How Did Jay Monahan Die? 5 Details About Katie Couric's Late Husband

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How Did Jay Monahan Die? 5 Details About Katie Couric's Late Husband
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He was only 42 years old when he passed.

Katie Couric is going to be a self-proclaimed “monster-in-law.” She announced via Instagram on Feb. 10 that her eldest daughter Ellie Monahan, 27, is engaged. The former Today show anchor is clearly thrilled about her growing family, which will soon officially include Mark Dobrosky: the picture’s caption is filled with “OMGs” and emojis. Couric, 62, spoke about the engagement on Mar. 18 with the Today show.

“I’m so excited, and she’s so happy,” Couric gushed. “She’s going to be a beautiful bride.”

And Couric certainly approves of her daughter’s choice. “We love [Dobrosky], and, most importantly, she loves him and he loves her.”

One major figure will be missing at the wedding. Ellie’s father Jay Monahan passed away in 1998. Her wedding is yet another milestone he will miss. Couric said she thought it is “unfair” her late husband did not get to see their children Ellie and Caroline grow up and “see the magnificent people they’ve become.” Still, she stayed positive. “I think he would be so proud of them.”

Although Couric is happily married, she still pays tribute to her first husband on social media and through her work. His death more than two decades ago has inspired her to take initiative in helping others prevent what took her husband’s life so early.

How did Jay Monahan die? Below are five details about his death, as well as the lives he left behind.

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1. He passed away from colon cancer at 42.

Couric’s husband of nine years passed away on Jan. 24, 1998. Her co-host Matt Lauer said that Couric had been by Monahan’s side at Manhattan’s Lenox Hill Hospital. Their daughters Elinor and Caroline were 6 and 2 years old, respectively.

He died about nine months after his diagnosis.

2. His diagnosis was completely unexpected.

Monahan was “an active and health-conscious man in the prime of his life” when he received the diagnosis in April 1997. At 41 years old, he was told he had advanced colon cancer.

“I could tell that he was in great pain,” Barry Scheck told People in 1998, recounting a lunch he had with Monahan in November, “but he had terrific courage. He was talking about working.”

Monahan was from Manhasset, NY. He went to Georgetown and graduated in 1985. He met Couric in 1988 at a party in Washington; they wed just a year later. After Couric became a Today co-host in 1993, he joined a law firm in New York and began to provide legal commentary on NBC, CNBC and MSNBC. He commented on some high-profile cases, including the O.J. Simpson trial.

3. Couric then became a spokeswoman for colon cancer awareness.

“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 told People in 2015.

Two years after Monahan’s death, Couric televised her colonoscopy to draw attention to colon cancer. People reported in Monahan’s obituary that 130,000 Americans are diagnosed with colon cancer each year. According to the American Cancer Society, men have a 1 in 22 chance of developing colorectal cancer, while women have a 1 in 24 chance.

After the colonoscopy, the “Couric Effect” took place: the rate of Americans getting the procedure jumped up 20%.

Couric has become the co-founder of the National Colorectal Cancer Research Alliance, Stand Up 2 Cancer and the Jay Monahan Center for Gastrointestinal Health. The National Colorectal Cancer Research Alliance was established in 2000. Stand Up 2 Cancer was formally launched in 2008, 10 years after Monahan’s death. The Alliance was integrated into Stand Up 2 Cancer in 2017.

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4. In recent years, Couric has opened up about his battle and her grief.

Couric told WNYC’s “Death, Sex & Money” in 2017 she began to grieve when he was diagnosed. In front of her husband, she tried to stay happy and positive. But she never truly said goodbye to him.

"I wish that I had the courage to really talk to my husband about the fact that he was probably going to die. It was too terrifying," she said on the show. "I think that prevented me... from ever really saying goodbye."

She admitted that she did not allow doctors to tell him his prognosis. “I didn’t want to ruin the time he had left with just hopelessness.”

Couric remarried in 2014: although she is very happy with John Molner, she still remembers Monahan 21 years after his passing.

5. Couric’s future son-in-law proposed to her daughter with the ring Jay Monahan had given her.

Her Instagram post is especially touching because she revealed the ring Dobrosky used to propose was the same one Monahan used for Couric 30 years ago. “And she’s wearing the ring her Dad gave to me,” Couric added in her Instagram caption. She also used the hashtag “jaywouldbesoproud.

While Couric shared many exciting details about her daughter’s engagement on Today, she was actually a guest on the show to raise awareness about colon cancer. March is National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, so Couric was sharing how important it is to go through early detection screening.


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Alison Cerri is a writer who covers astrology, pop culture and relationship topics.

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