I have to write something. I wish this was under better circumstances. The world lost a truly great man Sunday night. Everyone says that when someone passes, but those words could not be any more true. I know a lot of people who read my blog do not know me personally, but I ask that you keep reading, and I hope I can convey a shred of the utter magnitude of Keith Jeannotte.
I met my best friend, Rob in kindergarten, and shortly thereafter, I met his dad. Mr. J, as we called him, was a mountain of a man. War veteran, native american, lover of Christmas and truly a giant teddy bear. Over the years, Mr. J watched us grow up. He reveled in practical jokes and causing dissent among us. He would sit back in his chair and let out his signature low, grumbly, laugh as Rob and I played Mortal Kombat on the Sega Genesis. As I promptly got my ass handed to me, Mr. J laughed and laughed, and quoted me saying “No one ever beats me!” I never lived that down. Two weeks ago Mr. J told that story again, and it never got old.
Over the years Mr. J became dad. He was always dad, to everyone. Every group has that friend whose parents’ become everyone’s second parents. Rob’s parents’ are just that. Dad J, Cheify, Mr. J, etc etc was no less. He helped guide us all through our teens, driving us around in his giant red truck, through college, and into adulthood. His jokes never changed, and they never got old. For the guys, he was always there with his iron handshake, ready to bring your hand within it’s breaking point, all the while smirking at you. For the girls, he was always there with a compliment and his signature smile. He would constantly play practical jokes on us all, grabbing the back of your knee when you walked by, punching you in the shoulder, or making you believe some crazy story only to laugh his ass off in the end at your gullibility.
Rob’s house was the Mecca of our area. Everyone met there, stayed there, and hung out there. Be it just to watch a tv show, play video games, or just to talk. Mr. J was always there, sitting in his chair, offering up sage advise, or wise ass sarcasm. When word got out he passed, everyone I knew was affected in some way. This one man touched more lives than I ever knew. Even if you met him once, he left an unforgettable impression. Mr. J is quoted daily, and will continue to be until we are all gone. I have never met a man who opened his heart and his home to so many people, never judging, and always willing to help in some way. Mr J told it like it is, if he didn’t agree with you, he would call bullshit, and argue to the end. No matter his opinion, I just respected it. This man deserved respect. I was always humbled in his larger than life presence.
His passing was a shock to us all. The true patriarch of our group is gone. I’m told he went in his sleep. It’s the ultimate prank to me. We joked that if he was going to go out, it would be fighting a pack of rabid bears, and only after he slayed them all would he fall. But no, he went peacefully. Over time, our group has spread all over the country, and as news spread, each one of them has reached out. Whether you met him once or spent every day with him, he gave the same love and support to you. Every time I begin to lose my grip, I think of him laughing and telling me to “shut the hell up, ya goddamn frenchman!” and I laugh. I smile, and I remember. Stories of Mr. J will be told for years, and I hope those stories will be remembered and told after we are all long gone. To say that this man is a legend is putting it lightly. To us, he was the world. A constant. Now he is gone…and it still hasn’t sunk in. I will mourn, but not too much, because I know he damn well wouldn’t want that. Anything I write could never do him justice, I just hope he is looking down on us, smiling, and truly knows the positive impact he made on so many lives. There has been far too much loss lately. But I try and learn from my lost loved ones. If I amount to half the man Keith Jeannotte was, I can truly call myself lucky.
Rest In Peace Dad