Katie Couric’s first husband, Jay Monahan, the father of her two daughters, died tragically of colon cancer. Couric has used her family’s heartbreaking story in an attempt to encourage the public to get tested for the cancer, which is more treatable if it’s caught early.
Jay Monahan was an accomplished person in his own right; he had forged a successful legal career and also appeared on television before his life was cut way too short. Katie Couric once said her life went from “complete contentment to complete chaos” overnight when Jay was diagnosed with cancer. Couric is helming NBC’s Olympics coverage from PyeongChang. That has a lot of people wondering about her family.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Katie Wrote ‘We Miss You’ On the 20th Anniversary of Jay’s Death
For those who remember the tragedy at the time, it’s hard to believe that Katie’s first husband has been dead now for two decades. She was very open about his death at the time, and she is still public about the pain it caused. He was sick for nine months before he died. “I think I overprotected him,” she said later. “I encouraged the doctors not to tell him how incredibly bleak the prognosis was.”
In January 2018, it was the 20th anniversary of Monahan’s death. Katie posted a tribute to Monahan on social media, writing, “Jay Monahan. January 9, 1956-January 24, 1998. Twenty years ago today. We miss you.” The post included a touching photo of Monahan and one of the couple’s two daughters.
Couric has spent a lot of time working on cancer research and education, even holding a live colonoscopy on the set of the Today Show. “I hope he would think that the work that I’m doing – whether it’s in colon cancers or in other cancers, to save future Jay Monahans from experiencing the same fate that he did – is worthwhile and important,” she said, according to People Magazine.
2. Monahan Was the Father of Katie’s Two Daughters, Ellie & Carrie
The couple’s two children were very young at the time their father died. The couple’s children are Elinor, who was 6, and Caroline, who was 2, when Jay Monahan died. Ellie has followed her mother into the entertainment industry to some degree.
According to her LinkedIn profile, Ellie was an intern for HBO, was a Crime Strategies Intern for the New York County DA’s office, was a camp counselor, and was an editorial intern for Glamour Magazine. She graduated from Yale University in 2013.
Ellie wrote about losing her father for the Huffington Post, writing, “Though we suffered that devastating loss at a young age (I was six, my sister only two), we have also been very fortunate to have been brought up by a strong, supportive, and loving mother whose friends and coworkers, both male and female, have and continue to serve as positive role models. Likewise our grandparents and extended family, especially our mother’s father, always took an active interest in our lives.”
According to her LinkedIn page, Carrie was a communications intern for the Southern Poverty Law Center in fall 2017. “Authored the manual for the SPLC on Campus program; wrote blog posts about hate speech on college campuses, student debt, and the movement to rename school facilities across the country,” she wrote of her duties. “Helped coordinate a community roundtable at Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church and a legislative strategy session at the SPLC on responding to hate crimes and bias incidents in our communities.”
Carrie graduated from Stanford and has held other internships in the media working on social justice oriented causes. She worked for one media-related company doing “post-production for Oklahoma City, a PBS American Experience documentary on the rise of the militant right and its role in Ruby Ridge, the Waco standoff, and the Oklahoma City bombing,” her LinkedIn page says.
You can read more about Couric’s children here:
3. Jay Monahan Graduated From Georgetown Law School & Was a College Athlete
Jay Monahan was an accomplished athlete in college. According to The New York Times obituary for him, he was born on Long Island and he played varsity football and lacrosse in college, before going to Georgetown Law School.
He was a clerk for Judge Thomas Hogan and was a lawyer for a law firm in Washington D.C. He married Katie Couric in 1989 when Couric was a reporter in Washington, according to the obituary.
Monahan’s sister, Sally Zogry, wrote a tribute to him in which she brought his personality to life: “Jay was so vital and energetic, extremely disciplined, an early riser, careful eater, fastidious dresser, physically fit and regular exerciser,” she wrote.
“He never smoked and rarely drank but was the life of any party who had a wonderful Irish tenor voice, was the best dancer, and talented pianist. I know he sounds too good to be true but he had all of these qualities and more: he was an excellent student; college athlete; naval aviator; brilliant lawyer; television legal commentator; avid horseman; a Civil War re-enactor and amateur historian.”
She also described the moment he learned he had cancer. “Jay was diagnosed because he ended up in the ER with excruciating abdominal pain and his physicians discovered a mass the size of a softball in his upper colon – a bad place to have a tumor,” she wrote. “Through further investigation and emergency procedures, they determined that his cancer was quite advanced and had started to metastasize, most notably to his liver – that was even worse.”
4. Monahan Was a Lawyer Who Worked for NBC News
According to his obituary in the New York Times, John Paul Monahan III (his nickname was Jay), was a lawyer and a legal analyst for NBC News. He was only 42-years-old when he died in 1998 in a Manhattan hospital.
He gave legal analysis on NBC programs for some of the highest-profile crime cases in the network’s history, including the O.J. Simpson trial, and the trials of Timothy McVeigh and the Unabomber. The obituary says that his cancer was discovered in early 1997. He died in January 1998.
5. Katie Wrote That She Felt ‘So Powerless’ When Jay Died
Katie Couric suffered twin blows from the deaths of her husband but then her sister, who also died from cancer not long after Jay’s death. She opened up about her heartbreak on social media.
“You probably know someone who has been diagnosed with cancer,” she wrote. “If you haven’t had to contend with it yourself. As many of you know, in 1998, I lost my husband, Jay, to colon cancer. Three years later, I lost my sister, Emily, to pancreatic cancer. I felt so powerless as I watched this disease take the lives of two people who meant the world to me.”
Katie wrote that she wanted to “spare other families the terrible heartbreak mine had endured.” She has made good on that, working tirelessly for cancer research and education to encourage people to get tested for colon cancer.
Katie Couric is now remarried. She told US Magazine, “I really did love my husband a lot, but after Jay died, I always thought I’d end up like Florence Henderson on The Brady Brunch.” You can learn about her second husband here: