I spent a substantial portion of my afternoon today in Canby, Oregon , a place I would not have any reason to visit were it not that I have friends there. A long but well-organized memorial included three segments of music–two songs from our a capella choir, a song from the Oregon Trail Pitchpipers that featured someone injuring himself in a fall, and a couple of songs from the Tonsorial Four with someone replacing Jack on baritone. There was one section that was cut out, largely for length, I think, and that was the part where the friends of Jack were to have an open-mic discussion of their friendship to give honor to Jack and his memory. I wanted to speak what I am about to write, and since I didn’t have the chance to do so, I feel better about writing it out. Perhaps it is for the best I did not give it to an audience verbally, for reasons that will likely be clear once I get further along.
I knew the influence of Jack before I knew him personally. I met him, of course, when I moved to Portland in late 2012, but for some years before then he influenced me indirectly by having inspired three of my friends in Tampa to start singing barbershop. Since they wanted a quartet for a capella singing and church and I was game, I started singing barbershop as a result of their encouragement and invitations, which they had been started in through his own efforts. Unsurprisingly, I sang a fair amount of barbershop after getting to know Jack in Portland. Not only did I get to sing with a lot of young people–about which I have more to say–but I also sang briefly with the Oregon Trail Pitchpipers when I lived on the east side of town and sang with Jack and a couple of other gentlemen in a quartet at Forest Grove one year, singing “Zip-A-Dee Doo-Dah,” which came from Disney’s “Song Of The South .”
Aside from knowing Jack in the context of music, about which we had a shared passionate interest, I also knew Jack in the context of counseling. During a particularly difficult time for me in early 2013, I was referred to him by the pastor of our congregation at the time as a potential threat to young ladies within our congregation. A couple of very painful and uncomfortable sessions were enough for it to be clear that however awkward my emotional longings that I am not a predatorial sort of person segued into counseling for my own early childhood experiences with sexual abuse, which was also not particularly pleasant. Given this context, I found it a sign of deep trust that he sought to make me comfortable in singing with a group of young people that might have been inclined to think rather badly of me, and it was reflective both of his concern for survivors of sexual abuse and dysfunctional families and also his desire to encourage harmony not only in a musical way but in encouraging people to feel at ease with each other, something not everyone would have been so willing to do with someone as awkward as I am.
As I only knew Jack late in life, I was not a witness of any of his dramatic stories and the wild ups and downs of his life, but I have to say that despite this we shared a great many similarities, including experience in growing up in the South including some complicated views of history and tradition and family. Jack was a complicated man, someone with whom one could have fascinating conversations about history, philosophy, and theology, someone who said some baffling things that didn’t always make a great deal of sense and someone whose gift for making comments that were simultaneously appropriate and inappropriate was close to legendary. I feel that it was a privilege to know him, even if he knew some of the most uncomfortable aspects of my existence, and the fact that he liked me despite having seen me at my most awkward and most embarrassing was a sign that at heart he was a person who was generally tolerant even of people who were somewhat rough and whose broken life histories do not always make for the most drama-free company. He will be greatly missed, but I hope that his interest in harmony and in healing will continue to be a model and an inspiration for many.
 See, for example: