Kathleen Holmes asked me to post this in memory of Jack. If anyone else would like to do the same, let me know...
Today we lost Jack Walker, our neighbor on S Palmway since 1994. He was 90 and had a good life, but it’s just wrong not to have Jack walking his dogs in our neighborhood anymore. If you didn’t know Jack, I am sorry for you.
We moved to 17th Ave S in 1992, and since then I have cycled up and down Lakeside almost daily. One day in 1994, I passed a man I had never seen before walking 2 Dobermans and a funny little mixed breed dog. As I whizzed by him he hollered “Good Morning” at me and the little dog flashed me a big smile. One morning after a few days of this kind of glancing encounter, I finally stopped my bike and we introduced ourselves. The man was Jack; the dogs were Kelsey, Lena, and little Luger, the dog with the constant smile. All the dogs were rescues. Jack was quick to tell me that he liked his dogs more than most people. Jack was always posturing as a curmudgeon like that, but, honestly, he was about the kindest person I’ve ever met. It didn’t hurt that he was a bleeding heart liberal; we shared that trait. He walked those dogs of his three times a day all year round. In-between, he would load them into his white Chevy Monte Carlo and take them for drives up and down the street.
Whether driving or walking, Jack spoke to everyone he passed. Even if folks didn’t speak back at first, they did eventually. Having grown up more than poor, Jack was unrelenting as a good neighbor, believing that you need to know each other in order to be able to be there to help as needed. He was also an irresistible gossip, but a kind-hearted one. People told him their stuff, and he would share it, but never with malice, only with caring concern for everyone he knew. He was outraged at pettiness, injustice, exploitation, and meanness. If the victim was an animal, he was apoplectic.
Jack served in WWII, in the infantry. He always claimed it was the only choice for a poor boy from Kentucky. It was brutal experience, but he survived. He probably suffered PTSD, but they didn’t address it then. He married, had a family and was a good provider, ultimately becoming a liquor salesman. That either made him a people person, or else he got there because he was a people person. Regardless, Jack always talked to and treated people as equals. His perfect memory enabled him to recall details about peoples’ pasts, their families, and especially their dogs, so he was popular; he talked to you about you, not himself. He was the go-to guy for information about everyone and everything in our neighborhood, a useful resource!
I am blessed that Jack became my friend. He was 18 years older than me, therefore 18 years wiser and more cynical, but if there was a stray dog loose in the hood, it was Jack that you called. When I moved my ailing father down to Lake Worth to look after him the last few years of his life, Jack was his new best friend. Or he tried to be; my father wasn’t very available to friendship at that point. He was also a WWII vet, a fighter pilot, and Jack honored him for that, and gently and kindly worked around my father’s dementia to be as much of a friend as he could. It was certainly a priceless gift to me to have Jack as my friend then.
After Lena, Kelsey, and Luger, there came Gretchen, a rescue shepherd. After Gretchen came Lucy and Bella; happily, Bella is still here to comfort Jack’s wife of 15 years, Krystyna. One day Jack told me about a beautiful woman he had met while out walking his dogs. One of the dogs was not feeling well, and the next thing Jack new, Krystyna had showed up at his house with chicken for the dogs. Obviously Jack had met his kindhearted equal, so we were all relieved then that he was smart enough to marry her. Krystyna has been not only an angel in Jack’s life, but also an intellectual pugilist with a sense of humor, something Jack dearly loved. Whether the topic was politics, history, human rights, animal rights, literature, or just about anything else, Jack was always ready to go as many rounds as you could handle. Krystyna could handle it all.
Jack’s body wore out, and so that part is gone. His spirit, on the other hand, has only relocated to dog heaven to join Kelsey, Lena, Luger, Gretchen, and all the good dogs that Jack knew and loved. I know that spirit will continue to walk our streets, however, always with at least one dog by his side. He will still keep tabs on everything, and will still look after any stray animals he finds. It doesn’t matter that you may not see him; just know that Jack is still here, and that that’s a very good thing.