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.