Earlier this week my Great Uncle Jack passed away. He had an incredibly interesting life, and this blog post is just the tip of the iceberg — commemorating a man who was an inspiration to my whole family.
Uncle Jack had an insatiable thirst for knowledge. The last time I saw him he was sitting in his living room, studying away. He had earned several degrees and believed that everyone was capable of achieving great success with a good educational foundation. As a professor at The State University of New York at Brockport, he trained aspiring educators. He even contributed to the establishment of the learning center, a resource that was replicated across the 60+ campus SUNY system. Uncle Jack was exceptionally skilled at teaching others, one of the best ways to deepen your own understanding of the world.
In addition to academia, Uncle Jack had a love affair with tennis. I remember Jack and my grandparents telling me about their trip to NYC to see the US Open many years ago. I saw their eyes light up with the joy of the sport. After Uncle Jack’s service in WWII, his hometown of Batavia, NY named the local tennis program in his honor. For more than 50 years, he taught tennis lessons every summer. Of course, that’s the first place my parents would take us to see him on our annual trek from the Hudson Valley to the Rochester suburbs. The idea of having a local landmark named after you was an inspiration, and it made Uncle Jack seem like a celebrity. Instantly, I was in on the inside loop when we’d show up unannounced and get the attention of the Hometown Hero.
So many people looked up to my Great Uncle Jack, especially my Grandpa Stan and my dad. It felt like he absolutely must know everything about everything. He was active and connected to his community in so many ways, he must have known everyone. It’s hard to imagine how many lives he touched. I really admired him.
I am glad that I had the chance to know Uncle Jack, joyful even. I hope to be part of carrying on his legacy and touch as many lives as he did.