PR firm owner, founder of ‘Boca Beach Bash for Disabled,’ passes at 75

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Jay Van Vechten, Photo courtesy of Babione-Kraeer Funeral Home.

By: Dale King
Contributing Writer

Jay Van Vechten, a public relations professional in New York for many years as well as a world traveler who transformed a community beach party for the disabled in Boca Raton into a major event that attracted thousands, passed away July 11 at age 75.

Mr. Van Vechten, who along with wife, Lowell, created lavish parties for friends at their home, was also an avid author and inveterate writer on Facebook. He sent out a number of messages to his FB readers the evening before he passed away. His death was not reported to be related to COVID-19.

Born in New York City, the Manhasset native studied graphic design at Carnegie Mellon University and went on to form the Van Vechten & Co. public relations firm in Manhattan.

In Boca, he chaired the American Disabilities Foundation, Inc., and served as the executive director of the annual Boating & Beach Bash for People with Disabilities. He was also past chair of the Boca Raton Advisory Board for People with Disabilities and served on the city’s Community Advisory Panel.

In an interview with the Boca Newspaper earlier this year, he recalled how he became involved in the “Beach Bash:”

“The ‘Bash’ had existed as an annual picnic for people living in group homes. I was serving on the Disability Advisory Board. Our chairman was Shawn Friedkin of Stand among Friends. I told Shawn I had an idea for how the event could be broadened and expanded by adding boats and opening it to all people with disabilities living in Boca versus the previous attendees, who were only people living in group homes. Shawn and I met with Mayor Susan Whelchel. She loved the idea, and we were off and running.”

An obituary in the New York Times said Mr. Van Vechten “loved organizing trips with groups of friends, spanning the globe and delighting in sharing his discoveries.”

Condolences filled Facebook over the weekend of Mr. Van Vechten’s passing. “Jay was a remarkable person whose positivity radiated far and wide to touch thousands and thousands of lives,” said Mayor Scott Singer. “Boca Raton remains proud of the incredible work in creating the nation’s largest free event for people with disabilities and having the Boating and Beach Bash take place in our community.”

Commercial real estate expert Ingrid Fulmer wrote that “our community has lost one of its most amazing men – Jay Van Vechten. Jay had the most incredible heart and worked tirelessly to help others with disabilities. I will miss his kindness, compassion, sense of humor, twinkling eyes and support.”

In addition to his wife, he is survived by a son, Nicholas and a grandson, Alex, as well as a large, extended family.

Arrangements were handled by the Babione-Kraeer Funeral Home and Cremation Service, 1100 N. Federal Highway in Boca Raton.

At press time, the obituary said no public funeral or memorial services had been planned.