San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Ex-AMCHAM President Jay Fernandes dies at 85

On the evening of Jan. 27, longtime U.S. expat Jay C. Fernandes passed away due to complications from surgery. He was 85.

Fernandes was born in Poughkeepsie, New York, on May 4, 1926, and grew up in Nutley, New Jersey. As an adult, he called the U.S. state of Connecticut home. He served in the U.S. Navy during World War II and was retired from the Navy Reserve. Fernandes was proud of having served his country. 

He held a Bachelor of Arts and an engineering degree from Columbia University in New York. 

After living in Holland and traveling the world with the Loctite Corporation, Fernandes came to Costa Rica in 1979 as president of Permatex de Centro America, S.A., a subsidiary of Loctite Corporation USA. 

On his first day in the office, a truck of product was stalled in Nicaragua; Sandinista revolutionary fighter Edén Pastora, known as “Comandante Cero,” had just overtaken the InterContinental Hotel in Managua, and the border was closed. Fernandes used his keen engineering mind to analyze and solve the problem – he was good at that. 

He worked briefly in the Mexican Loctite division, and at the end of 1982, he decided to take early retirement. Fernandes returned to Costa Rica as country director of the International Executive Service Corps, a private sector initiative that provided technical assistance by sending U.S. businessmen to help private productive sectors. 

Fernandes’ next “retired” career was in macadamia farming and nut processing. He learned about the agricultural side and contributed his expertise in marketing, finance management and mechanical engineering. He was always ready to learn.

Jay Fernandes 2

Fernandes and his wife, Grace Woodman. Courtesy of Grace Woodman

Fernandes will be remembered for his wise words that always got to the heart of things, and for his loyal, energetic and vigorous connection to the local community. 

“He was a loyal friend to me and many, and a truly remarkable person who contributed so much to the community,” said Spencer Manners, president of the Costa Rican-American Chamber of Commerce (AMCHAM). “He was always unselfish and low-key, never trying to stand out, but to help out.” 

In 1981 and 1983, Fernandes was AMCHAM president, and he continued to actively serve as an ex-officio member of the group’s board. He also sat on the Costa Rican-North American Cultural Center’s board of directors (1985-1990), and was an enthusiastic and dynamic member of the American Colony Committee for more than  25 years.  

Fernandes was a member of Republicans Abroad and loved to have discussions about both U.S. and Costa Rican politics. He jumped at every chance to be involved in theater, whether it was attending a Little Theatre Group production or acting in a Living Room Theater production (a group active in the 1980s and early ’90s in San José). He was very supportive of his wife Grace’s volunteer work with the Women’s Club of National and the National Symphony Orchestra.

Fernandes is survived by his wife, Grace Woodman; his children, Fernandes C. and Linda Fernandes II, Mark and Donna Fernandes, and Lisa and George Marvinsmith; his grandchildren, Gregory and Bridget Marvinsmith, Justin Fernandes, Andrew Marvinsmith, Elise Fernandes, Elizabeth Marvinsmith and Jay C. “Trip” Fernandes III; his brother and wife, Dale and Joy Fernandes; nephews Keith, Scott, Doug and Chris Fernandes; and his first wife, Marie Fernandes.

A memorial service will be held at Jardines del Recuerdo, in Heredia, north of San José, on Sunday, Feb. 12, at 2 p.m. in the garden behind the mausoleum. The family has requested that in lieu of flowers, donations be made to the Women’s Club of Costa Rica. Find information on how to make donations at, or email Women’s Club President Roslyn Beswick at

Condolences can be sent to Grace Woodman-Fernandes at

-Susan Tessem

Comments are closed.