Cover photo for Jay Sgt.'s Obituary
1973 Jay 2013

Jay Sgt.

May 15, 1973 — September 6, 2013

Sgt. Jay D. Lessley, age 40, flew into the sunrise on September 6, 2013, after a plane he was test piloting failed to work as expected and plummeted to the earth west of the Spanish Fork Airport into peaceful pastureland.

Jay was born May 15, 1973, to Deanna and Dennis Lessley from Sunburst, Montana. In actuality, he was born in a hospital north of there in Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada, but was only there for the first three days of his life. After living in various locations in Montana, he moved with his family when he was a teenager to Mesa, Arizona.

In Arizona, Jay truly starting forging the man he was at the time of his death. He joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and made decisions about where he wanted his life to go and how he wanted others to see him. He was a member of the JROTC in high school and part of their color guard. He started working as soon as he could and had many jobs at places such as a department store, a car wash, and a hamburger place that, according to him, made the best hot wings in the country. He graduated from Westwood High School in 1991 with many friends who made an impact on his life.

After high school, Jay served a righteous mission to Macon, Georgia from 1992 to 1994. While serving his mission, Jay grew to love the people of the South and met some of his best friends there. He was a district and zone leader while serving, and he helped many people find their way to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

When Jay returned from his mission, he also returned to working full-time and attending college at BYU in Provo, Utah. At BYU, he was part of the maintenance staff for many years while he worked on his degree in psychology. He was also part of the BYU Men's Chorus as a tenor and as a flutist. One of Jay's loves in life was music, especially choral, and being a part of the chorus gave him great joy. In 2001, Jay graduated with his Bachelor of Science degree in psychology-a proud moment for him and his loved ones. Education being important to him, Jay continued his schooling through BYU's Marriott School of Management and earned his Master of Public Administration degree in 2004 while working more than full-time and attending school in Salt Lake City. This was another proud accomplishment in his life, and he would have furthered his education had he been given more time on this earth.

While attending BYU, Jay admitted to meeting the love of his life, Heather, in the student union cafeteria and attracting her attention with his usual wit and charm. He asked her to marry him and, unable to resist, she said yes. They were married on May 6, 1995, in the Jordan River Temple in South Jordan, Utah. Theirs was a marriage filled with laughter, adoration, frustration, and love until the very last. She will miss him in death just as she missed him in life.

In 1999, the other love of Jay's life was born. Samara Rose Lessley entered his life and secured herself as his pride and joy. As a baby, he would often sing to her as they played and did things around the house. As she grew, he would find teaching moments in the everyday activities, which delighted him and drove her crazy. He had been teaching her how to fly at the time of his passing and when he had time, they watched Star Trek and played video games together. Jay's temperament, dry wit, and quirky personality live on through his precious daughter.

Jay had only two dreams for a career in his life-flying or law enforcement. He never thought he would realize both, but his drive and determination never allowed him to give up on what he wanted. In 2000, Jay began his career as a law enforcement officer at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah. He was a go-getter and brought energy to the department and changed many lives before leaving BYU for a position as deputy with the Utah County Sheriff's Office in 2004. Jay loved being a cop, and he made sure he used that position for good in many ways. He treated everyone with respect and courtesy even if they cursed at or spat on him. As an officer and deputy, he had many roles throughout the years. They included R.A.D. women's instructor, D.A.R.E. instructor, DRE and DRE instructor, pilot for the S.O., Medical Examiner Investigator for the state, police academy instructor, guest lecturer, Field Training Officer, Hostage Negotiator, SFST instructor, EVO instructor, Marijuana Identification Expert, sergeant, and unofficial go-to guy for computer and technology problems. He loved all of it and would have added more to the list had he been given more time!

In 2006, the sky beckoned as it always had, and he began his flight training with the intention of becoming a pilot for the Sheriff's Office. After his first solo flight, he couldn't rid himself of the perma-grin encompassing his face and left his head in the clouds even while his feet were on the ground. From there, his obsession with flying took off. He became a Certified Flight Instructor, a CFII, a Multi-engine Instructor, obtained a commercial rating, and was going to work on getting rated to fly jets. He tried to take as many people flying with him as he could because he couldn't resist sharing this love of his. He was as meticulous and exacting in flying as he was with everything he did and demanded the same attention to detail from his students as he did from himself. He insisted on safety first and checked and rechecked planes whenever he would fly them.

At the time of his passing, Jay was a chorister in the primary for the church and was a faithful priesthood member.

Jay was a sensitive, funny, warrior who loved music, affection, aviation, law enforcement, writing, public speaking, teaching, his country, weaponry, woodworking, photography, rocketry, and his girls. He will be sorely missed.

Thanks to family members, friends, and colleagues who have done so much in this hour of need.

Jay is survived by his wife, Heather; daughter, Samara; brother, Paul; mother, Deanna; and many more family members and dear friends.

Donations can be accepted in an account set up in benefit to Samara Lessley at any Zions Bank.

A visitation will be held on Friday, September 13, 2013 from 5:00 to 8:00 pm at the LDS Mapleton 13th Ward located at 970 North 400 East, Mapleton, UT. Funeral services will be held at 11:00 am on Saturday, September 14, 2013 at the same location with a visitation from 9:30 am to 10:45 am. Interment will be at the Springville Evergreen Cemetery. Funeral arrangements are under the direction of Legacy Funeral Home.

September 11, 2013 at 4:32 pm | #

To the Lessley family:

While I hadn't known Jay for very long, it didn't take long to become really good friends with him. He was, as you say, very meticulous and I was impressed with the many, many skills that he has. In fact, when I had people come to the FBO looking for a flight instructor, I always gave them his number; and felt very comfortable doing so as he was a very capable CFII. I'm also very impressed with his many accomplishments - truly a "go-getter" always looking to progress. He is a wonderful man and I'm so sorry for your loss at this time. I know we will all be looking forward to the time when we can be with him again. May God bless you in the most difficult time. I know Jay will be with you always.


Gary Hansen


September 11, 2013 at 6:22 pm | #

Jay had a ready smile that always brightened the day for all who knew him. When we met Jay through the JROTC program in high school, we knew he would be successful at whatever he did. He has a huge heart and a great sense of humor. We loved having him with our family whenever we could. He was like a big brother to the younger children. Our hearts and prayers are with his family. Love from the Taylor Family!


September 11, 2013 at 6:22 pm | #

Lessley Family:

Our family would like to express our deepest condolences for your loss. My wife and I attended Westwood High School with Jay (1991). He was a good friend and a great example of dedication and kindness. We have not had the pleasure of keeping connected with him over the years, but enjoyed reading his great accomplishments and wonderful life (which was totally expected). Our prayers and thoughts are with you with at this time. His light will continue to shine in the world.

Warmest regards,

Jamie & Gina Adams

Richmond, TX


September 11, 2013 at 6:50 pm | #

To Heather , Samara & the Lessley Family-

I am truly sorry for this. Your family has been so kind to us. We appreciate your friendship and though we have lost contact, my kids and I reminisce of the fun times we have had. Your family has taught me how I wanted my family and you guys helped me get better. I love you guys. I cannot imagine what your family is going through, but we will pray for you and we will be thinking of you. Thank you for your examples to us!


Amy Leach & Kids


September 11, 2013 at 10:41 pm | #

I didn't know Jay for very long either, but being in the ward choir with Jay in Spanish Fork was an absolute joy for me. I would sit next to him and listen to his amazing voice and it made me want to sing even better. He had an amazing talent that I won't forget. My condolences to Heather and Samara on Jay's passing. He will always be near you and I know you can still hear his now angelic voice.


September 12, 2013 at 1:48 am | #

I was step-father to Jay Lessley beginning in 1978 when I married his mother Deana.

Duruing all his years of growing, Jay never failed to impress me as a boy who was focused on his future. He had his eye on the Air Force Acedemy after high school, where he was in ROTC training. Unfortunately, Sen. John McCain didn't nominate him into the academy. Jay, being who he was, didn't let that be the end of his world.

I, unfortunately did not keep in communication with him these past three years. For that I'm so sorry.

I give my condolences to Heather and his daughter Samara. I'm sure Samara will do well in life too as she is the daughter of this step-son I was so proud of. I'm sure Heather will be great in her life too. After all, Jay picked the best.

I will miss him too!


September 12, 2013 at 4:24 am | #

I knew Jay through my membership in the Civil Air Patrol. He was confident, fun, and easy to talk with. He had the heart of a teacher. Although I have only known Jay a short time, I consider him to be a friend. I believe he made friends wherever he went. It was only a few weeks ago we were launching rockets in Provo. I will sincerely miss him and his enthusiasm.

May God bless you at this difficult time,

Dan McNeece


September 12, 2013 at 3:11 pm | #


My deepest sympathy. While I stayed with you and Jay briefly after college, I saw the two of you have Family Home Evening at your kitchen table. You were an amazing, eternal couple that will be an amazing family throughout eternity. Thank you for letting me know you. While contemplating your unbelievable loss, I came across this quote...

"That which we call death is merely the slumber and rest of this mortal clay, and that only for a little season, while the spirit, the life, has gone to enjoy again the presence and society of those whence it came, and to whom it is joy again to return. And this will be the condition of the righteous until the morning of the first resurrection, when the spirit will have power to call forth the lifeless frame to be united again, and they both become a living soul, an immortal being, filled with the light and power of God*** What reason have we to mourn? None, except that we are deprived for a few days of the society of one whom we love" (Joseph F Smith Jour. of Dis Vol XIX p. 263)

I pray the Lord will provide you His comfort during this most difficult time.



September 12, 2013 at 5:31 pm | #

In 2006, I had the distinct pleasure to meet Jay as I was blessed to be his instrument flight instructor for a short time. I can attest to his meticulous approach to flying - there were none better at flying a plane than Jay. I was thrilled to meet up with him and Samara later on when they decided to join us at Civil Air Patrol. Jay will be deeply missed, and our love for Samara is deepened at this time of loss. What a tremendous young family, who have left a permanent mark for good on so many of us in the community. We miss you already, Jay.


September 12, 2013 at 6:21 pm | #


I was sorry to here about the passing of Jay. He was a very kind man. I enjoyed my time with him doing RAD Kids. I enjoyed talking to him about cars, guns. And how much faster my car was than his patrol car. He had such a connection with the kids. He will be deeply missed. My thoughts and prayers are with you and Samara


September 12, 2013 at 6:32 pm | #

In checking my own flight log book, I see that I've spent close to two full days plowing through the wild blue yonder with Jay Lessley. Jay was once one of my flight instructors (and now I am a flight instructor myself). As I gazed at the photos of the wreckage of Jays airplane, I was reminded of the book "Jonathan Livingston Seagull". Jay reminds me of Jonathan...always pushing his limits...striving to learn and improve. Jonathan ended one of his flights by plowing straight into the ground but rather than it being the end, he found himself flying along side higher level flight instructors in another realm...learning and pushing his limits once again. That's where I see Jay now....pushing his limits still...striving for perfection. I think Jays days as a flight instructor are not over...they have only just begun. I look forward to that next lesson Jay.


September 12, 2013 at 9:05 pm | #

Jay is an incredible man. I had a chance to work with him on our SMART coalition. He was dedicated and a joy to be with.

I spent a week with Jay, Samara, and Heather in Tacoma, Washington at training - what a great family!

I will truly miss Jay.



September 14, 2013 at 6:53 pm | #

Jay always kept us laughing and working together throughout grad school. He was a genuine, all-around good guy who was fun to be around and will be sorely missed, but not forgotten.


September 15, 2013 at 3:39 am | #

It's been since May of 1992 when I last saw Jay, I was his MTC companion. He was suppose to go to England, but something went wrong with his visa if I remember right. I'm truly sorry that this accident happened, I pray your family will find comfort in this difficult time.

Jerry Jordan


September 23, 2013 at 10:32 pm | #

I worked with Jay at the court-he supervised me as a law clerk/bailiff. He was exceptional to work for, and the news of his passing came as quite the shock. I just want to thank his family for letting him work with us at the court-and to let them know that he will be missed by many people.


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