We’ve lived in several beautiful places, which always seemed to be in need of a new barn. We joked our headstone should read: gone to build another barn. But it was his friends he treasured most, a circle he cultivated from all aspects of his life. Jack enjoyed a good story, best when it involved friends. He always considered how those he included in his circle might be helped, and most of you appreciated this, too; even if it did include a little practical joke.
Jack’s love and support surrounded me always, and still does.
Horses brought us together and a bet started us dating. Before my first polo tournament Jack said if I won, he’d buy dinner. Well, my team won. I’m sure he expected to just pay for my pizza when the whole group stopped after the game but I had to leave early. Later he did take me out to a nice restaurant. Since I cooked little then, it was a treat. A few weeks later, I made my first meal for him: a peanut butter & jelly sandwich and a small painting, all stuffed in a brown paper bag. He hung that painting, of a polo player, next to his desk and he happily ate everything I learned to cook, a willing guinea pig.
On a perfect fall day, October 4, 1987, he and I were married.
Jack was always looking for a better way to do things. I loved the enthusiasm and energy he brought to any endeavor that caught his interest. This showed in his love of the guitar or swooping across the ice in skates. From these early interests, he became an appreciator of music and proponent of getting things done.
Polo brought him some of his greatest joy, as he loved the game: playing, umpiring and very much teaching it, particularly his Hollywood Polo team. Almost everywhere we lived, Jack found or made opportunities to play. Sitting our horses, riding quietly together through the beautiful lands where we have lived, was our hallowed time.
Jack and I hosted six foreign exchange students, and found it a rare pleasure to be able to call them our daughters. They and their families continue to include us. It has been a wonderful to watch them grow as their lives evolve and to continue knowing them.
He started working in his grandfather’s Boston printing company when he was still in high school and was a third generation printer, a distinction he honored greatly. Jack was a diligent hard-worker, and expected a lot from those working with him – but never more than what he asked of himself. He was always looking for ways to improve productivity and as often and in many ways dearer to him, ways to help those with whom he worked.
Not only was printing in his genes but also sports, particularly the Red Sox. Jack would quip that the high holiday he liked best was Opening Day at Fenway. It is amazing how little of the movie Fever Pitch is not fiction. Of course seeing the Sox finally win the series was the best. He wore out the tee-shirts Coral sent him. And what about them Pats? And the Redskins, the Browns, the Shorebirds, the Aeros.....and, of course, those damn Yankees. When we met he claimed he was only a so-so sports fan.
Writing was a touchstone in his life. He was always a writer, and proud to be published in several printing and horse magazines. I so often saw how always willing he was, with his writing skills to help another, writing a resume, a manual, letter or prank.
Returning to Maryland not only put us back in touch with old friends, it sparked his creative heart. He began to shoot, found he really liked it, found a club that was on the way home and found he liked the folks there. And being Jack, as he has done with polo, he started rounding up friends to come play with him. He enjoyed competitive shotgun events. Jack thought a day spent on a sporting clays course or shooting trap & skeet with friends was a day well spent. Our horses, our dogs, were our good friends. Our cats, well, they believe we are useful.
He always joked with me before I would go foxhunting, “Got your saddle, got your horse, got your whippersnapper?” For some reason calling my hunt whip a whippersnapper cracked him up. This year was my turn, “Bwana! Got your camo, got you ammo, got your gun, got your book?” Yes his book, sometimes even the ipod. Early these fall mornings he sat in his blind watching the sun rise, the geese flying way over and got in some reading. In November he did get his first deer, a ten point buck.
The move to the Eastern Shore inspired him to return to woodworking, carving this time. “Litvak Woodworking” he called it, proudly bestowing his first pieces, matzo-ball spoons, on a few dear friends. I loved how anyone coming by was shown his latest work. And having his own workshop gave him such pleasure. Although our studios were not adjacent, seeing and talking about what each was working was a good way to spend time before dinner. Watching his face when his loon carving won a ribbon at the Ward Museum National Decoy show, really, and I mean really, was priceless.
In all this, it’s his friends, being with people he admired and respected, that he treasured. He was always grateful for their friendship, the knowledge they passed to him and ever ready to reciprocate. Jack was a kind, and truly generous soul, and he felt that an opportunity to help someone else, to pass on knowledge he had, a privilege.
Jack and I were always lucky with our neighbors. Wherever we have lived we had good neighbors. We were lucky that these folks were good people, and lucky to have the sense to introduce ourselves to them
He was born April 26, 1948 to Morris & Martha Epstein in Winchester, MA.
Jack is loved by his sister Coral, brother in law Roger and their children. Also by his brother-in-laws Brian, his wife Kathy, by Daniel and Charles, and all their children. And by Joel and our exchange daughters, Barbara, Maren, Ako, Delia, Anna & Krista.
And I loved him as far as the stars shine and always will.
For those who could not make it, you were in my thoughts and heart.
For a few years I wrote a fox hunting report sent by email to all those members who could not ride that day. One-sided as it was only my view as a whipper-in, often not near the action, Jack would often read them over before I sent them. For those of you who could not be here this past Sunday, please accept my small report.
Gray skies and rain opened the day with severe thunderstorms promised for the afternoon, not the best weather for the day’s events. By mid-morning, though, the clouds had lifted enough so imminent rain was not an issue for a while. Indeed, it held true to Southern Maryland and under a cloud-scattered sky with thickening humid air, leavened by storm breezes, many people did come to commemorate Jack.
We all met by the hay-fields of Sunnybank, the neighboring farm to where Jack and I lived on the quiet banks of Flood Creek. Mid-morning, some met on the pier fly-fishing the serene waters, while others gathered spring flowers for the table.
Under a tent, banners fluttering above, we came together to speak our respect for this man, my Dear, with love, and compassion, and honor. Voices and guitar rose gently in song. Cowboy poetry filled our ears. We spoke of his generosity, his friendship, his kindness. Of his enthusiasm for whatever brought him joy, his dedication to any endeavor he found worthy and of the loyalty he gave to his friends. Remembering his humor, which he did shared with many, with words of love, tinged joyful and sad.
I did speak of this man I love, of the life we shared. I do not know, Jack, how you were there but for how my heart felt.
I did not see the deer cross the lawns as I spoke of your mornings out in our fields, nor the eagle soaring up by the sun. I did not see, only dimly heard as I spoke of your carving, the five honking geese that flew up from creek, where we had so loved watching them. “Jack’s flight!” whispered the Navy pilots among our friends. The white wings of a butterfly brushed by me seen only by our friends. I did see your friends; your colleagues, felt the love from all those distant and this brought a sense of serenity.
I did close the memorial with this prayer I found from the Evening Telegram,
St John’s New Foundland, dated May 27, 1887. It stated:
“At the grave of a noted Osage, the Indians looked to the sun and prayed:
Jesus give him a fine woman and many ponies;
Give him plenty of trinkets and a good gun;
Give him lots of fun and no bad recollections.
Jesus give him all the good in your country.”
My Dear, may God give you fine ponies
To ride the skies Charles Russell paints
Sweet rest, joy, lots of fun and no bad recollections.
Wait for your woman.
Death leaves a heartache no one can heal
Love leaves a memory no one can steal