Jack attended Great Neck Middle School, where he and I first met, and then graduated from F.W. Cox High School in 2007 with a GPA that was nearly perfect. A State Volleyball Champion in his senior year and unquestionably the most talented player as well as the floor general of that title team, he was recruited to play for some of the most prestigious universities in the country, including the perennial powerhouse Penn State. Ultimately, he chose to attend and play for George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia. Unfortunately nagging injury problems prevented him from contributing to the team as he would’ve liked.
Jack was by no means a one-dimensional man, however. His athletic talents, to begin with, extended also to basketball and surfing. Though he only played basketball recreationally, he was a phenomenal player and had a very special feel for the game. Even when Jack and I would mess around with sports like soccer, which neither of us played with any frequency at all, his abilities fascinated me. At 6’5″ and maybe 185, he was the definition of a “lean, mean, machine.” He seemed to me to be exceedingly good at everything he tried, and this especially applied to pursuits of the mind. I believed, personally, that Jack’s favorite thing to do in the world was to write. And this was a skill of his that was very finely tuned even in his youth. He prided himself on his work and loved to share what he produced with me and with others. There were no limits to what and how he could write; he quite rightfully fancied himself a poet, an essayist, a philosopher, a researcher, an academic, and a journalist. His mind and his work were the most dynamic and profound I’ve ever encountered in my life. He also had the versatility to not only write, but very effectively and entertainingly rap, the most amazing hip-hop songs– and not the sort of which one would hear on the radio. In his songs, he would rap about worldly issues and matters of great importance ranging from the environment to the global economy. For roughly six months before his passing, he and I collaborated endlessly on such songs, always striving to impress and motivate one another with our accomplishments. He had adopted, consistent with his smooth style and delivery, the artistic name “Pantherapeutic” for himself. Jack defined himself with an incessant and dogged pursuit of all types of knowledge and wisdom, and it was with this knowledge and wisdom that he sought and aspired to be a leader in resolving the flood of problems he perceived to exist both in our country and in the world.
Spiritually, too, Jack was a great and enlightened man. He knew what was important in life and he lived on principle and faith. He never allowed the trivial indulgences of our generation to cloud his long-term ambitions, and he very humbly tried to make everyone around him a better, more well-rounded person. He would impart any of his treasured bits of knowledge and wisdom to anyone willing to listen. Jack always carried himself with a very disarming quiet confidence and reassuring smile, and his aura affected those in his presence so significantly that I, for one, always felt secure with him around. Victory or success was a foregone conclusion in Jack’s party, and it was his almost sage like comportment that lent to this sense of security. He was a true warrior-philosopher spirit, a fabled white knight. He possessed a nobility and kingliness that men cannot acquire by any means other than endowment by birth, and he had begun to exude a truly honorable and transcendent strength by the time he was 18.
But just like any average man would, Jack loved his leisure time too. For me, the one place that will never fail to remind me the most of Jack is First Landing State Park in Virginia Beach, Virginia, nestled between the Chesapeake Bay and Broad Bay, on which his family lives. He and I frequented and hiked in the park so often that it was like a second home to us. These were officially Jack’s stomping grounds and he escaped to relax there as much as his other obligations allowed him. Jack also loved the mountains and lived his adult life very concerned about mountain ecosystems and the threats posed to them in today’s world by general human recklessness and corporate interests that live to exploit them. That Jack dedicated his leisure time to being so preoccupied with such selfless interests attests to his superior character and was what led me to respect him to the extent that I did and still do. Even when it came to the simplest of leisure activities– reading and writing– his studies and work were always selfless, always educational. If ever Jack focused on self-improvement, it was so that he could help others down the line. Jack thoroughly loved life and all of its creatures– human or otherwise.
Jack’s sudden departure from our lives has created an unspeakable vacancy in our hearts that will undoubtedly remain painful for as long as those of us who’ve survived him shall live; however, the one and only sure way to remedy the ailment of our loss is to hold on tight to the time we shared with Jack and consistently honor his memory in every way we can. And until the day God sees fit to reunite us with him, let us live each day as nobly and as virtuously as Jack once did.
You inspire us all, Jack, and none of us will let you down.