Very late in the evening of the day Jimmy died, our son-in law, Ryan Kirby, returned to Solana Beach from a fishing trip cut short in Alaska with his father and two brothers.  Our daughter Brittany had already moved in with us as our storm was raging all around, and so did Ryan.  The next day he sat down at the computer in Jimmy’s bedroom and wrote the obituary for his brother-in-law. We still don’t know how he did it.  Hilary and I were having difficulty putting two words together, and even the thought of attempting to write something about our son that would be at all suitable for public consumption seemed insurmountable—no, it was impossible.  Each time I tried to scribble out a few words my body was wracked with sobs.  Ryan stepped up and volunteered to take on this gargantuan task .  His focus, compassion and detail were extraordinary—his heart and soul deeply embedded in every word.

Ryan not only honored Jimmy, he honored our entire family and everyone who knew Jimmy.  We are forever grateful to Ryan for not only this, but for everything he did and has done during those terribly difficult first days, and the weeks, months and years that have followed. Ryan and Brittany’s first anniversary was nine days after Jimmy died.  It is rare when a young man, so early on in a marriage and entry into a new family, finds himself on the front line of such an enormous tragedy and disaster—much like a battlefield I would suspect—and must confront the supreme extreme test of his mettle and strength.  Ryan Kirby earned a permanent place at our table—he exhibited remarkable courage, warmth, awareness and even, when necessary, a sense of humor throughout this hurricane, and in so doing he became one of us.  Ryan Kirby, indeed, wrote something beautiful.

James Tedrow Gauntt, 24

November 8, 1983-August 9, 2008

F. Scott Fitzgerald once wrote, “For awhile after you read John Keats all other poetry seems to be only whistling or humming.”  The same can be said for a person having the privilege of being in the presence of James “Jimmy” Tedrow Gauntt.  No one else was as bright, as talented, as kind, as genuine, or as loving.  Jimmy was music, the rest of us mere explanation of its sound.  But rarer still, and perhaps even more remarkable, was what Jimmy achieved in his 24 short years here on earth.

Jimmy grew up in Solana Beach and graduated Torrey Pines High School in 2002 with a 4.65 GPA.  He was senior class president, played four years of football, three years of track & field, and was voted by his peers to be both Homecoming Prince and recipient of the “nicest guy” award.  He was an AP scholar, a Boys State finalist, National Honors Society member, recipient of the Dartmouth Book Award, the Golden Falcon Award, and prestigious Trustee Scholarship to the University of Southern California.

Jimmy graduated Phi Beta Kappa from USC in 2006, spending a summer studying in Madrid and his senior year in London at Queens College.  He was a member of the SAE Fraternity.  While fluent in Spanish, his minor at USC, Jimmy majored in English Literature.  He was a prolific reader.  Inspired by Shakespeare, D.H. Lawrence and James Joyce, among countless others, Jimmy’s ineffable talent as a writer was only outmatched by his intense desire to create.  Upon the very day of his tragic death where he was accidentally struck by a motorist while a pedestrian, Jimmy had just completed his fourth screenplay titled “Now’s The Time.”  As well as screenplays, Jimmy had a passion for the theatre, both as an actor and in penning three plays, two of which were produced and staged.  For the play he wrote that was performed by members of the USC theatre department, Jimmy saw fit that a tenor saxophone play in the orchestra to represent the unconscious of its central character, as Jimmy had more than 8 years of saxophone training and experience himself.

Despite all of his ability and genius, despite all of his accomplishment and kindness, Jimmy remained an angel because of his laughter, able to fly simply because he took himself so lightly.  Jimmy was hilarious.  But he listened.  He listened with his whole heart.  Every friend, acquaintance and family member understood no greater truth than this:  Jimmy cared so much, so sincerely.  Forever beaming with the greatest smile, forever full of joy, forever ready to help others find and hold fast to happiness, forever young.  Jimmy Gauntt was an artist.  He will be missed by those who love him in ways forever unsayable.

He is survived by his parents Casey and Hilary Gauntt, his sister Brittany Gauntt Kirby and brother-in-law Ryan Kirby, his Grandmother Barbara Case Gauntt, Grandparents James and Virginia Tedrow, aunts Laura Gauntt Butie, Ainsley Nies and Leslie Tedrow, and his uncle Grover Gauntt III and their families.

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Author Bios

Write Me Something Beautiful Authors - Casey and Jimmy Gauntt

Casey Gauntt

is a retired attorney and former senior executive of a major San Diego real estate company. He lives in Solana Beach, California, with his wife, Hilary. Casey grew up in Itasca, Illinois, graduated Lake Park High School in 1968, and received B.S., JD and MBA degrees from the University of Southern California.

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Jimmy Gauntt

was born and raised in Solana Beach and graduated from Torrey Pines High School in 2002.   A prestigious Trustee Scholar at the University of Southern California, he majored in English and Spanish. He authored six plays, five screenplays, and a multitude of poems and short stories. Beginning in 2010, the USC English Department annually bestows the Jimmy Gauntt Memorial Award—aka “The Jimmy”—to the top graduates in English.  Jimmy passed over to the other side in 2008 at age 24.

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