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Our Jack: Headliner

Our Jack

"Carpe Diem. Seize the Day. Nothing but Excellence”. We shared this phrase with our son Jack every day of his childhood as we dropped him off at school. We are devastated and heartbroken to write that Jack passed away at the age of 24 on January 17th, 2021 in a tragic accident, but so proud in the knowledge that he embraced that phrase with all the vigor one could muster. Jack seized every day he had to the fullest, living more in his 24 years than most do in 80. He never left a moment unused, an opportunity unpursued, or a friendship unmade. He was a Full Participant in Life, perpetually propelled by a pure joy that makes it difficult to recall a day that he would have described as “unhappy” – to Jack the most interesting person was whomever he was talking to; his favorite place wherever he was standing. And as measured by the number of other lives that he touched so profoundly, his was undoubtedly one of excellence.

While the traditional metrics of Jack’s life would make any parent beam – the “mayor” of Seven Locks Elementary School, Captain of his Churchill High School baseball team, proud graduate of Middlebury College, rising young professional with a bright future — traditional metrics could never be enough to define him. In fact, what made Jack so . . . Jack . . . was the untraditional, and the number of things he’d do that would cause others to remark in bemused admiration, “who does that”? And although Jack had many gifts his superpower was unquestionably his ability to connect disparate others while weaving lasting relationships out of unrelated threads. He was empowered by a worldview that was so simple, yet so logical: “if I love person A, and I love person B, then surely person A will love person B”. Jack didn’t just think that, however, he acted on it. And he worked hard to foster it, sometimes to the point where he left one no choice – if you were in Jack’s orbit then by definition you were in the orbit of all others who resided there. And his tapestry of relationships was like a universe that infinitely expands - if you were a friend of Jack’s friend, then you were Jack’s friend. 

What made that universe unique, however, was that Jack built it entirely without judgement, prejudice or pretense, and without regard to the social mores that govern so many of us. Jack was a Unicorn, unconstrained by – or maybe just blissfully unaware of — the expectations society has for 8-year-olds. And 16-year-olds. And 24-year-olds. He was supremely comfortable with who he was, and he did simply because he could, not because he must.

Always strong in character, Jack sensed that same quality in others and was consistently drawn to — and surrounded by — those who not only brought out the best in him but who were exceptional in their own right. His relationships at almost every stage were those his parents would have chosen for him, if only they could. In turn his commitment to family and friends was unconditional and crossed all boundaries of age and reason, from the decade-long run of sports bets elementary-school-aged Jack waged against his octogenarian neighbor to the lifelong friendship he forged with the preschool teachers who cared for him when he was 2. That they were separated by a thousand miles and two decades might have been a barrier to many, but it was never an inconvenience for Jack.

A hallmark of Jack’s interactions was his innate ability to put others at ease and make you feel as though you were the most important person in the room, regardless of whether you were a close friend, an old acquaintance or his 7-year-old neighbor. Jack took as much pride in your accomplishments as he did his own, and would share your exploits, achievements and backstories with all who would listen — usually over and over again — because if he loved, laughed at or admired them then surely others would too. He knew how to build you up without ever breaking you down, and often did so behind a good-natured teasing that betrayed obvious affection. Perhaps most remarkably Jack somehow sensed your true self, and consciously or otherwise treated you as the person you knew you wanted to be but might not quite know how to become. Put another way, if we could all just see ourselves the way Jack saw us then we’d unquestionably be leading a much happier and more confident existence.

Importantly, Jack’s relationships were forged with the same passion and dedication he applied to all pursuits. He was incredibly self-aware, and from an early age learned to apply an added dose of hard work and determination to those areas in which the gene pool left him short. When he set his mind to something he was all in, and by sheer force of will made himself a better student, a better athlete and a better person. Throughout, his natural warmth, good humor and broad, signature smile made it look easy, even when it most definitely wasn’t.

If you knew Jack, then you know that no account of him would be complete without mention of the Boston sports teams toward which he pledged a lifelong loyalty almost as intense as that for his family and friends. While the Patriots’ sustained excellence made blind devotion to them a given, as a baseball player the Red Sox were particularly beloved by Jack. Despite spending most of his years in Maryland he managed at least one trip to Fenway Park every pre-pandemic summer of his life, with those walks through the Lansdowne Street turnstiles numbering in the dozens once the winds of young adulthood took him north, first to Vermont and then Boston. Even as a young child Jack would be riveted from the first pitch to the last out, nullifying the need for the many parental contingencies and bailout plans that were put in place in anticipation of a third inning meltdown that never, ever came. And while his fandom was fortunate enough to coincide with a ridiculous run of Boston success, sports for Jack – and our family – were about far more than the trophy ceremonies and duck boat parades. They were our common denominator, the focus of so much shared joy, anxious moments and intense discussion, and an always-reliable medicine that could magically heal family conflicts about things that no one could ever remember, and at just the right time. To those who’d assert they were “just games” we’d respond that they were also an indelible part of Jack’s identity, and we’ll be forever grateful to the athletes, coaches and teams who contributed such a vital chapter to Jack’s life story.

In the end, Jack was deeply loved and will be desperately missed by his mother Vicki, father Scott, sister Jenny, brother Tom and the many, many family members and close friends he touched along the way. He made a difference within every community he occupied – which is all any parent could ask – and we’re so happy to have seen him launch: he had a job he loved, a girlfriend he loved even more and with whom he had big plans and a bright future, and an apartment in Boston’s North End that sat at the epicenter of his happiness and around the corner from his favorite sandwich shop. If our greatest privilege was providing Jack with the tools we hoped might someday contribute to a well-lived life, then our proudest moments were spent watching him use those tools to build something far more exceptional than we could have ever imagined. Our hearts break, however, with the realization that we’ll never get to see the fully formed version of what was already an extraordinary life. While Jack might never have been elected President or cured cancer, he would have undoubtedly been someone equally as powerful and arguably more heroic: the loyal friend who was there for you no matter what and at a moment’s notice; the volunteer coach or mentor who changed your life without even knowing; the devoted husband who loved and honored his spouse unconditionally; the father who always saw the goodness and grace in his children, and wanted nothing more than to celebrate their triumphs while softening the blow of their failures.

We are so grateful for the 24 magical years Jack gave us, and so determined that his spirit live on in those he left behind. With that in mind we’d ask you to honor him — and us — by taking a small piece of how he lived with you every day: savor all of life’s moments, care about everyone, leave everything on the field, bring people together, and always, always let them know how important they are to you. Or, as Jack would have put it: “Carpe Diem. Seize the Day. Nothing but Excellence”.

We love you so much Jack – always and forever.

Our Jack: Text
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