That, actually, is what Jack wanted people to say about him. And those are the very words that were printed on the program at his memorial service last week.
Jack passed away at age 58 from an autoimmune disease that very suddenly attacked his liver, leaving his legions of friends in shock and stunned sadness. His memorial service was last Friday at Rose Mortuary Mann Heritage Chapel on Kingston Pike. You knew you were at the right funeral home because many vehicles in the parking lot had canoes and kayaks on their roofs.
Jack and many of his closest friends were avid outdoorsmen, you see. I think he would have liked seeing all those boats in the parking lot.
I met Jack Rose in 1985 when he and I both were working at the Knoxville Journal. I was a business reporter for a time and I was assigned to write a story about Whittle Communications. In fact, I had to interview a friend of mine, Sara Fortune, who was a vice president there. Jack accompanied me to take Sara’s photo. When I introduced them, they immediately seemed to like each other, which made me happy because they were two of my favorite people.
After the interview and photo, Sara gave me a call. “I have to go to a company function this weekend,” she said. “And I need an escort. Do you think Jack would be interested in going?” I said I would ask him. And he was very much interested.
But Sara called back. “It’s a black tie event,” she said. “Does he have a tuxedo?” It was a reasonable question, given that I don’t think the average Knoxville Journal photographer owned a tux. Jack said he did. But then Sara had another question. “You don’t think it’s powder blue, do you?” Fortunately, it wasn’t.
After that date, neither Sara nor Jack went out with much of anyone else again. When he died, they had been married 27 years. Sara and Jack remained friends of Alan and me all that time.
Jack was the kind of photographer every reporter loves. He knew as much about what makes a good news story — and a good news photo — as anyone. But what really made him so exceptional was his ability to empathize and get along with people from all walks of life. During his time at the paper, he photographed society functions and murder trials; politicians and bootleggers; criminals and snake-handling preachers. They all opened up to him because he made them feel so at ease. That made his photos — and my stories — so much better than they would have been otherwise.
And Jack was hilarious. If he found something I said ironic, he’d just raise one eyebrow, which would send me into a laughing fit. He did not suffer fools gladly, but he gave everyone the benefit of the doubt.
One of Jack’s nephews, Will Hubbard, read a statement from another nephew, Ted Somerville, at Jack’s memorial. “Jack was a black sheep liberal born and raised in a conservative family in East Tennesee,” Ted wrote. (Jack was originally from Signal Mountain.) “He was as wise and clever as he was hilarious.”
Ted said Jack and he restored a drift boat during a time when Ted was sick. Jack named the boat “Re-emerger.”
One of Jack’s closest friends, News Sentinel reporter Morgan Simmons, also spoke at the service. “I have hugged more people in the last hour than I have in my life,” Morgan noted. “I’m not a hugger. And neither was Jack. But he was full of love.”
Morgan said he and Jack also were not dancers. Jack claimed he was such a poor dancer that it would be “rude” for him to do it.
“Jack was a big guy,” Morgan continued. “I said, ‘If you ever get in shape, I’d be scared of you!'”
Jack’s friend, Joe Stewardson, who also worked as a photographer at The Journal with us, looked at the packed audience Friday and noted the number of journalists there. “It’s just like Jack to fill a room with people who make their living with words and then leave us speechless.”
Joe said that Jack made friends everywhere he went. Joe and Jack went together to Japan on a photo assignment almost every year for the past two decades. Two condolences came in from Japan last week. And, Joe noted, “Jack never met a convenience store clerk he didn’t become friends with.”
Jack’s younger brother, Walter, said he idolized and emulated Jack, who was not quite two years his senior. And he took issue with the description of Jack as a good guy.
“He was a GREAT guy,” Walter said.
Memorials in Jack’s name may be made to: Foothills Land Conservancy, 373 Ellis Ave., Maryville, TN 37804 or by going to www.foothillsland.org.
Click here for a link to a story Morgan Simmons wrote for the News Sentinel about Jack’s death.
Click here for a story about it in The Daily Beacon, where Jack also worked.
Click here for a copy of the paid obituary that ran in the News Sentinel and Chattanooga Times Free Press.
Cynthia: I did not know the story of how Sara and Jack met. That’s a great story.
Jack was a good guy whom I loved very much. He kidded me ruthlessly and I loved it. He was a “good guy.” We will miss him so much.
We are missing him, too, Monique. He was one of a kind.
He was loved by all who knew him. It was an honor and a privilege to count Jack as a friend. And, he was fun to drink rum and tell stories with in Cuba. His photos from that trip were terrific — so talented — he really captured the sole of the island. Mox, you hit it squarely on the head — “he was a good guy.”
Ellen, I’m so glad you all got to go to Cuba together.
Cynthia a touching tribute to a lovely person. Dawn
Thanks, Dawn. He was very special.
Jack was special, one of those folks that every minute with them is enjoyable. All the eulogists did a great job at the memorial service, leaving the big crowd laughing and crying.
Thinking of Sara now.
I agree, Alan. The service could not have been more perfect. Jack would have loved every minute of it. Sara and the family did a terrific job with it, as did the musicians and speakers.
What a lovely tribute.
Cynthia: What a fitting tribute to Jack. We shared some pretty interesting political conversations. I admired his world view. And sweet Sara was right to ask about the blue tuxedo. Jack was not the trend setter. Don’t we all hope to be remembered by our friends and family like Jack will be.
This was an extraordinary tribute to a really great guy and woman. I especially appreciated knowing how many journalists respected and liked him so many years later.
Diana: It was a great tribute to see so many folks from the different parts of Jack’s life. He was loved by a very diverse group of people.
What a beautiful tribute. I remember when I first met him we talked for a while and it seemed like I had known him forever. Every time I saw him after that, he just seemed like the nicest person I had ever met, and from all accounts, he was. As Tom said, “Of all the people who needed to be on this earth, it was Jack Rose. What a damned shame.”
Right. I agree with Tom. We could have benefitted from 20 more years (at least) of Jack Rose.
Didn’t know him nearly long enough but can you ever know someone like Jack long enough?
I didn’t know him long enough. And I knew him for 30 years.
Cynthia, great comments about Jack and Sara. My heart breaks for Sara, but we all were lucky to have known Jack. As said before, Mox, you definitely nailed this one.
Thanks, Sharon. This is a tough one.
Although I did not know Jack, I never heard anything but great things about him. This was a lovely tribute to that “good guy.”
Thx, Nora. Your sister knew him and can share stories.
Beautifully written, Mox. Blair and I toasted Jack on the Clinch River this past weekend — a weekend he and Sara would have enjoyed. The world lost a good one last week. Thanks for such a nice tribute to both of them.
Thanks, Katie. Totally agree.
You write beautiful tributes for the people you love. I read them all, whether I knew the person or not. While I know and adore Sara, I never had the good fortune of really knowing Jack. My heart aches for her, and especially, for him. After all, he had to say good-bye to everybody.
I feel so honored to have known Jack and to call him my friend. He was truly a special person who made people laugh! Jack will always be remembered–never forgotten.
Absolutely right, Suzan.
I went digging through my old Journal stories over the weekend and discovered that my memories of good times with Jack were woefully inadequate. Almost all of the best stuff in my clip envelopes said “Jack Rose/the Knoxville Journal.” I will never know, for example, how the hell he got that shot of Ned McWherter rolling over the “rock’n’roll rapid” in the middle of the Pigeon River sitting in a rubber raft, distinguishable from those around him by his gargantuan size and the Stetson on his too-big-for-a-helmet punkin head. Jack was in another raft a few feet in front of The Guv, and getting that shot was a true feat of legerdemain. Jack was that good.
And, as sports announcers like to say about their favorite point guards, he made everybody about him better. He made me want to bust my butt to produce words worthy of his pictures, and no matter how hard a time he gave me – and Jack’s humor wasn’t always gentle – getting to go on road trips with him to the mountains, or to Nashville or Chattanooga or wherever the story took us always had me asking, ‘They PAY me for this?’
As great a photojournalist as Jack was, he was a better human being and I will forever miss him.
My heart breaks for his Sara.
Love you, Bean. Know exactly how you feel. Sad, sad.
I felt like I had known him forever after the trip to Cuba with Knox Heritage in October. Now I know why, after reading this tribute. He was so accepting of everyone and absorbing of where he was.
So true, George.
Jack and Sara first became close friends after purchasing an adjacent piece of land in a beautiful valley in Rockford, TN in the mid 90’s. While they decided to instead move to their beautiful house in Louisville, we still always referred to one another as neighbors and had the best times together… At each other’s houses (or docks or barns!), in Michigan, Cuba and wherever! We loved all of Jack’s projects and seriously admired his wooden boat-building abilities and coveted his hand-crafted bed-sized porch swing in Michigan! When Keith passed away suddenly a few years ago, Sara and Jack folded me, Stephanie and Miles even more into their arms and lives and we adore them both. As Walter said, he was a GREAT man and a wonderfully warm, funny, and caring friend. We miss him terribly and our hearts break for Sara.
K-Kin, thank you.
Cynthia, I have just now gotten the courage to read about my big brother. Thank you for your article…not only was he a good guy, he was a sweet guy. I know everyone knows that. Phyllis, I have to laugh at your comment about him not being a trend setter. He (not so) secretly prided himself on his clothes and even claims to have invented khakis…yep, that’s right. We let him think it, otherwise we may have “hurt his feelings” (thank you Morgan for that story). And when we were all packing for Knoxville, our son text, “Suit?” Our daughter text back, “Nope, Tuxedo…the whole time…all weekend…everywhere…that is how Jack would have wanted it.” Hahaha Thank you everyone for your memories. He was a good guy.
Mary Jo: Thank you so much for your comment. We are all such Jack fans here. My husband, Alan, has used that “You hurt my feelings” phrase at least a half dozen times since Jack’s memorial service! It makes me smile and tear up at the same time. Our thoughts and prayers are with your family. We will wrap Sara in our love.
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