“Scott loved life. He loved being outside. Scott loved to walk along Lake Michigan and to see the beautiful sunsets,” Jay Chandonnet says, as he remembers his brother. “He enjoyed the quiet times. He loved to build. Scott built the house he and his family lived in. His kids, wife and family were everything to him.” A brief but brutal battle with pancreatic cancer denied Scott Chandonnet of the time he so desperately wanted with his family, and ultimately of the one thing he looked forward to most in his life.
Scott Chandonnet and his brothers, Paul and Jay, were very close as children. Fewer than three years apart in age, the brothers formed a close bond due to frequent moves during their childhoods. Knowing they may not have a lot of time in one place, the boys learned to make friends with others quickly. As they grew up, married and had families of their own, the Chandonnets remained tight-knit.
An avid outdoorsman, Scott ultimately settled in Muskegeon, Michigan where he could enjoy the beauty of Lake Michigan. For 31 years, he worked for the North Muskegon and Reeths Puffer School Districts. He started off his career as a school psychologist, but went back to college in 2002 to earn his teaching certificate. Scott loved kids and enjoyed being an elementary school teacher. He also coached the golf team, not because golf was his passion, but because kids were.
During the summer of 2015, Scott and Nicolee Chandonnet took a trip to St. John in the Virgin Islands to celebrate their 30th wedding anniversary. When the couple returned home on Thursday, August 6th, 2015, Scott felt sick. However, he was determined not to miss a family wedding on Saturday.
On August 8th, while in Potaskey, Michigan for the wedding, Scott was in so much discomfort he went to the local hospital. The Emergency Room doctor believed Scott might have pancreatic cancer and wanted to admit him to the hospital. Scott wanted to pursue treatment at home, however. He returned to the wedding reception, ate dinner and then drove back home, uncertain to what the future would bring.
On Monday, August 10, 2015, Scott was diagnosed with stage IV pancreatic cancer. Though the Chandonnet’s grandfather had passed away from pancreatic cancer 30 years prior, the diagnosis came as a shock to everyone. Scott was only in his 50s, was active, healthy and full of life.
Jay remembers, “At the wedding immediately before he was was diagnosed, I took a picture of Scott with his two goddaughters. When I looked at that picture, the lighting appeared to show a halo around his head. When Scott saw the picture, he said, ‘Based on that picture, I know I will be Ok’.”
Important Moments in Time
When Scott was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in August, 2015, both of his daughters were in the midst of planning 2016 weddings. One of his daughters decided to move her wedding up to December, 2015. The other married June 18th, 2016. Despite his illness, Scott was able to walk both of his daughters down the aisle. He also was fortunate to be able to attend his son Drew’s graduation in May, 2016.
Scott Passes Away From Pancreatic Cancer
Though his condition continued to deteriorate, Scott made it to his and Nicolee’s 31st wedding anniversary on July 6th, 2016. Jay and his family made dinner and brought it to Scott and Nicolee’s house. When they arrived, however, they learned Scott had taken a turn for the worse. They made the quick decision to stay that night, and they were with Scott when he passed away at 7:30 am the next morning. Within minutes of his passing, in a strange twist, the song ‘Piano Man’ came on the radio. The song had become a de facto family anthem which they sang at the end of every wedding.
“Scott’s illness was very quick, very ugly and a very hard situation to watch,” Jay Chandonnet explains, his voice filled with raw emotions. When Scott passed away on July 7th, 2016, it was only 11 months since he was first diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.
While Scott was able to be with his family for many major milestones, he will not be there for all of them. The one thing Scott most looked forward to, according to his brother Jay, was being a grandfather. Scott loved being around children, and as his own kids grew up and got married, he was excited for the day he would be able to hold his own grandchildren. Both of Scott’s daughters are now expecting their first babies, and Scott would have loved nothing more than to have been able to love and spoil them.
Sarah and Jay Chandonnet Running with Project Purple
Jay Chandonnet’s daughter, Sarah, moved from Texas back to Michigan while her Uncle Scott battled pancreatic cancer. She came back, in part, because his illness made her realize how important it is to be near family.
Sarah, who is Scott’s goddaughter, wanted to run a half-marathon with her dad in his honor. She found pancreatic cancer charity Project Purple, and the father and daughter duo are now training to run the Detroit half-marathon together.
Jay runs regularly and the Chandonnet family has made the annual Turkey Trot a tradition. Though he has completed two half-marathons previously, he is looking particularly forward to sharing this race with his daughter in Scott’s honor. He says, “I am excited about the race. I am sure it will be pretty emotional running with my daughter. This is probably the last half-marathon I will do.”
Sarah and Jay Chandonnet
Jay Chandonnet: How Losing Scott Changed Me
“This experience has made me appreciate life way, way more. I appreciate what I have and what I am able to do. I have learned to let the small stuff just go. There is so much that just doesn’t matter. That was a lot of my brother’s attitude after he found out he had pancreatic cancer. He wanted to do things that meant something to him: the little things, like spending time with his brothers and with his kids,” Jay explains. “I have learned to focus on the now and what is in the present. You have to enjoy today because you don’t know when tomorrow won’t come.”
Losing his brother has been emotionally difficult for Jay. He says, “I miss Scott every day. There is not a day that goes by that I don’t think about calling him. I still talk to him and miss him terribly.”
To make a donation to Jay Chandonnet and/or Sarah Chandonnet’s Project Purple fundraising campaigns, follow the links below.