Long before Navy Lt. Cmdr. A. Jason Bayer took to the skies as a jet
pilot, he was a daredevil.
“He would hide in the dryer when we played games of hide-and-seek,”
said Beth Kitchen of Carson City, who was Bayer’s baby sitter when he
was 8 years old.
“He was not beyond jumping on furniture,” Kitchen said. “I was often
terrified that his mother would come home and think I was not doing a
very good job.”
It was that kind of moxie that led Bayer to serve — and to be ready
Bayer, 34, was killed in a Navy HH-1 helicopter crash last Thursday
near Lake Isabella, Calif., leaving behind an infant daughter and
pregnant wife. He was one of two crew members killed when the chopper
went down about 120 miles north of Los Angeles. Petty Officer Charles
Chaco, 22, from Agat, Guam, also died.
Bayer, who was one of Carson High’s top graduates in 1986,
volunteered for the ride-along at the last minute when another crew
member became ill.
“That sounds like him. Somebody needed something and Jason jumped to
it,” said Bernadette Garcia, a friend of Bayer’s since their college
days at the University of Southern California who now works for
Carson High classmates who grew up with Bayer remembered him as a
good friend to have, especially after he earned the Dean’s Scholarship
to USC and began a four-year stint as the manager for the USC football
“For our birthdays and at Christmas, we’d all get USC football
stuff,” said Michael de la Torre, a former Carson classmate who is now a
teacher at Sparks High. “One year we got Rose Bowl tickets. Another time
we got tickets to see USC play Oklahoma. They were great seats. Marcus
Allen and O.J. Simpson were sitting right in front of us.”
Bayer also secured a souvenir for one of his coaches at Carson High,
who was a former player at the University of Notre Dame. Now that coach
says he’ll cherish his gift from Bayer even more.
“Notre Dame was playing USC on the (west) coast and Jason snagged a
Notre Dame football during the pregame warm-ups,” said Jim deArrieta,
who now runs deArrieta Insurance Agency in Carson City. “After the game,
he sent it to me. That’s always been a special thing to me.
“Now, it takes on a whole different meaning.”
Sports were of great interest to Bayer, especially as a child,
Bayer made a name for himself in Little League baseball, where as a
12-year-old he was named an all-star for the Carson National League.
“He had the highest batting average in the league,” said Dane
Farnworth, a 1986 Carson High graduate now living in Pueblo, Colo.
Through his childhood, he and his sister, Jessica were raised by
their mother, Merry Ann Bayer. She and Bayer’s father, Carson City
attorney Arthur Bayer, divorced when the children were young, friends
Merry Ann Bayer was an English and journalism teacher at Carson High
School. She died of cancer in 1999 after a long struggle, friends said.
Jessica and Jason later sponsored a scholarship at Carson High in their
mother’s honor. Jason gave an impassioned speech about her during the
ceremony dedicating the scholarship, friends said.
“Those kids and their mom just really stuck together,” said Charlie
Kitchen a longtime friend of the family and broker/owner of Charles
Kitchen Realty. “They are an expression of their mother’s love. She
raised those kids and had two fantastic kids.”
Added Sparks High teacher de la Torre: “She had the biggest influence
on Jason, more than anyone. He just loved her, respected her. She was
always there for them.”
Jason’s mom, however, became a tough teacher when Jason was a student
in her freshman English class at Carson High.
“He was a straight-A student,” de la Torre said. “The only A minus
Jason ever got was from his mother. He was supposed to write a paper and
Jason said he didn’t feel like it, so he got an A minus.
“When he was a senior that A minus was the difference with him not
becoming the valedictorian of the class, although he did graduate in the
top five,” de la Torre said.
Bayer’s volunteer spirit, which ultimately led to his death, seemed
to blossom at Carson High, said former coaches.
Bayer was a defensive back on the varsity football team as a senior
in 1985, former head coach Paul Paul Croghan said.
“He ran hard and was a good tackler,” Croghan said. “He was on most
of our special teams and dislocated his elbow when we played at Reed
Bayer was taken to the hospital but returned to watch the fourth
quarter of the game with his elbow in a splint.
The injury ended his season but Bayer would not give up.
“I was the kicking coach,” deArrieta said. “He wasn’t a kicker but
came over to me and asked, ‘Coach, can you show me how to kick? I just
have to get into the game.’ ”
DeArrieta said Bayer became pretty good, too. Croghan didn’t think
Bayer got his chance to kick an extra point or field goal because that
season “was a lean year and we didn’t score much.”
Although Beth Kitchen said Bayer dreamed of going to outer space as a
child, his real desire was to become a jet pilot and, later, an
“During our freshman year (in college), I went down to see him at
USC,” de la Torre said. “He had this Navy recruiter’s card on his desk.
I asked him what it was for and he said, ‘I want to fly jets.’”
His dream of being an astronaut was also rekindled at USC, his friend
Garcia said. His boyhood dream of space flight followed him throughout
his career, Garcia said, adding Bayer now has his chance.
“Jason wanted to be an astronaut and always told me so,” Garcia said.
“So now he’s up there. Flying in the stars. I just flew in from Florida
And since 9-11, people get really terrified flying. But I felt a calm,
knowing Jason is up there watching after me. If I could ever choose
anyone to be my guardian angel, it would be Jason.”
After graduating from USC with a degree in sports medicine, Bayer was
accepted into the Navy’s Aviation Officer Training Candidate School in
Pensacola, Fla., de la Torre said.
“I remember him telling me that his graduating class had the highest
scores ever up to that point,” de la Torre said.
From there, Bayer went to Primary Flight School in Corpus Christi,
Texas, then to Intermediate Flight School in Kingsville, Texas, and
finally to Advanced Flight School in El Toro, Calif.
Bayer was selected to fly the F/A-18 fighter attack jet and in 1994,
he became a pilot on the USS Independence aircraft carrier, based in
After three years on the USS Independence, Bayer became an advanced
flight instructor for the Navy. In 1999, he was transferred to the base
at China Lake. He and his family were in the middle of moving to Lamore
Naval Air Station when he was killed.
Today, friends and family will gather in Carson City to honor Bayer.
Garcia, however, doesn’t think Bayer would want any show of sadness or
remorse at his memorial.
“He told me years ago that when he died, he hoped he would have put
away a couple of thousand dollars so people could have a party at his
funeral,” Garcia said. “He said that he would want people to remember
him and the happy times.”