Chilkat Valley News - Serving Haines and Klukwan, Alaska since 1966


Kurz dies of Huntington's disease at 47


Jay Kurz

Jay Kurz, a resident of Haines for 15 years, died July 14 at Southern Ocean Medical Center Hospital in Manahawkin, N.J. He was 47 and had been suffering from Huntington’s disease.

Kurz was born May 19, 1966, in Toms River, N.J, to Bill and Janet Kurz. The couple left Manahawkin for Haines in 1973, and Kurz turned 7 while the family drove up the highway toward their new home.

Between 1979 and 1989, Kurz lived at 1 Mile Mosquito Lake Road. Father Bill Kurz called his son an “active, strong kid” who helped build the house and was accustomed to off-the-grid living.

“He always had a project going. He was one of those people who would start with next to nothing and then wheel and deal and turn out pretty good,” Bill said.

One winter, Kurz and his father were shoveling snow in the driveway when Kurz got fed up with the monotonous task and said, “To hell with this,” and went inside. Minutes later, he came back outside and drove away.

“About an hour-and-a-half later, I hear ‘Beep! Beep! Beep!’ and a rattling noise. Turned out he had gone out and swiped his rifle for a Chevy truck with a plow to plow the driveway,” Bill said.

Another winter, Kurz agreed to bring firewood to elderly resident Helen Roth, who lived in town. Hearing that the road would likely be closed the next day due to a severe snow storm, Kurz and his father trekked through a mile of “snow up to our pockets” to get to the truck loaded up with firewood and deliver the wood.

Kurz’s mother Janet Kurz remembered her son as a “generous, loving and kind” boy. “He wasn’t shy. He was a little hell-raiser at times in school. He was okay, though. He didn’t get into any real trouble.”

After high school, Kurz worked for Buster Benson as a sawyer. “He was always the industrious sort,” Bill said. “Jay was the one who went out doing all the physical things, while (his brother) Karl had his nose in the books. But they got closer as they got older.”

At 22, Kurz went south to find work and ended up driving a garbage truck for 20 years in Ocean County, N.J.

Kurz was a former member of the Klehini Valley Fire Department, Stafford Township Fire Department, and Bedford, Va. Elks.

In his free time, Kurz liked to tinker with junked cars to see if he could get them running again. He also liked riding ATVs and dirt bikes with friends, said Janet.

Seven years ago, Kurz was diagnosed with Huntington’s disease, a neurodegenerative genetic disorder that leads to cognitive decline, loss of muscle coordination, and psychiatric problems.  

“He knew he was sick, and he handled it very well,” said Janet.

Kurz is survived by wife Tina Edwards Kurz (formerly of Haines), parents Bill and Janet Kurz of Haines, sister Tia Anderson of Bedford, Va., brother Karl Kurz of Silver Spring, Md., half-brother Bill Kurz of Orlando, Fla., nieces Tiffany Anderson, Kimberley Kurz, Rebecca McArdle, and Mackenzie Kurz, nephew Jacob Anderson, and great-niece Alyssa Gladfelter.

The family received visitors July 17 at the Cedar Run Assembly of God Church. A celebration of life was held at the church.

Donations can be made to the Huntington’s Disease Society of America.