He was an Irish kid from San Francisco orphaned while in his early teens, rescued from the orphanage by a caring aunt, drafted by an army that pushed him out of working airplanes and sent him off to invade Japan – only to have him return with a love of the language and people he was sent to conquer.
As a youngster he overcame a devastating stammer, beating it with the help of devoted teachers – and later in life learned that he actually enjoyed standing up and giving speeches in front of people.
A pretty shifty All American halfback at Tamalpais High School in Marin County before The War, he tried out for the San Francisco Forty Niners in 1948, was told he was “fast but too small” and decided it was time to find a steady job. Successful in business, he stepped into executive roles at Del Monte Corporation and Granny Goose Foods, used to like to slide down the brass fire pole at the latter’s Oakland offices, and he was proud of his “maverick,” undereducated rise at both companies.
He admitted to more than a twinge of jealousy when, during a business event with singer Frank Sinatra, his wife Dollie leaned in to “straighten Frank’s tie.”
He liked Jack and Coke, a story well told, small talk with “the boys” who turned out to be lifelong friends, a fish on the line and a campfire. For some reason he developed a taste for obscure Vaudevillian show tunes, and was known to break into song after lengthy business lunches or when his sons brought girlfriends around the house.
Associates became like brothers and fixtures at his home – which he purchased in Moraga in 1968 for “an ungodly sum” – money most people today would spend refitting a garage. Active for many years with St. Monica’s Church, he put a rumbling bass baritone to use giving Sunday sermons and delivering eulogies. Teen friends unlucky enough to get him on the phone when calling one of his two sons referred to him as “The Voice of God” and said he made their palms sweat.
Friends wager he developed his ironclad devotion to family because what was left of his own was forced to scatter as war broke out and he never wanted to lose people close to him ever again. He called his friends regularly, couldn’t operate a clothes washer, was highly skeptical of anything having to do with computers – and if you were within talking distance he considered you fair game for discourse.
He worshipped his “Dollie,” a popular, bouncy cheerleader and Tom Boy baseball fanatic in high school, and married her after getting the blessing of her mama and papa and their 11 children – some of whom had names like Sonny and Carlo – and who pointedly reminded him of what they would do to him if he ever hurt their sister.
They were married more than 50 years and are now finally together again as Dollie pre-deceased him in 2005. Jack leaves two sons, John and Steve, who kidded him and gave him tons of grief but who worshipped the very ground he strode.
He was trying to hang on for one more birthday party, but just couldn’t make it. Jack was 92.
Services are pending. But if you’d like to hoist a drink to him, or sing an old Show Tune for him in the meantime, it would make him smile.