As a kid, I would spend countless weekends at my aunt and uncle’s house in Petoskey, Michigan. Whether it be weeding their flowerbeds, cleaning their basement, shoveling their snow, counting and returning their aluminum cans, or organizing their crawl space, I was constantly hard at work for my uncle. It was more than just labor – it was the experience, the conversations, and the personal relationship he was building with me. My uncle taught me how to live a life of integrity and instilled an incredible work ethic in me.
This past Sunday morning Uncle Jack went to walk the streets of heaven with Jesus! After battling health issues for the past few months, God took him home. I can picture him sitting this evening, alongside Grandpa and Grandma, watching Ohio State basketball on the most heavenly big screen known to man! While my heart breaks, I will forever hold dear the incredible memories I was able to share with my uncle – knowing that his legacy will live on!
Explaining the impact my uncle has had on the community of Petoskey, MI is not an easy task. He was involved in almost every area of politics, community development, and education. Over the past few days, I have heard and read firsthand of the impact he has made over the past 30-40 years. His huge heart helped him see the good in others, even when it seemed impossible. He was the type of guy who would not only give you the last shirt on his back, but he would also create a way for you to get out of whatever difficult circumstance you were facing. He mentored and encouraged countless business owners even if they didn’t buy insurance from him. His political involvement drove us all crazy at times, with the endless emails, but his passion for local and national government impressed even the most liberal individual!
Uncle Jack was one of the most down to earth, relational guys I have ever met! His level of humor constantly blew us all away. Not many people stick a deceased pet in their freezer, which is why you always had to be careful opening it up. I cannot even begin to guess how many times my uncle made either my sister or me cry through his humor. It started as laughter, but he seemed to always push it to where somebody was crying. He would crack a joke, my Grandma would yell at him, he would continue to push buttons, and typically somebody would end up crying – a cycle that happened at almost every family gathering! I know it sounds cruel and annoying in the moment, but man will I cherish those memories forever! He would eventually make things right, even if it meant breaking his pride or laughing his way through it.
My pound puppy will forever have a slit in its neck from my uncle. Against my aunt’s requests, he repeatedly insisted on hanging my pound puppy from the ceiling. I would cry, he would laugh, my aunt would feel bad, and finally pound puppy would be rescued. I will never be able to enter a wig shop or walk onto an elevator without thinking of my uncle. Only Uncle Jack could get us kicked out of a wig shop and creatively think of ways to scare the craziness out of somebody stepping off an elevator.
I attended my first Cincinnati Reds game with Uncle Jack, and my only time watching a football game at That School Up North was with him. He made me wear blue and gold, even though it went against our religion. He helped instill in me a passion for Ohio State football and Cincinnati Reds baseball. Whether it was a pair of basketball shoes that I needed, a Sega Genesis that I wanted, or a word of encouragement or challenge I was not expecting – my uncle was always there for me. He had the ability to call out of me what I never saw – both good and bad. He approached every conversation in a humorous, yet lovingly respectful way.
My last memory of my uncle involved a trip to a Boston Red Sox spring training game, along with a visit to Joe’s Crab Shack and The Elephant Bar (he always knew his way around good restaurants.) My kids had the opportunity to meet and hang out with Uncle Jack that weekend and were able to create a few memories that I pray will last forever.
Uncle Jack was always the life of the party. But more than that, he was a man of incredible integrity and compassion. He sincerely cared for the ‘Average Joe’ he met at the grocery store, the clerk behind the counter at the gas station, and the waitress at every restaurant he visited. He went above and beyond his responsibility as a community leader, family member, and friend. He was not afraid to call out in others what some could never see. I will forever miss Uncle Jack, but I know that his legacy will live on in my life and in countless lives of those around the world!
Uncle Jack, I love you and will miss you. I could continue for hours with the countless memories I will forever hold onto. Please know that you were more than an uncle to me – you were a teacher, a mentor, a friend, and in so many ways, a passionate example of who I desire to be!
(And by the way, just to make it known to the world… we all know I was your favorite nephew lol)