John Mudoch Harbert IV
April 19, 1953 – May 16, 2020
John Murdoch Harbert IV of Mountain Brook, Alabama died Saturday, May 16, 2020 at his home. Known as Jay or Jaybird by his family and closest friends he lived a happy life. Born with Williams-Beuren Syndrome and diagnosed in his mid-fifties he never let his disability or any of the challenges he faced throughout his life keep him from enjoying every day of his 67 years. In step with the textbook description of someone with Williams Syndrome, Jay indeed had a “cocktail party personality.” Possessing the best traits of both his parents, coupled with a unique friendly temperament he embraced everyday with enthusiasm; always waking-up with a grin and a twinkle in his green-blue eyes – he lived joyfully. He loved his family, friends, all animals (particularly dachshunds), the outdoors, large “earth-moving equipment,” history, movies, fine dining, apple pie, planes, sports, travel, travel books, psychedelic colors, and most of all ROCK and ROLL!
During a time when mainstreaming children with disabilities was not the norm, Jay attended Mountain Brook Elementary School and briefly MBJH – while there, cultivating a group of friends that remained special to him throughout his life. At the age of fourteen he attended boarding school first in Florida and later Massachusetts until he was twenty-four years old – always returning home for spring break, summer and Christmas holidays. Throughout his time in boarding school he wrote long, loving letters to his parents and family informing them in great detail of his daily activities.
After boarding school Jay returned home – earning both a driver’s license and his GED thanks to the tutelage from his first cousin and lifelong best friend Jane McGriff – and began his time at Harbert Corporation where he immensely enjoyed the other employees, visiting construction sites, the Kentucky coal mines and breaking down big machinery at the workshop. He also found a home at St. Luke’s Episcopal church as a greeter for many years. Every Sunday when he was in Birmingham, after attending both the 9:00 and 11:00 services where his boisterous “Amen” and big hugs were welcomed, Jay would make his way in his light blue Cutlass Supreme to MBC joining many members and their families for Sunday lunch!
He was an enthusiastic world traveler – his favorite spots, however, were closer to home: his family farm Pinebloom in southwest Georgia where he was “the captain of the hunt;” Highlands, North Carolina and Perdido (aka “Slug Harbor”) in Orange Beach, Alabama. Later in life he was a regular visitor to Brownell Travel, a participant at The Red Barn, and helped deliver Meals on Wheels! He is preceded in death by his devoted parents, Marguerite Jones Harbert and John Murdoch Harbert III, founder of Harbert Corporation. His remaining living relatives are his brother Raymond Jones Harbert (Kathryn), Raymond Jones Harbert, Jr. (Cole), Mary Kathryn Bryant (Jack), and John Harbert II; his sister Marguerite Harbert Gray (Sam), Marguerite Gray Morris (Mason), Samuel Eugene Gray, Jr. and Caroline Nabers Gray. His first cousins: Meg McGriff North (Bill), Lee McGriff III (Leah), Jane McGriff, Addie McGriff Walters (David); Ann Harbert Moulton (Rusty), Elizabeth Harbert Cornay (Billy), Billy Harbert, and many adoring nieces and nephews and their children. Jay will be greatly missed by his family that so enjoyed his contagious, endearing, wonderful spirit. He raised the bar – as his endless positivity was a constant reminder of what is important in life! And boy did he make us laugh!!!
The family would like to express thanks to all the people in the community that enjoyed our sweet “Birdie” and always greeted him with a warm heart; you know who you are! Also, we would like to extend deep, heartfelt gratitude to his caregivers. Many thanks to Jim Ferguson who became like a brother to him and greatly enriched the last thirteen years of his life. Also thanks to Neville and Daphne Palmer for their over fifty years of friendship and loving care! And we extend tremendous appreciation to his angels Gail Watkins and Adria Parks, and to Blake Gettinger, all who made sure his last years were good ones! And last, to Sondra Moss of ProHealth Hospice who made certain he left this life as happily as he lived it.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be given in his memory to Williams Syndrome Association, Greater Birmingham Humane Society, The Red Barn, The Exceptional Foundation, St. Mary’s-on-the-Highlands, or St. Luke’s Episcopal Church.
Because of the restrictions in place there will be a private family ceremony.