Jason Pennypacker, 39, printmaker specialized in abstract work

Posted: March 27, 2014

IT WAS THE laugh that defined Jason Pennypacker.

It embodied the essence and spirit of a man whose zest for life defied all constraints. It was a laugh that told the world that everything was right and fine, and that it was always sunny in Philadelphia.

Frank Dougherty, former Daily News writer who was Jason's landlord for a time, employed his well-honed flair for description when he said Jason's laugh was like "naval guns booming across the water."

Actually, it was Frank's garden that took the brunt of that exuberance. Jason lived on the other side of the garden in West Germantown, and the laugh let Frank know that he was home.

Jason Pennypacker was 39, looking forward to celebrating his 40th on May 19, when he collapsed Monday morning at his job at the Sunglass Hut at Philadelphia International Airport. He was rushed to Methodist Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

Friends and family were shocked and baffled. Jason had shown no sign of illness. In fact, he had just dropped about 30 pounds, had given up carbohydrates and dairy products and had taken up yoga.

"He looked terrific," Frank said.

"He was the kindest person I ever met," said Chuck McDevitt, his partner of 12 years. "He was an all-around good person, always smiling and laughing with that distinctive laugh of his."

Kitty Caparella, a retired Daily News reporter who graduated with Jason from the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in 2003, said he had a "wonderful sense of humor, always smiling, and [was] extremely thoughtful."

For a time, she, Jason and Plamen Veltchev, a 2004 academy graduate, shared a studio at 12th and Callowhill streets. Jason did lithography and sometimes showed his work at galleries.

"He loved abstract expressionism," Chuck McDevitt said. "It was how he expressed his feelings. He ran the whole gamut of printmaking. But he didn't show much. He didn't care much about showing his work. He loved the process of making art."

In addition to the Sunglass Hut, Jason worked at Morning Glory Diner, at 10th and Fitzwater streets.

"He was a prince," Frank said. "If the wind blew your trash cans away, he would collect them for you and stack them up outside your house. He was always upbeat. He had a positive outlook on life."

Jason was fond of Frank's cat, Tommy. "Sometimes he would drop by just to see Tommy," Frank said. "He took care of him and watched our house when my wife and I would go on a trip."

Jennifer White, also an Academy of the Fine Arts graduate, considered Jason to be her best friend. When she married Zachary Kainz on Oct. 17, 2010, Jason assumed the role usually taken by a maid of honor.

"He went with me to dress fittings, helped me pick out fabric and flowers," she said. "He really put it all together."

Jennifer, who met Jason when they both lived in Florida, said he was "so friendly and nice to everybody. He was so full of life."

"He was very giving and kind and respectful," said his mother, Linda Pennypacker. "He was just vibrant, and he showed it. You would laugh at him laughing. He would have made a great Santa Claus."

Jason was born in Kingston, N.Y., to Linda and Charles Pennypacker. The family moved to Boca Raton, Fla., where Jason graduated in 1992 from Spanish River High School, where he was on the swim team. He attended Shippensburg University in Pennsylvania before moving to Philadelphia and studying at the Academy of the Fine Arts.

Besides his parents, he is survived by a brother, Kurt.

Services: 3 p.m. Saturday at Vincent Gangemi Funeral Home, 2238 S. Broad St.

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