In his “A Psalm of Life,” Henry Wadsworth Longfellow reflects…
Lives of great men all remind us
We can make our lives sublime,
And, departing, leave behind us
Footprints on the sands of time;
Footprints, that perhaps another,
Sailing o’er life’s solemn main,
A forlorn and shipwrecked brother,
Seeing, shall take heart again.
On September 28, 1951 in West Palm Beach, Florida, James and Albertha “Bertha” Hatfield announced the arrival of their second child, James “Jay” William Hatfield. Bertha’s mother, Dora Curry Roberts, and my Grandma Bessie were two of the five Curry siblings born to Pa Wes and Grandma Lilla. Consequently, Jay and I are second cousins.
In his early years, Jay lived in Miami before moving to Nassau in 1957 with his parents and two siblings, Joan and Larry. His grandparents needed care, and Jay’s mom, Bertha desired to help her siblings, Tessie and Anthony, care for their ailing parents. In Nassau, Jay attended the St. Thomas Moore school until the family moved back to Florida in 1965.
My parents often visited Jay’s parents and grandparents in their home off Centerville. During these visits, Jay and his siblings would shoot marbles on the floor with my older brother and sister. The families also enjoyed beach time together. Jay’s sister recalls…
Every holiday all of the family would go to an area on South Beach in Nassau for a day of picnicking and swimming. I remember your family was there a few times. We would bury the watermelons or throw them in the water to cool them down. We feasted on all the normal Bahamian food. My uncle had a small covered area to keep the food and a changing room as well.
Jay and Larry were your typical mischievous brothers and kept their Uncle Wilbert “on his toes.” He would reprimand them for climbing the trees in the neighborhood, especially the large tamarind tree down the street. When the boys deserved a spanking, they would double their long pants to lessen the impact.
Jay started his own business at the age of seventeen working with tropical fish. He did not have a farm at the time and would purchase from other farmers to ship to his customers. He eventually started his own farm, Jay’s Tropical Fish Farm, and shipped fish daily from the Tampa Airport. He later moved his operations and shipping closer to town and eventually had several employees joining him to run the operation.
Jay traveled to Central and South America, including Brazil and down the Amazon River to see the different fish there. His farm was the first to import South American fish to the United States. He shipped beautiful fish all over the world, including Japan and Canada. One particular fish, called the Black Ghost, had a fin underneath that ran from head to tail. Jay’s farm was the first to have this beautiful black and white fish.
An excerpt from his eulogy…
On Saturday, August 8, 2015, James “Jay” William Hatfield, Sr., passed away at 63. A resident and active member of the Ruskin community for many years, Jay spent his later years traveling to Central America, where he made a home in Nicaragua.
Born in West Palm Beach, Jay spent his early life in the Bahamas developing a passion for the tropical lifestyle and fishing. His hard-working demeanor drove him to the farms of Central Florida as a teenager and eventually led him to establish a successful fish farming business in Ruskin, Florida. By the age of 40, he had traveled the Caribbean and Central America, making many friends and becoming a regular visitor. An imaginative entrepreneur, he had an ongoing list of many ingenious and some downright hilarious ideas paired with the contact list and work ethic to achieve. His unique style, sense of humor, gentle heart and humble demeanor were unforgettable. His kind soul and vivacious spirit will continue to inspire his family for generations to come.