Apr 11, 2012, 9:19 AM
Post #1 of 2
EIGHT BELLS - Jack King
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John William King, Jr., fondly known as Jack, died on March 24, 2012, with his family and close friends by his side. He is survived by his wife Carole, his children Karin (Glen Cox) and William (Sheryl), and his brother Robert (Bonnie). Those close to him knew him as a crusty barnacle with a heart as big as a basketball. His infectious, hearty laugh and bright blue eyes would warm up a room as he re-told skits of his favorite comedian Mel Brooks or shared the many adventures he enjoyed though out his life. He had a unique flair with words; his favorite were “phooey” and “humbug.” He loved solving crossword puzzles from the Wall Street Journal. He left a legacy as a masterful storyteller, and a long and illustrious career as a world-renowned blue-water sailboat racer, with six boats all named Merrythought.
Jack was born in Omaha, NE on July 29, 1928, to Gertrude Norby and John William King, Sr. He grew up in St Louis, MO, where he attended Normandy High School, learned to sail on the Mississippi, and became an Eagle Scout. Stories of these times include apprenticing as a stockyard boy at Swift and Co, where his father worked as an accountant, and as a counselor at Ralston Purina’s Camp Miniwanca, where he was inspired by William H. Danforth, author of the classic I Dare You. After graduation he wanted to join the Marines with his friends, but his father drove him to Coe College in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, just in time for football practice. At Coe, he began his love of literature and writing and later transferred to University of Missouri where he earned his Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism.
After college he joined the Air Force and married his college sweetheart, Marilyn Kibbe. As a pilot in the Air Force, he claimed to have flown upside down under the Golden Gate Bridge and shared an exciting story of following a UFO to the Mexican border. During his service in Korea, he served on the prisoner exchange and as Chief Information Officer to several top military personnel, and flew F-86’s - the premier fighter jet of its time. He later joked, “The Navy turned me down because of my eardrum; man did I fool them!”
The excitement of flying motivated Jack to consider a career with the Air Force until his children were born: the life of a jet pilot was not conducive to longevity. “There are old pilots and bold pilots, but very few old, bold pilots,” he’d laugh. So he returned to civilian life as a TWA pilot, then joined a small advertising agency that eventually steered him to the prestigious firm of Darcy Advertising. During his years at Darcy, he continued his flying career in small single-prop planes and began training as a glider pilot.
An assignment with Darcy to the Anheuser Busch account catapulted him into a wholesale distributorship in Fairfax County, Virginia, where King Wholesale became one of the premier small businesses in the Virginia/Washington DC area. During this same time, he served on the boards of George Mason Bank and EZ Communications. He officially retired 1995; his daughter Karin became Chairperson of the Board.
At King Wholesale he abandoned flying and took up sailing. His most memorable trophies – and hundreds of stories inappropriate here – include the Sardinia Cup in 1980 as captain of the American team, the Britannia Cup in the British Solent in 1991, the Pineapple Cup in Jamaica, and several of Bermuda’s Onion Patch series. He won many, lost some. His motto was, “We may have lost the race, but we’ve never lost a party.” Kevin McNeil, current Commodore of the Annapolis Yacht Club (AYC), offers “He was the epitome of Corinthian sailing, of sailing for the love of doing it and doing it right. A gentleman through and through.“
The name Merrythought is known at yacht clubs all along the U.S. east coast and in ports such as Cowes in the U.K.; Capetown, South Africa; and Montego Bay, Jamaica. Jack considered The Annapolis Yacht Club (AYC) as home, and according to veteran Jack Lynch, “Merrythought carried the banner of the AYC more than any other boat in its history.”
In addition to the AYC, Jack was a Board member of the United States Sailing Association during the 1980’s, member of the New York Yacht Club and a founding contributor to the purchase of its Harbor Court home in 1987, Commodore of the Storm Trysail Club in 1990 and 1991, Overseas Rear Commodore of London’s Royal Ocean Racing Club 1992-94, the Cruising Club of America and the Carolina Yacht Club. He also served on the Fales Committee at the U.S. Naval Academy and later on their Foundation. He is a founding member of the National Sailing Hall of Fame.
Jack said goodbye to ocean racing in 1994, and donated the last Merrythought to the Orange Coast College in California. The J-105, which took its place as he began racing in Charleston Harbor, was donated to the Naval Academy Sailing Program.
Jack’s wife Marilyn passed away in 1988. He married Carole Forsythe in 1993. They started the Merrythought Foundation, which together with Baltimore’s Living Classroom Foundation and the Midshipmen in Action program of the Naval Academy, provided several years of on the water educational programs for Annapolis inner city youth. The Foundation was dissolved in 2008.
Retirement in 1994 did not halt Jack’s adventuresome spirit. He sailed with ESPN producer Gary Jobson to within 10 degrees of the North Pole, bought and flew a glider plane, went hot air ballooning in the Alps, sailed on a clipper ship across the Atlantic, and cruised the Southern Caribbean. He also travelled extensively with his family, including especially Africa, Patagonia, Greenland, and Ireland. Ireland was special. Thanks to genealogical research by his son Bill, he connected with his family roots counting backwards from 1603.
He didn’t limit his adventures to the ocean. In 1995 he sailed away from water to build a home on top of a mountain in Lake Toxaway, NC. By 1999 his soul began to itch for the water, so he built a second home at Seabrook Island, SC, and sailed his J-105 in Charleston Harbor. When his sailing body gave out, he began enjoying a mutual love of cars with his son Bill, and collecting exotic cars.
His charitable legacy includes establishing a chair in creative writing at Coe College and contributing to the Jobson Chair of Hematology at the University of Maryland. He also contributed to Roper Hospital’s Cardiac Wellness Center, the Transylvania Regional Hospital, to the US Olympic Sailing Program, the College of Charleston Sailing Program, and Charleston’s Community Sailing Program.
This was the last leg of a long and memorable race. To quote his friend Gary Jobson, “What a wonderful time over many years. Merrythought’s legacy will live on. How lucky to have had Jack as a shipmate and friend. He will be missed.”