Joseph “Jay” Pinney, 71
Joseph “Jay” T. Pinney, The Atlantic Cowboy, passed away on the day he entered this life Oct. 31, 2020, his birthday, which also was a rare Halloween full moon. Born in Providence in 1949, he was the son of Ruth E. Mahoney and the late Richard Pinney, and the stepson of Thomas E. Mahoney, Sr.
Jay was born with a charismatic, creative, talented, versatile demeanor, with a humongous heart and soul that carried him through his life. With tenacity and strong work ethics, his entrepreneurship began with a penny candy stand at the age of 10 where he sold the candy for two cents rather than a penny making a great profit. Jay’s childhood was also filled with soul music and being a football player that took him into being a star player in high school. His love of music nurtured him into forming a doo wop band in the 60s, where he was the frontman and the band had a very successful run. Jay went to college for business where he discovered acting and was in many plays and received rave reviews. He worked for a prominent business company in Providence while modeling for local men’s clothing stores in The Providence Journal. Jay was a very hospitable person who loved people and began working in hospitality at the Barnsider Steakhouse and then at his mother’s creation, a European bistro, L’Elizabeth’s LTD, a Providence hot spot for years.
Jay believed in adventures and took the journey across the Atlantic Ocean to Block Island a little over 40 years ago and ended up purchasing a home and property on Amy Dodge Lane. He was so very proud of his choice and the ability to share with his family the magic and beauty of Block Island. Jay loved the freedom to “be” that the island allowed.
Jay brought all his experiences as a skilled creative entrepreneur to the island. He worked for Dick Kiley of Yellow Kittens, incorporating his entertaining music skills, storytelling and hospitality talents. Jay started a construction business on island, where his craftsmanship can be found on Ministers Lot, where he made many long lasting friendships and was respected by many for his work. One renovation project for Charlie Dinolfo’s family (Cathy and Eileen) summer home, Jay winterized the home with such exquisite detail and way under budget that Charlie gave Jay a lump sum of what the savings had been and told him to go buy a house. That was the catalyst for Jay’s amazing purchase on Amy Dodge Lane, where he resided for 40 years.
Jay was a fisherman with his dear friend Gary Hall and on one trip out to sea they cast their net and pulled up a cartilage creature, which soon became the Block Ness Monster. It became the talk of the town on Block Island where the monster laid for two days on the Old Harbor dock where onlookers flocked. Jay quickly put on his entrepreneur cap and created Block Ness Monster tee shirts and stickers which turned out to be a very wise decision because of the popularity and demand for them. In an article that was written about the capture and hype of the Block Ness Monster for a Rhode Island newspaper, Vin McAloon, the former chief of the Police Department, said “Jay is capable of anything. He is a very witty, clever character.”
A year later, President Bill Clinton came to Block Island and Jay immediately built upon his tee shirt business and designed shirts and duffle bags with the authentic Presidential Seal (he had a knack for getting away with things) and banking on the catchy phrase “Men on Block.”
A cherished relationship began with Barbara Butler, past innkeeper and proprietor at The Inn at Old Harbor because of his construction abilities and gallant efforts to help with much needed repairs. A friendship that ensued for over 31 years. Penny, a co-worker for Rags Clothing located on the first floor of the Inn and dear friend of Barbara’s, helped make this dynamic triangle grow into an amazing support system. They were allies and shared in a lot of Block Island shenanigans. They also went on buying trips every winter to purchase for Rags Clothing and Mahoney’s Clothier that Jay had opened. Jay had opened Mahoney’s with the intent of making it a fine men’s haberdashery, drawing on his days of modeling with the more classic men’s look. This proved to be a wise choice for the island for there was no other store focused on men’s clothing needs. The buying trips helped Jay accent with women’s clothing, making Mahoney’s Clothier the well-rounded store it is today. He was the frontman for the store, so when you made a quality purchase from Mahoney’s you also may have received a song, a dance, and a story. This kept the customers coming back each year for more of everything. Jay passed the baton to his mother to be the frontwoman at Mahoney’s about eight years ago, but still purchased all the merchandise. Jay was thrilled to be able to invite Ruth, his mother, to come join in the beauty and freedom of Block Island to live and work. He also must be thrilled that Ruth is still carrying on the legacy of a great place to stop and purchase fine merchandise and a warm embrace.
Jay’s 16-year old granddaughter, Bella, sums it up the best and describes Jay “as a wonderful bowl of fruit. Zesty and fun like a lemon, with conversations as intoxicating as grapes. Your original ideas are like a bite into a crisp apple for the mind, exploding with flavor. You are sweet as a plump blueberry in the spring and vibrant as the inside of a kiwi. What I love most about you is how original you are. It is inspiring to hear your stories about gymnastics and the bars, business, and your inventions. Conversations I have with you are so mind-opening. Just the way you live and enjoy life to its fullest makes me see how exciting life can be when you take its opportunities.”
Jay was extra loved by his daughter, Nicole Barone Lawless; granddaughters Isabella, Luciana and Sofia Lawless; brothers Sean and Tommy Mahoney, and sister Kim Mahoney.
Jay cared deeply for all. A celebration of his life will be in the summer of 2021.
Any remembrance contributions can be made to The Block Island Health Services or The Make a Wish Foundation.