RIP John H ‘Jack’ Savard

Jack passed away on Sept 9th, 2016, from complications related to pneumonia . Jack was 82 years old and accomplished many things in his time. If you were on a US Navy nuclear powered Sub or Carrier your electric power, or propulsion, was probably generated by a General Electric turbine. These were up to the size of a railroad car, if not bigger, and Jack built them for over 25 years at the GE plant in Fitchburg Mass. If you were an astronaut on the Gemini project your power came from fuel cells he built too, but I doubt any of them are left.

More impressive was his family dedication. Jack was in his early 30’s when he met Penny, a divorced single mother with 2 young sons. In those days, the sexual revolution of the late 60’s- 70’s, many men skipped on to the next girl as soon as they heard about two sons at home. Not Jack. He and Penny were married a year or so later, and he took on those two boys as his own. He never used the phrase “step-son” always referring to the boys as his sons. Over the years he taught them the finer points of photography- Jack was an accomplished photo guy winning literally hundreds of awards, as well as spending time trout fishing and deer hunting.

Jack and Penny worked hard just to put food on the table, like so many of us, but they always sacrificed for their boys. They worked second jobs on the weekends as ski instructors (Jack was a slalom racer) so the boys could ski- lift tickets were included if you were an instructor. None of them ever had new gear, instead they went to swap meets and checked bulletin boards for deals -the boys were growing like weeds and always needed something. There are literally dozens of other examples like that, but they all point to his family dedication.

For 42 of the last 45 years they spent the summers in Canada. Penny was a school teacher and the GE plant always closed for 4 weeks in the summer, so the family vacation was camping, and although the route to get there was different sometimes, they always ended up in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia. The days were filled with trout fishing, hiking the trails, and swimming. The nights would see the cribbage board, maybe a little CC and ginger ale too, and other campers at the picnic shelter visiting. After twenty plus years of camping in Black Brook, they were approved by the provincial authorities to buy a tiny (1200 sq ft) parcel of land with an even smaller camp on it and that became there ‘home’ in Canada. After finally retiring they spent the Summers on the shore in Canada, and the winters in San Diego.

His passing leaves a hole in the world as I knew it. I am the younger of the two boys, and looking back at how I acted I can only wonder what he thought about his decision to take on the boys as his own. I did a lot of things that were downright stupid, from starting smoking in elementary school to pulling a switchblade on a kid on the playground in middle school, plus a few others I wont go into…. Though the discipline, if I got caught, was always swift I knew we’d be fishing again if I got my act together.

Sadly, one time when I was about 10 I told him I knew why he was a “step Dad – because we could use him as a step to get higher in life.” I had rarely called him my step dad, and was trying to explain that he was uplifting to us- a very different role than my biological father- but the statement caused him and my Mom much pain. Looking back it is the one thing I would change- the pain I caused them was that great.

Not long ago my mom told me Dad had refused to go fishing from the day his dad passed away- almost 20 years- which I found incredible. You see Dad lived to trout fish, especially with flies I had tied, and for many years he would go pick up Grampy after work and fish for a few hours before dinner. I wish I’d known he felt that way- maybe I could have taken him a time or two. Sometimes a shared thing like that takes on special meaning and connection to the past.

Dad learned to trap from me, well he learned as I was learning. He would take me to run my line on weekends, always looking , helping, and taking pictures for seven or so years. When I left for the Marine Corps Dad took over, catching a few critters every year, or running with me when I came home on leave. This fall I’ll make a few sets with the same YoHo trowel I started with, that he then used, to keep the tradition going. Doing so will bring tears to my eyes, but I’m sure he will be looking down, just like he did 40 years ago.

Rest in peace Dad, I’m proud to say I’m your Son and your work here is done. And, one more thing, you and Grampy go fishing up there.