Jay Sapir, 70, of Chicago, died on August 14, 2017, of heart failure. He was a 20-year veteran of broadcast and print news. He was gifted in ability to brighten any conversation and defuse any tension with humor; passionate about world events, music, his son, and so much more.
Jay Sapir was born in Manhattan, raised in Mount Vernon, N.Y., and resided in Chicago. When he was growing up, his family ran a resort hotel in the Catskills, in New York State. He absorbed the fabled humor of the Jewish comedians of that 1950s-’60s Catskills era, and would sprinkle every conversation with reanimated jokes delivered with perfect timing.
Jay lived on Martha’s Vineyard from the mid-1970s to the early ’80s. Beside founding Up-Island Taxi, he was best known for his work in radio. He was news director, anchor, talk show and jazz show host at WMVY Radio, Martha’s Vineyard, from 1981 to ’84; and a reporter at the Grapevine Newspaper in Tisbury from 1979 to 1981.
Jay was a doorman at Loretta Balla’s fabled Seaview Hotel. He acted with Jamie Weisman in the ITW production of “Waiting for Godot” in the early 1980s.
Known for his rapid wit and his “face for radio,” Jay would enliven any discussion with his passionate convictions on politics, jazz, or UFOs, among a few favorite topics.
He was curious and compassionate, and after moving off the Vineyard, Jay was a contributor to NPR, and ran the NPR-affiliated KCAW news department in Sitka, Alaska, before going to Washington, D.C.
There he rose to one of the pinnacles of radio news, becoming UPI Radio’s Washington editor and correspondent. Jay wrote, voiced, and produced UPI radio news spots and features.
In Washington, Jay interviewed everyone from Henry Kissinger to Yoko Ono, and sat next to famed Washington reporter Helen Thomas at daily White House news briefings. He hosted radio roundtable discussions with Ms. Thomas and the notorious political columnist Jack Anderson.
He moved to Chicago as UPI’s Midwest bureau chief, covering the Jeffrey Dahmer serial killer case and other national and international news events, from the invasion of Panama to Iran-Contra to troop deployments in the first Gulf War.
Jay covered the riots and games of the 1988 Olympics in Seoul, South Korea, and the Republican and Democratic National Conventions in Atlanta and New Orleans.
He was a member of the Mutual UFO Network (MUFON).
Jay Sapir is survived by son Rory Ben Waldman Sapir, 21, of Chicago, sister Sue Hagen of Brooklyn, N.Y., and ex-wife and close friend Carol Waldman of Wilmette, Ill.