Legion of friends sends Jay Mogil off to the ‘other side’ in style
Saying 'adios' to Captain Weird Beard
July 31, 2017
Jay Mogil, a legendary figure in numerous Steamboat social circles, was one of those rare people who knew how to turn a handful of friends into scores of linked relationships.
"Jay was good at connecting people," Shannon Ford, one of those many friends, said.
Mogil was 46 when he died June 26 in a Denver hospice. But his ability to bring people together was on display the last Saturday in July, as people gathered on the banks of the Yampa River at Sunpie's Bistro to swap stories.
Sunpie's was a fitting location to celebrate the life of the gregarious man with the dramatic beard, who was obsessive about maintaining the boulder-lined cove he built on the river bank behind his home in Dream Island. Many of the people he had connected into one big tribe were there.
"Captain Weird Beard was the most lovable teddy bear of the Steamboat hooligans," Gabriel T. Rogers exclaimed. "Interesting things just happened around him."
"Jay had a way of always making you feel like a celebrity," Brandy Harris said.
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Close friend Megan Miller, who stayed by Mogil's side during his final days in hospice and organized Saturday's celebration of life at Sunpie's, described how her friend navigated the world on a different plane than most people.
"There was something about Jay," Miller said. "The rules didn't apply to him. It's not that he was a rebel. He just didn't think rules applied to him. He had this way, even if you just met him, of bringing you into the joke."
Mogils also had a charitable streak and was very active in the STARS ski program. Friends recall how he took Steamboat newbies into his home.
Jon Hugey observed that Mogil always seemed to have prime seats for musical events. One night, Mogil invited Hugey to see the famed jazz trumpeter Chris Botti perform at Strings Music Festival. Naturally, they were seated down front. When the two men returned from intermission a little late, Botti took notice and said into his microphone, "Did you guys stay a little too long at the bar?"
Hugey recalls sinking into his seat after that one.
Mogil was a devoted fan of the band Widespread Panic, so much so that he always rented a house in the Dominican Republic for his Steamboat friends to gather in while the band performed its annual sets in Punta Cana. But he never left for the Dominican Republic without gathering medical supplies to donate.
Harris recalled that it was after a Widespread Panic show in Aspen that Mogil chatted up a local restaurateur so smoothly that their pack of "hippies" was treated to a comped, five-star dinner with $60 bottles of wine.
“I might have had 50 cents in my pocket,” Harris said.
Ford is one of many who recalls Mogil's legendary dinner parties, which coincided with the Thanksgiving holiday or, as they preferred to call it, "Friends-givi-kuh."
"He loved to make turducken (turkey, duck and chicken meat rolled into one roast with stuffing)," Ford added. "He cooked everything, and everybody was welcome."
Bina Shah also grew close to Mogil when she worked late nights putting the alternative newspaper, "The Local," to bed. Mogil was the society page photographer and always succeeded in capturing the essence of Steamboat residents.
"He was a pillar of love for this community," she said. "He was just a very open-hearted soul and was never judgmental."
When Mogil first came to Colorado from his native Philadelphia, he landed in Fort Collins, where he played keyboards in a band called the “Sacrilicious Waffle,” before moving on to the more accomplished "William Crist Band."
Current Steamboat resident Tanya Cleveland lived in Fort Collins at the same time Mogil did and recalls sitting at the bar one afternoon and hearing someone expertly playing the piano in the next room. She was surprised to find Mogil playing a concerto by Beethoven.
She would soon learn not to be surprised by anything Jay Mogil did.