Human Interest

Dobyns: Dad true hero who taught to live life like comet, brilliant for others

Editor note: The following was written by former Sahuaro High School and University of Arizona football player Jay Dobyns, who served as a special agent with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms (ATF) from 1987 to 2014. He was a participant in over 500 undercover operations. His book, “No Angel, My Harrowing Undercover Journey to the Inner Circle of the Hells Angels,” is a New York Times bestseller. He recently released another book titled “Catching Hell, A True Story of Abandonment and Betrayal,” that deals with “corruption and cover-up of proportions that few would ever believe our government was capable of,” stemming from his time as an agent. Dobyns is a keynote speaker, lectures on law enforcement topics, consults on film and television projects and coaches high school football at Salpointe Catholic.

By Jay Dobyns
Special to All Sports Tucson

Father’s Day is today. Missing this guy. To mine and all you good dads out there who put their kids first, Thank You. For those whose dads are gone, you’ll get this.

Jay Dobyns (left) with his late father Jack (Dobyns family photo)

From my book, Catching Hell

Epilogue: Jack Edward Dobyns

There are many I have admired during my life, but I had one, true hero.

“Set your mind on something then go get it and surround yourself with people who help and encourage that.”

“Anyone can be great on a good day. People who are special find a way to be great on their bad days.”

“Life’s best lessons come from failure and disappointment.”

“If you are good at something, you don’t have to tell people, they will already know.”

“You are only given one reputation. Protect it.”

Those and dozens of other lessons he taught me raced through my head as my dad slipped away.

Jack Edward Dobyns

His last ten years of life he fought Parkinson’s Disease. He knew what was coming for him. He studied it. He researched it. He hardened himself and prepared.

My dad saw the humiliation that my fight against the government had caused me. I sought his counsel on how to proceed, “What should I do, dad?’


I slumped. The man who had taught me to resist against every bully was suggesting I halt my skirmish. His eyes welled the same way they had almost 50 years before when he explained to me why he encouraged the kid on my chest to keep punching me.

“I’m sorry I did this to you. I wanted to raise a man who would stand up for himself. I had no idea how much pain that would cause you.”

When he had declined to the point where he could no longer take care of himself, we moved him to an assisted living home. His Parkinson’s had expanded towards Alzheimer’s and dementia.

Jay Dobyns (far right) with his family, including his dad Jack in front (Dobyns family photo)

Dutchie packed his bag and as he left their house for the last time, he stared at a picture on the wall. It had been in the same place for years. It was of my sister Jenny, my brother Ben and me.

He asked my mom, “Can I take that with me?”

Dutchie replied, “Of course, Jack,” and handed it to him.

He looked at it and asked, “Do you think I will always know who they are?”

One night at his group dinner, the aortic sack around his heart ruptured. When I got to the emergency room the staff was working on him, frantically. The doctor came in, “We can keep him alive but ultimately he will not survive this.”

I looked to my mom and she grabbed my hand. I told the doctor, “This is not what he wants. Please make him comfortable.”

The doctor replied, “Call the rest of your family. Get them here as quickly as possible.”

All of us were by his side except my daughter Dale. She was living in Denver. Dale was Jack’s first grandchild. He adored her.

Through the night dad’s breathing shallowed. His heartrate slowed and his blood pressured declined. I kept whispering in his ear, “Hang on Papoo (the nickname Dale gave him when she was a baby and which everyone called him thereafter). Dale is on her way.”

He’d fought for hours and hours against an exploded heart to be able to give Dale her goodbye. Sacrificing, struggling, battling for others. His work, his lessons and his life were complete. It was as if we were in the presence of God as He took dad’s hand from Dale and said, “I’ve got him now.”

Death was creeping up—but he was fighting.

I updated him with each of Dale’s movements. “She’s on her way to the airport.” “She’s sitting on her plane.” “Dale’s in the air, dad.” “She just landed.” “She is on her way here to see you, hang on.”

When Dale came into the room he literally had nothing left. He had given everything to anyone and everyone who ever crossed his path. Dale moved directly to him and grabbed his hand, “I’m here Papoo. I made it. I love you.”

With that, he gave her hand a squeeze, a tear rolled from the corner of his eye and he was gone.

He’d fought for hours and hours against an exploded heart to be able to give Dale her goodbye. Sacrificing, struggling, battling for others. His work, his lessons and his life were complete. It was as if we were in the presence of God as He took dad’s hand from Dale and said, “I’ve got him now.”

Every fort we built, every car we worked on, every nail we pounded, every pass he threw me; they all came back in that moment.

I hugged my mom and plopped in a chair, braindead. My life’s guide was gone. Nurses came in and prepared my dad’s body for transportation to the funeral home. My mom signed papers and Gwen comforted the kids in the hallway.

Jay Dobyns has a kid with his father Jack (Dobyns family photo)

I was alone with the shell of the man who made me. A pamphlet for grieving families caught my eye. I’m sure dad’s soul was gone as I read to him out loud my final words in his presence. In reflection, I believe he left it there for me.

Tears ran down my cheeks. I’ve done a lot of crying lately:

“So, live your life like a comet!

Burn bright and fast and light up the sky.

When you are gone, leave with a brilliance that makes others stop, watch, think, and wish.

Dare to strap on wings.

“That’s impossible,” said Pride.

“Too risky,” said Experience.

“It’s pointless,” said Reason, standing next to Logic.

“Go ahead and try it,” said the Heart.

“But, what if I fall?” said Fear.

“Oh, but what if you fly!” said Courage.


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