time. I knew his health wasn't good, but I was terribly surprised to hear about Jay's passing. We're going to miss him."

County BZA member Jim Hart said Bolton was "committed to improving pedestrian safety and getting road improvements in the Mount Olive/Old Mill area." And the WFCCA's Carol Hawn recently spoke with Bolton about the impact of two, new residential-rezoning applications in Mount Olive.

"He was a good person who cared very deeply about the environment," she said. "He's a perfect example of the good that Izaak Walton does in environmental matters."

Sully District Planning Commissioner Ron Koch, who knew Bolton nearly 30 years, called him full of life: "His love for his family and the world we live in was apparent to everyone who knew him. He was a good man."

Bolton's wife said he left his mark on her, too, encouraging her to get her GED, take some college courses, get a job and learn the computer. "He made me believe in myself and made me a better person," she said. And even before their children were old enough to get a driver's license, he taught them to change a car's oil and tires, etc., so they wouldn't have to depend on others for help.

Virginia also loved his laughter and jokes. Once, while picnicking with the girls, they hiked up a hill and he fell and feigned injury. Then he got up, laughed and said, "Gotcha!" Last week, said Virginia, "My daughter and I were standing in the hospital, saying our goodbyes to him, and Cathy said she was waiting for him to sit up and say, 'Ha, Ha, baby, gotcha!'"

Virginia said it's difficult being without him because they shared so much, and she still expects him to come through the door. "There are times I'll start crying when I think of him and something we've done together, and my heart aches because he's not here," she said. "But knowing the type of man he was and knowing he went fast and peacefully — with a smile on his face — makes it better; I know he didn't suffer."

Catherine said people always knew where they stood with him: "He had a rough exterior, but was the kindest, gentlest, most goodhearted person I know." He taught her things and had tea parties with her as a child. Said Catherine: "I had a great amount of respect and admiration for my father, and I know he'll always be with me."

A memorial service is planned for Saturday, March 15, at 11 a.m., at Cool Spring United Methodist Church, 3322 Cobbler Mountain Road, in Delaplane. The National I.W. League is starting an environmental-science scholarship in Bolton's name. Contributions to plant trees in his memory may be sent to the church, c/o Rev. Frank Crim, 409 W. Jubal Early Drive, Winchester, VA 22601. Or send contributions to the Izaak Walton League, 2729 Garrisonville Road, Stafford, VA 22556.