Monthly Archives: August 2001

Trilander Dinner 2001

We all remember the end of the 2000 Triathlon season, but let’s recap. The season ended for some at Reeds Lake and for some at Pineman, but wherever it ended, there was a bit of sadness and anticipation. Sadness that the competition had ended and we would have to wait 8 months to see competitors that we only saw at Triathlons; wait 8 months to have lunch at some bar/restaurant in sweaty clothes with numbers on our arms and legs, talking about what went right and wrong and sharing stories about what we saw and experienced; wait 8 months to see some of the team members that trained alone, or didn’t spin; wait 8 months to sit around a motel room drinking beer/wine/soft drinks replaying the entire day for each other and for families who felt a little left out because they weren’t privy to the “inside stories” or couldn’t identify with the “Triathlon High”. Anticipation to see which of the Trilanders would stick with it; who new would join the group next season; who would go out of our age group or come into our age group; what would be our next “big goal”; how would we improve and what we would do if we didn’t.

Over the winter training continued for most of the team members. Some decided that Triathlon wasn’t their “thing” and some decided to pursue other interests. Harry had a wreck at Reeds Lake, which broke the front fork on his bike and did something nasty to his shoulder. After spending all those years in health care, he knew better than to seek medical attention for a serious injury, so he didn’t. Being a Pharmacist by training, I’m sure he knew better than to self-medicate. He passed the “Old Warrior” baton to the “Young Warrior”, King JD and semi-retired from Triathlon (although later we will find out that he didn’t completely retire).

Jack did an endo at Iceman 2000 and ended up with an AC separation. The judges gave him sevens and eights for the dive because his feet separated and he made a large splash when he landed. Not knowing any better, he did seek medical attention (although he didn’t have an answer for the ER Doctor who asked “If you had the fall at the twentieth mile, why in the hell did you finish the race”?)

Jean decided to run into Larry’s back tire in the 65th mile of a 70-mile bike ride. She admitted that she wasn’t paying close enough attention, which shocked everyone but Jack. She did her dive in the tuck position along the M-79 pavement. The judges gave her all nines because, although her leg position was good, she made a large splash when she landed (kind of runs in the family, doesn’t it). She broke her thumb in two places, had a serious road rash, and had multiple bruises that affected her training for several weeks.

Bill was running with the normal (or abnormal) group from Diane’s on an icy Sunday morning. Diane thought Bill was spiritually moved when she looked over at him on one of the hills because he was on his knees talking to God. Being the medical professional she is, she soon realized that he had fallen and hurt himself. She called Mike who came and picked him up. While rehabbing the knee that he had munged up (ask Diane if you don’t understand this medical terminology) he developed problems with his Achilles, which added to his down time. We would learn later that it took him out of most of the season.

Jen developed plantar fasciitis. No stories, no jokes, it just happened. It took Jen out of the entire Triathlon season. But she’s on the mend and is looking forward to next year with some trepidation and a lot of hope.

Kim and Lynette both developed plumbing problems. If it were prostate problems, penile frostbite, jock itch, sensitivity due to lack of support or any of those “man problems” I could think of something really sarcastic and clever to say, but let’s just say “the plumber was called in and the pipes were repaired” and leave it at that.

Over the winter King JD found several new victims for his diabolical schemes. Martin, Becky, Katie, Tom and Patty answered the call. They said it was under their own free will, but the bruising showed a little bit on the edges.

Martin had a testosterone surge a week before Lake Macatawa and decided to do some speed work on the treadmill. When his hamstring went, onlookers thought he had been touched by the Holy Spirit, but when they heard the language, they knew it was something less Biblical. Apparently Martin has a high testosterone threshold, because he limped through two races before deciding the hamstring needed some rest. Jane and the girls swept him off to the Grand Canyon before he could hurt himself any worse.

Lake Macatawa (or Lake Macatoilet to some of the Trilanders) was the first Tri of the season. Katie, Tim, Jim, Jon, Dennis, Jerry, Martin, Diane, Becky, Jack and Jean all competed. Age group awards went to Jon with a third, Diane with a third, and Jean with a third. From the highlight reel, Katie completed the swim in good form (although a week before at Algonquin Lake, she looked like she was going to have a panic attack in the water); Jean got a third using her mountain bike and wearing a pretty purple cast; Jon had an outstanding bike leg and finally won one for the men’s team; and Becky almost lost her favorite water bottle but whined so much that Jack gave in and took her back to find it. And by the way, we missed Jen, John, Larry, Kim, Gary, Patty and Bill.

The second Tri of the season was Seahorse. It was a new venue this season and consisted of a Sprint race and a Challenge race. It was a hot and humid day. Diane had a panicked expectant mother go into hysterics when she thought that Diane was going to be gone for a few hours, so Diane didn’t go (Diane, we need to work on priorities). Participants complained of not enough water stops and confusing directions at some of the spots in the run, but all in all, things went well. Katie, Kim and Becky did the Sprint race and Jim, Jon, John, Gary, Larry, Jack, Tim and Martin did the Challenge race. From the highlight reel, Kim got a second……… If you’re waiting for more, that’s it. Everyone had good races, no one got hurt, and everyone finished. Katie had a flat with about 5 miles to go but rode it in on the rim and learned something in the process (don’t ride it in on the rim). Jim left soon after the race muttering something like “I don’t know what makes me think I can do an Ironman after that exhibition” (which Jack also said but not in repeatable words); and Jon was so exhausted that he skipped the group lunch, went home and took a nap. And by the way, we missed Jean, Jen, Patty, Diane, Dennis, Jerry and Bill.

The third race of the season was Gun Lake aka the Great Lakes Chamionships aka Evil King Adriano’s race. The day was stormy, hot and humid. There was rain when some of the participants were leaving the water, thunder and rain on the bike and some rain on the run. Jon set up the Trek tent with a big poster of Lance Armstrong only to be commandeered by Adriano for the awards ceremony. The race consisted of a Triathlon and a Duathlon. Tom and Harry (see he didn’t really retire) competed in the duathlon and Becky, Katie, Jim, Jon, John, Jerry, Kim, Diane, Larry and Jack competed in the Triathlon. From the highlight reel, Diane got a third. Jon had another outstanding bike and everyone seemed to have a good time at the “hometown classic”. Harry couldn’t seem to catch Jerry on the bike so, in a burst of gamesmanship, he snuck up behind him and yelled so loud that Jerry lost control, fell down and went “Boom”. Harry could be seen riding off chuckling and sarcastically saying “poor Jerry”. John Hopkins, in an effort to show off for the girls at the bike transition, dove over the handlebars thinking one of them would catch him. They didn’t. The judges gave him a 9.9 for a near perfect dive (the only 10.0 given in recent memory was Diane’s endo at Deep Lake, the easy part). And by the way, we missed Jean, Jen, Gary, Martin, Dennis, Tim, Patty and Bill.

The Mark Mellon Memorial Triathlon at Gaylord was the next stop for the Trilanders team. However, due to some family commitments, injuries and a plethora of other weak excuses, only Diane and Jack competed. The water didn’t appear any cleaner and the mass start was not any less congested, but the T-shirt won the award as the best over the past two seasons. From the highlight reel, Diane got a second in her age group. Jack knocked 13 minutes off last year’s time so he finally stopped whining. Tim Shaw and his wife and son competed in the twilight and kids events for their 2001 triathlon debut. And by the way, we missed Katie, Kim, Becky, Jean, Jen, Patty, Martin, Larry, Tim, Jim, John, Jon, Dennis, Jerry, Gary and Bill.

The next race of the season was the Great Buckeye Challenge half-ironman at Buckeye Lake near Columbus, Ohio. John, Jean, Becky, Diane, Larry, Jack, John, Jim and Gary competed. Jim’s friend Brian was an adopted Trilander for the weekend. The swim was in Buckeye Lake (it was so shallow that Becky could have walked across) and the water was a green murky color. Race participants were encouraged not to drink the water, as Gatorade was available. The bike consisted of 40 miles of rolling hills with some challenging climbs and some exciting downhills. The last 16 miles were gently rolling, which seemed flat by comparison. The run was 13.1 miles of rolling hills that felt like mountains. Gary said he thought he saw a flat part out there, but it turned out to be an illusion much like “Mystery Spot” at St. Ignace. From the highlight reel, Jon got a fifth in his age group and had one of the top bike times. Jean got a first in her age group after not running most of the summer. Becky was fourth overall woman in the duathlon event. Everyone thought that it was nearly as tough as Pineman was last year (easier bike, much harder run) and everyone was whipped when they finished. Jack’s legs cramped at 35 miles on the bike and he didn’t quit whining about it until September. Larry was away from home without his family and ended up with a hickey on his neck, so the story is that the wetsuit caused it. Diane, who was also away from home without her family, had some chafing in a private area, so the story is that her triathlon suit caused it. Jack was having fun teasing them about their misfortunes until he got in the shower and the soap and hot water disclosed chafing in a very sensitive area. We won’t talk about where it was, but the team physician, Dr. Ebaugh, after an hour of examination, diagnosed the condition by its medical name, penis painis. And by the way, we missed Katie, Kim, Jen, Patty, Martin, Dennis, Jerry, Tim and Bill.

Bill and Becky were the only Trilanders who did the Niles Triathlon. It was on the Saturday of Labor Day weekend. Although this reporter did not witness the event, the story was told by one of the participants (can we believe him?). This was Bill’s first race of the season after spending most of his time in rehab (not alcohol or drug rehab, physical rehab). The swim started out congested and Bill found himself having a panic attack in the middle of the washing machine (rookie mistake). He headed for some open water and things improved. Becky was turning cartwheels because she wasn’t last out of the water (she has promised to give a demonstration after this is over). After running through mud, then wet sand, then sand and finally grass the participants had to fight hornets at the bike transition. The rest of the race was a good one for Bill and Becky. Becky passed lots of people on the bike and run and so did Bill. And by the way, they missed Diane, Katie, Kim, Larry, Jean, Tim, Jen, Patty, Martin, Jim, John, Jon, Jack, Dennis, Jerry and Gary.

Bill and Martin were the only Trilanders to do Reeds Lake this year. Diane had signed up, but after a middle of the night delivery and a flat tire on her bike, she decided to go back to bed. They both had good races and ended up with times less than two hours. Both had recovered from their injuries and were encouraged by how good they felt. However, a little bird told me about Bill’s escapades in the transition area. Since Bill had been rehabbing all year, he apparently didn’t use that time to practice smooth transitions. On the swim to bike transition, he got out of his wetsuit in good shape, moved his neighbor’s crap that had been piled on Bill’s neatly arranged equipment, and got into his bike gear. As he started out, he realized he only had one sock on, so, not wanting to look like an idiot, he took the time to take his bike shoe off and put his other sock on. As he was coming in on the bike, he had a flashback to not one, not two but three previous Reeds Lake races where he dazzled the crowd with some dismount acrobatics. He was careful not to embarrass himself, so he took his time and made a perfect dismount. He went over to where his run gear ought to be and his neighbor’s bike was laying on it. He gently took the bike off his gear, slammed it on the ground and proceeded to change into his running gear. He got up and started running when he heard clomp, click, clomp, click and realized he was wearing one running shoe and one bike shoe. At least he didn’t embarrass himself more by running the whole race that way. And by the way, they missed Diane, Katie, Kim, Becky, Jean, Jen, Patty, Larry, Tim, Jack, Jim, John, Jon, Dennis, Jerry, and Gary.

The last race of the year for six Trilanders was the Great Floridian in Clermont, Florida. It was a full ironman distance race. Nine people originally made the commitment to train. Jen had her plantar fasciitis and Gary decided to wait until next year so they could do the race together. Jack tried to ride up Jon’s back tire and found out why everyone says don’t do that. Diane, Jean, Jon, John, Larry and Jim did the race and Becky, Martin, Jack, Laura, Emma, Ben and Claire were the support team. Laura did the honors of painting toenails red, white and blue for Jon, Larry, Jim and Jean. It seemed like a good idea at the time, but seemed a little out of place for a man on the beach at Venice and the showers mysteriously cleared for Jon and Larry at the fitness center. Jack knew that Jen and Gary would love to have been there, so he provided up to the minute race reports on his cell phone. The reports were relayed to Jack Wiswell and the rest of Rumplestump. The day was hot and humid. It started out warm and peaked at 85 with a fair breeze both morning and afternoon. Everyone made it out of the swim in about the time they would have guessed. After the wetsuit stripping show, the support crew joined by Jack’s brother Bob (also known as Bobbie Butane) headed for Sugarloaf, a hill longer and steeper than any we had seen before (yes, I think longer and steeper than Butlers Baddest). The view was spectacular and it was interesting to see all the different styles of riding. Some stood, some sat and some did whatever it took to get up the hill. Diane was in some discomfort at that point and had decided to take her time and at least finish the race. Jim ended up with flat tire problems (I never did find out whether it was two or three, but at that point, it wasn’t a question you would want to ask him). Everyone finished the bike, some in better shape than others and it was on to the run. For some it was a smooth run punctuated by some walking. For others it was a forced march punctuated by some running. All finished the race and at that point it didn’t matter how. They were Ironmen. (I suppose the politically correct term is Ironpersons, but until they call it Ironperson Florida, Or the Ironperson World Championships, it will be Ironmen). Jack spoke for all the support crew when he said that it was easier to be in the race than to watch it. When you’re in the race, you are putting forth all the effort you have and you are consumed by the part of the race you are in. As a spectator, when you see your friends having trouble, it’s hard because you can’t do anything about it. From the highlight reel Jon Anderson had a spectacular bike leg, John Hopkins had a sixth, Diane had a third and Jean had a second. And by the way, they missed Katie, Kim, Becky, Jen, Patty, Bill, Tim, Martin, Jack, Dennis, Jerry, and Gary.

And so ends another triathlon season. I am reminded of a quote attributed to Teddy Roosevelt that I have repeated as a mantra throughout many races the last two years.

“It is not the critic who counts, not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again because there is no effort without error and shortcomings, who knows the great devotion, who spends himself in a worthy cause, who at the best knows in the end the high achievement of triumph and who at worst, if he fails while daring greatly, knows his place shall never be with those timid and cold souls who know neither victory nor defeat”.

That quote can serve as a great comfort when you turn around and come back because you panic in the swim; when you finish the swim at the same time as the guy pulling the raft with the crippled kid; when you’re the last one out of the water; when you are sitting on the side of the road with your third flat tire; when you start the run portion with the guys who have already finished the race and are cooling down; when you are finishing the run as the awards ceremonies are going on; and when you are in the medical tent during or after the race.

But it’s a two-edged sword. As some of us know only too well, when you are injured you aren’t in the arena. Your face isn’t marred with dust and sweat and blood. You don’t feel like you are a part of the group even though you are. Some of us react by withdrawing from everything. Some of us react with tears. Some of us say things like “The only way I would go to Florida to watch that race is if someone gave me a lobotomy”. (Who would have said something like that?). But however we react initially, we all come to the conclusion that what this whole Trilander thing is about is the journey. It’s not the first tri, or the half ironman or the full ironman or the escape from Alcatraz. It’s a bunch of friends journeying together with a common interest. It’s the Sunday runs and brunches. It’s the long winter of spinning classes with Jon pushing us through “The Race”. It’s swimming Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings at the pool in the winter and at Diane’s in the summer. It’s the Tuesday night group runs. It’s the training on your own and then comparing training notes with the rest of the group. It’s the weekly summer “Century Rides”. It’s getting together at this dinner with friends and talking about the season and injuries and new goals. So let’s get at it. It’s not the end of this season but the beginning of next season. It’s not six months until the next race; it’s a winter of fun with friends.

By the way, if you haven’t done so already, be sure to check with King JD to see what your next year’s goal will be.

Jack Warner

Jack Warner was a friend for many years. He had attended a funeral for a mutual friend that I had written a eulogy for, so when he knew his time had come, he told his wife, Ila, that he wanted me to do the service. Jack was quite the “rounder” and there are tons of stories not fit for family and friends to hear at a funeral. He would do just about anything to needle someone, but had a heart of gold and would do anything for anyone who needed help.

Jack Warner wasn’t an openly religious person to many of his friends, but his family and many people knew him as an exceptionally spiritual man. He requested that I help with the service, possibly because our names were similar (I was always being called Jack Warner but I doubt that anyone called him Jack Walker), possibly because he heard me speak at Dave Kruko’s funeral and enjoyed the stories, and possibly because he knew I was a minister’s son who approved of drinking beer and that was close enough for him. At any rate, his family told me that they often recited the Lord’s Prayer, so let’s begin by repeating that in unison together.

“Our Father, who art in Heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done, on Earth as it is in Heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine is the Kingdom, the Power, and the Glory forever. Amen.”

“The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures; he leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul. He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for His Name’s sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for Thou art with me. Thy rod and Thy staff they comfort me. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies. Thou annointest my head with oil. My cup runneth over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”

Many of you know Jack’s family, his wife Ila, his daughter Lisa, and his sons Ned, Tod and Del, their wives and special friends, his grandchildren and his many brothers and sisters. For those of you who think the newspaper spelled Tod’s name wrong (with only one “d”), it’s spelled correctly. When Tod was born and about to be named, Ila was going to spell his name with two “d”s. Jack said that would show favoritism because Ned’s name had only one “d” and insisted it be spelled that same way. Jack always had a reason for things, whether you agreed with him or not.

Jack was born in Burr Oak, Indiana and was raised in Indiana, attending schools there and graduating from Argos High School in 1950. He served in the U.S. Marines from 1951 to 1954, and married Ila later in 1954. He owned and operated a restaurant in Argos for a few years that was very successful. He and Ila lived in the Diamond Lake, Cassopolis, Michigan area until they moved to the Hastings area in 1961. He was a salesman/manager/sales-manager trainer for Moriarty Buildings, which became a part of the Wickes Corporation. He owned and operated Span Master Buildings for many years and later, served as Club Manager for the Hastings Country Club. He also worked for a time at J-Ad Graphics in Hastings.

We all have to admit that Jack was a “character” (in the good sense). I’m not a character, Ila’s not a character, Jack’s kids aren’t characters, George W. Bush is President and is famous, but he’s not a character. Robin Williams is a character, Jonathon Winters is a character and Jack was a character. To get a sense of who Jack really was, I thought it would be helpful to ask his friends to share a few “Jack” stories. Everyone immediately thought of a dozen stories, but the difficult part was sorting out the ones that weren’t “X” rated.

Dave Wilcox (who Jack often called Willis) told a golf course story to me about the time he and football coach Bill Karpinski were teamed up against Jack Warner and Bobbie Miller (the scrap iron Bob Miller, not the Hastings Schools Bob Miller). They were playing a $2.00 Nassau (which for you non-golfers means $2.00 for the winner of the first nine, $2.00 for the winner of the second nine and $2.00 for the winner of the overall match). Everyone knows that Jack was prone to unusual golf course antics, but not everyone knows that Dave is too. If you don’t believe me, just ask him why he’s no longer invited to the golf outings in Marshall with his brother-in-law Brad. Anyway, they got to the 12th hole at Hastings Country Club, which is not as far as you can get from the clubhouse, but almost. Those of you who have golfed with Dave know that he can hit the ball a mile, but seldom has any idea where it is going. Dave hit a shot that he describes as “less than straight”. Not because he was mad, but trying to be cute, he broke the club over his knee like a piece of kindling. The steel-shafted club didn’t break clean and had a wicked jagged edge that cut Dave’s leg, eventually requiring 27 stitches. The cut was bleeding profusely, but Jack wouldn’t let Dave go to the hospital until he paid off the bet ($2,00 for the front side, $2.00 for forfeiting the back side and $2.00 for forfeiting the match).

Dave was known as Mr. Ducks Unlimited. He and a few others organized the Thornapple Valley Chapter around 22 years ago. We had the first few banquets at the Elks Club (back when it was downtown), moved to the Moose for more space and eventually moved to the MidVilla where it still goes on. Ducks Unlimited is a great organization, and the banquets were held as fund raisers. Part of the idea was to have an extended cocktail hour, talk up the live and silent auction items, and raise as much money as possible. People would know that the money went for a good cause, so the would often spend a little extra. Jack called Ducks Unlimited, Ducks Untidy just to try to needle Dave just a little. More than once, the live auction would be going on, and Jack would be in the back of the room extending the cocktail hour just a little. Someone would buy an expensive item and most people would clap for their generosity, but not Jack. All of a sudden in a loud voice you could hear him say “You paid how much for that? What are you, crazy?”

Dave also recalls the time Jack borrowed (Dave said stole, but I think Jack just borrowed) two bushels of tomatoes from Dave’s garage and repaid him by leaving two cans of tomato soup.

Bob Stack and John Walsh used to have some intense golf matches against Bob Newell and Jack Warner. Jack would do anything he could to rattle the other team, usually to no avail. But one particular golf match was different. Bob Stack owned and operated (some people say Genevieve operated) the Stack Insurance Agency. At that time, Jack was the owner and operator of Span Master Buildings. Jack had his fleet of vehicles and other business insurance through the Stack Agency. Bob was on the first tee, ready to hit his drive, when he heard something hit the ground near him. He looked up and Jack had thrown the entire insurance premium (around $2,400 in ones, fives, tens and twenties) on the tee area. The wind was blowing the bills all around the tee. Bob scurried around, picked up all the money and stuffed it in his golf bag. Bob was so worried about having so much cash in his golf bag, that he shot a terrible round and lost all the bets that day.

I can’t remember the exact details, and I can’t remember the amounts involved, but I remember that Jack once paid off a golf bet to Dave Rodenbeck by taping $1 bills to the shaft of his putter with scotch tape so there was no way to get them off.

Many of you know that Jack was an avid basketball fan. I used to needle him by saying that there wasn’t anything to do in Indiana but watch the corn grow in the summer and watch basketball in the winter. I used to work in South Bend and we were told that anyone from South of Highway 6 was an Indiana hillbilly. Jack would needle me saying that, growing up, he heard that people living in Michigan either worked in an automobile plant, trapped beavers, collected unemployment or did all three. Anyway, Jack was well known for his love of the NCAA tournaments. He coordinated the NCAA basketball pool and, for those who were out of the running after the first two rounds, the “NCAA junior” for the sweet sixteen tournament. For several years he hosted a get together for the NCAA finals. It was always on a Monday night, and during tax season, but I wouldn’t have missed it for anything. The evening started at the Elks Club for a cocktail and a car pool out to Wall Lake. There were more cocktails, of course, and a couple of different wagering pools (usually circulated by Ron Lewis). Dinner was served around 7:30 or 8 and the kitchen was cleaned for the 9 o’clock game. I can remember John Czinder, John Walsh, Bob Stack, Bob Stanley, Bob Sherwood, Dick Guenther, Dave Goodyear, Harold Kimmel, Harry Leckrone, Ron Lewis, Dave Wilcox, and many others in attendance at most of the parties. On one particular night, John Walsh had brought fresh lobsters and clams from the East Coast where he was living at the time. We feasted on as much lobster and as many clams as we could eat. Jack cooked a large steak on the grill and we had all the trimmings (usually made by Ila before she took refuge at the neighbors). It was a meal fit for a king. John had saved out a couple of lobsters for Bob and Dorothy Stack and put them on Bob’s back porch in a cooler. The Stacks had invited Bob and Curly Sherwood over for an elegant candlelit dinner. Cocktails were served and when it came time to boil the lobsters, they were missing from the cooler. It seems Jack had borrowed them and failed to tell Bob or Dorothy. There they were with absolutely nothing to eat. I’m told that you could hear Dorothy all the way up to Bob Stanley’s house when she realized that the lobsters just weren’t there.

Speaking of basketball, Dick Guenther tells about Jack during the years that Dick was school superintendent. Whenever Delton and Hastings played each other, they would make a small wager on the outcome. One particular basketball game was played in Hastings and was well underway with Jack sitting on the Delton side and Dick, of course, on the Hastings side. As the game progressed, Hastings held a large lead and as the lead increased, Jack became very quiet. Tauntingly, Dick kept calling Jack’s name with no response. The second half was a different story, with Delton scoring frequently. With the score getting within 5 points, Jack stood up and yelled “Where’s Guenther Now?”. At that instant, the crowd of 1,200 had quieted and everyone heard him. Needless to say, the superintendent was a little embarrassed and so was Jack.

Jack’s friendship with Dick Guenther went back to the days they were neighbors on Court Street in Hastings. During this period, Jack had acquired a combination grass-cutter/snow-plow tractor from Dave Goodyear, the John Deere dealer and also a good friend of both. There weren’t enough sidewalks to plow around the Warner premises, so Jack would plow the entire neighborhood on his side of the street. The Guenthers, who lived across the street, had an open lot with newly planted small Blue Spruce trees where Park and Court Streets intersected. Again, Jack ran out of spots to plow so he crossed over to assist the Guenthers. As he plowed at the intersection, he gracefully took one of the spruce trees along for a ride. The spot was left bare as a reminder of Jack’s philanthropic treatment of one of his neighbors.

Harry Leckrone had a unique relationship with Jack. Since Jack has been sick, Harry probably spent more time with Jack than anyone else (other than Ila, of course). They talked about old times, of friends that were no longer around, and many private personal things. Harry enjoyed Jack’s stories and his sense of humor. Through the years, Jack delighted in giving people nicknames. Most of them can’t be repeated like Bob Stanley’s, but the nickname he gave Harry was Greasy Goodwrench because he owned and operated a body shop before he retired. Jack went to the trouble of having sweatshirts made up for Harry and Pat that said “Greasy Goodwrench” and “Mrs. Greasy”. Harry and Pat wore them to a trip to Disneyland later that year and got quite a few stares. Jack used to enjoy the bluegills Harry caught, filleted, and gave him (by the way, Harry, what’s the daily limit of bluegills anyway)?

Ron Lewis used to talk about, watch, and wager on sporting events with Jack from time to time, mostly basketball. He could never understand how Jack could forget the rules of the game and how bad Jack thought the officiating was when anyone was playing Indiana or a Delton team that one of his kids was on. This was corroborated when I asked Del about one of his high school basketball games. Delton had played a tough football game against Galesburg-Augusta in Del’s junior year. Galesburg-Augusta won but it was a hard fought game. The first basketball game of the season was an away game at Galesburg-Augusta. Jack went to the game and was sitting with the Liceaga brothers above the Galesburg-Augusta bench in a packed gym. Galesburg-Augusta sent a player in to intentionally foul Delton’s best player and he racked up four fouls in the first quarter. The officiating was “horrible” according to an “unbiased” Delton player and several “unbiased” Delton fans. When the “hacker” was taken out, Jack and the Liceaga brothers were very vocal about the situation, and rode the Galesburg-Augusta coach pretty hard. Soon, the coach had enough and refused to let his players finish the game until Jack was removed from the building. The officials couldn’t remove Jack just for heckling and the game was stopped. Del was a player and Lisa was a cheerleader at the time and both were extremely embarrassed. Jack finally agreed to leave the game so it could continue.

Ned, Del, Ila and one of Jack’s granddaughters related several stories about Jack when we talked on Tuesday.

Ila talked about the time that the family had a border collie as a pet. The kids loved that dog, but apparently someone else didn’t because they poisoned it. The kids were heartbroken. Ila took the kids out to get a replacement dog, a poodle. When they returned there were signs all over the yard and house reading “No Poodles Allowed” and “Poodles Not Welcome”. Within 15 minutes the dog was crawling all over Jack, licking his face, and Jack was hooked. They kept the poodle.

Ned told the story about when he and Jack were in the car one day going down Jefferson or Michigan near St. Rose School. It must have been track and field day because one of the nuns was trying to get all the kids lined up for a race. She seemed to be having a little trouble when all of a sudden Jack leaned out the window and yelled, “GO”. The kids took off and the nun glared at Jack with a look that said “I’d send you straight to Hell if I could”.

Jack’s granddaughter said that Jack told her the reason he had false teeth is that he made a pass to a pretty girl and she punched him in the mouth.

Jack was never very accepting about helpful suggestions. When the bag of fertilizer said to spread one bag per acre, Jack figured it would be twice as good with two bags per acre. More than once he burned up the grass that way.

We talked about the time he mowed over the wellhead, cut the top off and had to stop the water flow with a rake handle. The next time he mowed he broke a window in the house. We talked about the time he made his famous oyster dressing using bad oysters. The time he ran out of lighter fluid and used gasoline to start the grill (Ned had to go inside to check to see if he still had eyebrows). The time he put the grill on the pontoon to keep warm, turned into the wind and almost caught Grandma Ada on fire. The time he cleaned out the garage (we all know that Jack was a neat freak) and burned up his snow tires. He wished he hadn’t done that when winter came around. The time he took Ned down to True Value to try out bikes, only to find out Jack was buying it for a neighbor boy that didn’t have one.

Jack was a bit of a writer himself and was often writing notes to people. He had organized a Friday night informal couples golf league that included the Warners, Bob and Pat Newell, John and Patty Czinder, Bob and Charlene Keller, Max and Barb Myers, Larry and Michelle Archer, Brenda Newell and her ex, and Mac McAllister and whoever he was going with at the time. At the end of the 1981 season, he wrote this letter. “5 September 1981. I have enjoyed the last three terms of President of this summer golf league. This league has grown from the lowest pits to become a league that the whole community would like to be a part of under my leadership. However, this day, I stand before you with a heavy heart. One knows within when it’s time to step down and step on to greater accomplishments. Before I step out of this position of your leader, there are a few things I want to make perfectly clear. Over this past term that we are ending this day, there have been some poisonous tongues trying to create friction within the troops. Impeachment has been suggested at one point. This suggestion was overwhelmingly overruled and defeated by a mass vote of the people. This should indicate to a 90 pound little tongue waggler that the President’s position of power was intact. However, the tongues keep waggling. Discontent within the ranks has continued, regardless of the supreme leadership demonstrated by your President. At this point in time, I know not the future of this league, but it does not produce, in my opinion, a very promising 1982 season. As of this day, I will no longer be responsible for the actions of this league or any of its members. You will no longer have Jack Warner to kick around as you have in the past. I will continue to devote all my time and efforts to my 1982 Sheriff’s campaign in an attempt to become the county’s leading law enforcement person. At this particular time, Dave Wood and Larry Holman are scared. I may add that if this campaign is successful, I guarantee fair and unbiased treatment to every citizen of the county. But there will be one 90 pound tongue waggler without driving privileges. I hold no grudges. As I leave, my only hope is for the survival of this league. And may you all rot in hell! Thank You”.

Another letter that Ila shared with me was written by Jack to Bruce Van, Viv, Gin and Jack Metzger from Jack E., Warner, Chairman of the Board. The group was planning a trip to Las Vegas and Jack put himself in charge. Excerpts of the letter are as follows. “Since both of you lack decision making qualities, I’m taking over as Chairman of the Western Journey. It is my intentions to make travel arrangements to Vegas through a travel agency and we will probably depart the South Bend airport around the 25th or 26th of March….After the weekend, everyone is free to go or do as they please. Ila and Jack are flying to Southern California to rest and visit with our friends at San Diego. I might make a personal call on the Wickes Headquarters only to throw up in the lobby….News from Michigan: We just got through another cold, snowing, blowing and boring weekend. Two kids in the house with colds, two kids out all weekend on snow machines, they throw wet clothes all over the house. Mother has a sore throat and was tough to get along with- I quit trying so we went through Saturday and Sunday with one long argument. Glad to see Monday morning come so I can get to the office and act like I’m busy…. If either of you have any objection to the trip plans – keep them to yourself as I’m not interested in them. Also, if you have anything you would like to add, you may suggest it but it’s very doubtful that I will accept any of it. Signed, JEW, The Lumber Tycoon”

A notice was left on the Spanmaster door once that read “The Spanmaster office will be closed Friday, September 9th as the Warners are celebrating the marriage of their #3 son, Del. Del has been a great guy to have around our home, every parent should be blessed with the humor and love we have shared. I can’t believe I composed all the above. I should have been an author; by the way, these damn phones are on transfer to the house or contact Harvey Fredricks, Lake Odessa. We’ll get back with it Monday morning. Signed Jack”.

The knack for writing must run in the family. Here’s a letter that Tod wrote to Jack after he became ill. The letter echoes the feelings of Ned, Del and Lisa. “Dear Dad, You know after all the letters you have written me in my lifetime that were filled with everything from job duties to your wisdom and feelings about life in general. I was thinking that I have never returned to you those things that I have learned. First of all I want to tell you how proud I am in you, watching you go through all these struggles still always leading by example and displaying that never give up attitude that you have instilled in all your children. You have always taught me that you can do anything that you want to do and you can be anything that you want to be (even when you said it with that needed kick in the rear once in a while) if you get focused on it and put your heart into it. This is one of life’s great lessons I learned early from you and why I’m so grateful I have a man like you to call my Dad. The other lesson you have taught all of your children is a great work ethic. Always work had and do your best and good things will happen and you also shared that they may not happen right away but in time it will pay off. You were and still are a great provider for your family. You took us on many great trips and vacations throughout our childhood. Like the trip to Disney World, to the Rex Mays Classic Indy Car Race, to Cedar Point, to the Football Hall of Fame, to the great Milwaukee Zoo where the ostrich made family history by taking a dump right in front of us. Plus all the other little trips that we took for granted at times but mean so much to us all. We had such a good environment to grow up in, filled with all those things that made us a family like the love, the laughing, the fighting, the small talks at the dinner table, cursing time, and all those great things that created many great memories and stories for me to share with my family, Brenda and Jacque. You always provided us with great toys to play with on the lake from snowmobiles to boats and many others. You always taught me to hold my head up high no matter what the situation was good or bad. That never lay down attitude. You instilled in me a sense of pride that I still carry with me today. Whenever I get in some ugly situation I always try to think what Dad would do. You have always been a great example to me (not that you haven’t disappointed me and I have disappointed you, we are only human!) from just reading your words of wisdom left on the table Saturday morning, to just the father to son talk, to now talking to you on the phone. I had to do an interview the other day for the school newspaper and one of the questions they asked me was who is my hero, the person I would be if I could and, without hesitation, the answer was simple. My Dad. You have always been my hero in good times and bad because you have always believed in me when others didn’t. I will never be able to give back all you have given me in wisdom, backbone and character. I have always wanted you to be proud of me and I believe you are in a lot of ways only because a lot of you lives in me. God Bless You, Love Always, Tod”. I can guarantee you that Jack’s eyes weren’t dry when he read that and neither were mine.

I tried to imagine what Jack would want to say if he were here. I can see him standing next to me with his pink nylon golf shirt, his polyester pants worn a little low on his hips with the seat going straight down (cuz he didn’t have any butt) with his shoes polished like he was going to stand inspection in the Marines. He’d start talking with that “south of 6 ” hillbilly drawl:

“To the love of my life, Ila-I guess the perfect husband is the guy that remembers all the birthdays and anniversaries, who comes straight home from work and helps with dinner and the kids, who takes out the garbage before he is asked, who knows exactly what to say and when to say it, and to not say anything sometimes-only listen, to be a good provider, to say I love you when it’s not a birthday and anniversary, to always be agreeable even if sex isn’t the motive, who never has too much to drink, and who never embarrasses his family. But I didn’t do all those things. I did some of them. I did my best. No apologies, no complaints, no regrets. I was just being me and you know I always loved you.

To my kids, Ned, Tod, Del and Lisa-I guess the perfect Dad is the guy that changes your diapers when they need to be changed, who helps you learn to color inside the lines, who teaches you to ride a bike without training wheels, who takes you fishing, who helps you with your schoolwork, who teaches you to drive, who goes to all your games, who teaches you life’s lessons, who disciplines you out of love, and who understands when you aren’t perfect. But I didn’t do all those things. I did some of them. I did my best. No apologies, no complaints, no regrets. I was just being me and you know I always loved you.

To my friends-I guess the perfect friend is the one who stands by you whether you are right or wrong, who listens when you need someone to talk to, who offers advice only when asked, who loans you things not knowing or caring if they’re ever returned, who says what it takes to cheer you up when you are down, and who stands by you when business or family life isn’t going well. But I didn’t do all those things. I did some of them. I did my best. No apologies, no complaints, no regrets. I was just being me and you know I always loved you.

And here I would say “But you know Jack, some of us haven’t been the kind of friend that we should have the last couple of years. Maybe it’s because we didn’t want to see you sick, maybe it’s because in you we saw our own vulnerability. But for whatever reason, we did our best. We were just being us and you know we always loved you.

Jack would go on to say…Last of all, forgive me for being irreverent on this solemn occasion, but I’d just like to say “My life’s journey is over but you have to admit, it was one hell of a ride”.

I would like to close with a quote that Ila gave me that she feels sums up Jack’s feelings-“Remember me not for my weakness, for my sins or for my poor judgment, but that I loved you”.