By niece, Janice Brown
A link to Wikipedia overview of Larry Uteck’s life – Larry was a Canadian professional football athlete. In his own account, Larry credits Jack with being a key inspiration to him, during the time he was a student of Jack’s. Larry named one of his sons after Jack’s grandson, Luke, in honour of the positive influence Jack had on his life. (Larry refers to Jack as John Black in the article) CLICK HERE
If you know the name Jack Black, you come to this piece of writing with your own memories and stories relating to my uncle. I am confident that there is a collective history that would depict a man with a ‘bigger than life’ personality, a love for fast cars and the wild side of life; a man who experienced a wide variety of escapades, some of which ended with a quiet diminishing of activity, but more often, involved an encounter with police and concluded with a trip to either jail or the psychiatric wing of a hospital.
If you know anything about Jack from the good ol’ Marmora days, I don’t have to retell any of those stories here; you will likely have your own stories, either from your direct experience or from the wild tales that swirled around the town following the many times that Jack was ‘on a tear’.
Jack has bipolar disorder, a term that wasn’t even known when he was acting out the extreme behaviours instigated by this disorder. Much more is understood about this illness now. In retrospect, during the 1950s and 1960s, Jack and many others with this illness, offered much ‘data’ to be studied and learned about bipolar disorder (including Margaret Trudeau). Much of Jack’s life history - encounters with doctors during manic episodes, and psychiatric assessments over decades - has actually contributed greatly to the understanding of the illness.
I have accumulated many memories of my uncle; numerous personal experiences and countless secondary stories, most of which start with ‘Jack Black is your uncle?! Well, I remember the time when……’
I would like to relay a story here that has not risen to the legendary status of the collective ‘Tales of Jack Black’.
When Jack was 15 years old, he was swimming at Crowe River. He had come out of the water and was laying on a teeter totter, sleeping. He was awakened by the cries of two female lifeguards. He then saw Nick Price who was yelling ‘a boy is drowning’! Jack ran onto the bridge and looked into the water, where he saw a body floating down the river. Jack jumped off the bridge, grabbed the boy and dragged him from the river.
As Jack recounted this story, he told me that he had never been trained in first aid or CPR but instinctively laid the boy on his stomach and began to pound on his back. The boy, who turned out to be Pat McNamara at the approximate age of 10, began to cough and then threw up a great amount of water. Once Pat was fully awake, Jack picked him up and carried him to his home and up to his mother’s bedroom. Pat made the comment ‘you are always there Jack’, referring to the buddy relationship between them, in which Jack had acted somewhat as a protector to Pat, who had experienced some bullying.
In the coming weeks, Jack was invited to attend a Marmora Town Council meeting, where he was honoured with the presentation of a gold ring, which had been engraved with the following message; ‘1955 Lifesaving, Marmora’. Jack also received an expensive gift, along with a lovely and very heartfelt letter from Pat’s parents, Mr. and Mrs. McNamara.
My uncle has told me many stories over the years. As I was speaking to him of the idea of writing a story about him for this publication, he quietly recounted this memory. As he told this story, Jack expressed much gratitude for this occurrence at the river. Among many, very extreme experiences that Jack remembers of his life, he holds this memory with particularly great fondness; as anyone would who had saved a life.
AND THEN PAT McNAMARA WROTE TO US!
"I am one of the protagonists in this story, Pat McNamara. I have never forgotten that day or any other memories of Jack and his up and down struggles in his life. There was always some kind of situation or story about Jack that would bring back that infamous day to vivid memory. Janice’s story gave me a few more details of this story that I was not aware of but do really appreciate.
There was however another actor in this drama, Vince Lynch; my swimming partner that hot summer day under the Marmora bridge. While trying to swim between the piers, Vince was the first to realize I was in real trouble. He later described me “like a dead frog floating in the river”. Vince made two great decisions: the first was to not try and get me himself and the second was to obviously yell for help and get the attention of those on the beach. Therefore my first memory of that event is Jack and Vince.
Just one final note, I have no recollection of either of my parents ever talking to me about that event but I do know I was registered into swimming classes that summer down at the beach."
Thanks for writing, Pat!
If you have a Jack Black story to share, drop us a line. CLICK HERE