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1962 John "Jay" 2022

John "Jay" Townsend Wakefield

August 7, 1962 — March 15, 2022

SPARTANBURG, SC – John Townsend “Jay” Wakefield, 59, died at home on Tuesday, March 15, 2022.

Born Aug. 7, 1962 in Spartanburg, S.C., he was the son of the late John William Wakefield, Jr. and Elizabeth “Bette” Wakefield. Jay was a third generation General Motors dealer, following in the footsteps of his grandfather and father, and serving as president of Wakefield Automotive since 1993.

Jay began working in the family dealership at age 10, washing and detailing cars. As a teenager he worked summers in the parts and service departments. He graduated from Spartanburg Day School in 1980, where he was a member of the mighty Griffins’ football and basketball teams. He was a multi-year Flintlock camper and a member of Spartanburg’s Troop 1, Boy Scouts of America. Jay received a B.A. in political science from Sewanee, The University of the South. After college he worked briefly in Washington, D.C. as a staff member for U.S. Rep. Carroll Campbell.

Jay received an MBA from the University of South Carolina and came home to Spartanburg in 1985 to work alongside his father. Over the years he has operated multiple automotive franchises including Buick, Pontiac, GMC, Cadillac, and Suzuki. In 2016-17 he served as president of the South Carolina Automobile Dealers Association, where he was first elected as a director of the Palmetto District in 1997.

Jay introduced hundreds of young men to the game of lacrosse, founding the Eastside Vikings Youth Lacrosse League in 2010, coaching and organizing schedules up until the last day of his life. Spurred by his example, the Spartanburg Girls Youth Lacrosse League was founded in 2016. As a Troop 1 Boy Scout outdoor wilderness leader for many years, he led groups of young men deep into the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and along the Appalachian Trail. In 2014 he received the Dr. George Dean Johnson leadership award in scouting.

Jay was a lover of the Blue Dogs, the Grateful Dead, Delbert McClinton and the Belleville Outfit. He was also a big fan of the Wofford Terriers and the South Carolina Gamecocks. He had passions for fly fishing, deep sea fishing, snow skiing, and bird and deer hunting. He was a certified sailing captain, taking his family on multiple sailing excursions in the Caribbean. Two months before his passing from complications of cancer, he jumped off a bridge into a waterfall during a family trip to Costa Rica.

Jay was extremely proud of the Spartanburg community. He was a graduate of Leadership Spartanburg and Leadership South Carolina, served as president of the Red Cross, delivered Mobile Meals, served on the Spartanburg Development Corporation, and was a member of the Foundation Committee at the Episcopal Church of the Advent. In 2021 the Spartanburg Day School named him Alumnus of the Year.

Surviving are his wife, Jenny Degner Wakefield; a daughter, Anne Townsend Wakefield of Greenville; two sons, William Walker Wakefield and John Brownlee Wakefield, both of Spartanburg; and two sisters, Betsy Wakefield Teter (John Edward Lane) and Katherine Geer Wakefield, both of Spartanburg.

The family wishes to express its gratitude to the outstanding employees of Wakefield Automotive.

Funeral services will be held Saturday, March 19th, 2:00PM at The Episcopal Church of the Advent.

Memorials may be made to the Church of the Advent Foundation, 141 Advent Street; the Jay Wakefield Memorial Youth Lacrosse Fund, c/o the Spartanburg County Foundation, 424 E. Kennedy Street; or the Spartanburg Day School, 1701 Skylyn Drive.

To order memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of John "Jay" Townsend Wakefield, please visit our flower store.


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