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Friends remember 'Jay' Hahn

Published June 28. 2014 09:00AM

If you didn't know better, you'd think you'd stumbled upon a gathering for a Grateful Dead reunion tour. But that wasn't the case.

It was a show of camaraderie in the face of death; it was the dark mystery of death defied and overridden by a sea of people wearing bright pink, white, blue, red and yellow tie-dyed T-shirts to honor the passing of Jason "Jay" Michael Hahn.

His favorite band was The Grateful Dead, his favorite song, Ripple.

Derek Snyder, 27, Andreas, gathered a group of friends for several evenings, and they spent many hours soaking, wrapping and dyeing the T-shirts so that everyone who attended the funeral could wear one. Hahn had been living with the Snyder family in Andreas for more than a year.

"He would have loved seeing all these people get together," said Trevor Snyder, 26, Derek's younger brother. "He would have loved seeing all these shirts."

Derek Snyder and Hahn had been creating and selling tie-dyed shirts, calling themselves J & D Happy Hippie Wear. The majority of people attending Hahn's viewing and funeral, held Friday afternoon at Mark Christ Funeral Home in Hometown, wore tie-dyed shirts and bandanas were tied around their heads.

Hahn, 22, had disappeared June 15 from the Andreas area. His body was found June 21 in Blythe Township, near New Philadelphia.

Ethan Michael Sullivan, 20, of Saint Clair, confessed to police that he had killed Hahn by hitting him in the head with a metal bar, and then wrapped the body in a tarp and pushed it over an embankment. Sullivan remains imprisoned, charged with criminal homicide, aggravated assault, robbery, simple assault, theft by unlawful taking and recklessly end enangering another person.

Police haven't discussed a motive for the crime, and the coroner's office still has not released Hahn's body to his family.

He is survived by his father, Harry Hahn Sr.; mother, Sharon Melefsky; sister, Regina Hahn; and brother Harry Hahn Jr., all of Tamaqua. He is also survived by his grandmothers, Regina Hahn of Tamaqua, and Nancy Melefsky of Frackville.

During the visitation and the funeral, people viewed collages of family photographs displayed on a side table and between two floral arrangements up front. The photographs included scenes from long-ago Christmases and grade school portraits.

"This was not supposed to happen," said the Rev. Ginny Goodwin, from the Zion Lutheran Church of Tamaqua, who led the service. "He did not always make the best choices, but Jay was on the verge of turning his life around."

Hahn, a graduate of Tamaqua Area High School, had been living with Bruce and Diana Snyder and working as a bricklayer. He'd started making plans for "a trip of a lifetime" to see a number of the country's western states. He enjoyed the dogs, cats, chickens and ducks on the Snyder's farm.

"You can tell a lot about a person by the way they treat animals, and by the way animals react to them," Bruce Snyder said during the service. Snyder also did several readings. "I'll always remember the day he came running out to meet me, acting like a newborn's dad, because there had been a hatch of baby ducklings."

"Whenever he was sitting down, he'd have a dog or cat in his lap," Snyder added.

Diana Snyder said that Hahn was always hanging around in the kitchen and eagerly contributed to domestic chores.

"He always wanted to learn, especially cooking, and he did laundry and emptied the dishwasher," she said. "At our house, we have a tradition where when we sit down to eat, we thank whoever did the cooking I'll always remember how proud he was the first time we sat down and said, 'Thank you Jay for making supper he got this huge smile.'"

During the service, Trinity Lutheran Vicar Cindy White sang "Turn, Turn, Turn," and Derek Snyder and Hahn's friend Sam Tuckett sang the Pink Floyd classic, "Wish You Were Here."

As Tuckett played on the guitar, the powerful, poignant lyrics of the songs brought many to tears, even as they sang along with the music. There was a point during the service when family and friends were invited to share their memories.

"He touched a lot of people in a short time, and he's going to be sadly missed by everybody," said his brother, Harry Hahn Jr. "He's in a better place now."

After the service, Trevor Snyder carried the photo collages and took time to look again at the face of his friend.

"You can look at these pictures and see him changing," Trevor Snyder said. "He was becoming really happy.

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