By Dorothy Preece.
A man of many passions.
John Jackman, highly regarded and known by a large community, lost his valiant battle with cancer on Tuesday, 18 April. He was 76. Around 200 people attended his memorial service at Mercury Bay Club on Friday 28, April, for which John had written his own eulogy.
John represented the third generation of the Jackman Family in Whitianga, after whom Jackman Avenue is named. He was born in 1947 at the Mercury Bay Hospital on Buffalo Beach, the youngest of four children born to Dorothy (nee Simpson) and John (Jack) Jackman.
The family lived in a house opposite the tennis courts on Albert Street where John’s grandfather Jim had lived with his wife Mabel (nee Bryce) and where his father Jack had grown up.
When John was five, they moved to the Jackman dairy farm north of the township, where 120 cows supplied milk to be made into butter at the Mercury Bay Dairy factory. It was a large herd in those days. The farm track and cream stand stood where On The Beach backpackers lodge was later built. In his later years, John told many tales of those early days ‘living out in the sticks’ beyond the township, where he played in the surrounding flax swamps.
At age 10, John moved to Auckland to live with his mother. He went to Remuera Primary and Mount Albert Grammar Schools and became a competitive all-round sportsman, doing well in rugby, boxing, canoeing and gymnastics.
John was drawn to the land. He returned to Whitianga at age 16 to work for his older brother Jimmy on the family farm. However, his mother had other ideas, so he took up an apprenticeship with Fletcher Construction in Auckland. Whilst there, he met the love of his life, Larissa Brown. They were married very young. Their first daughter, Katrina was born and John went back to farming, first in Whakatane and then the Rangitaikei Plains. He loved the farm work, but the Whakatane Board Mills offered better pay.
At age 21, John and Larissa purchased a house in Whakatane where daughter Gaye was born. He worked at the board mill for the next 20 years, and finally took a redundancy package.
John and Larissa moved to Waterview, Auckland in the 1980’s. The America’s Cup had put Mercury Bay on the world map and they felt a special connection as they watched the races. The love of sailing never left him.
John also loved driving, and ran his own taxi business for 10 years in Auckland before they moved back to Whitianga, to reside in his father’s home in Robinson Road. On their regular trips around Australia, John drove school buses in Mackay, Queensland and Katherine in the Northern Territory. In Whitianga, he drove for Go Kiwi, and after retirement, he became a volunteer driver for the Mercury Bay Community Bus.
He owned the yacht Longshot, “a fantastic little ship” which he sailed competitively with the Mercury Bay Boating Club, where he served as an enthusiastic committee member.
John was passionate about history in Mercury Bay and was often invited to speak about his life in the early days. He was chairman of the Mercury Bay Historical Society for more than 10 years and on the Museum Trust Board.
John Jackman was a dedicated conservationist, and took great satisfaction from his latest passionate project - helping his cousin, Bruce Smith to build the family hut at New Chum Beach, and leading frequent expeditions there to maintain it.
The greatest passion of John’s life was his family. He leaves his wife Larissa, two daughters, four granddaughters and a great-grandson, now into the sixth generation of the Jackman family in New Zealand. His daughters, granddaughters, and the community spoke in heart felt eloquence, full of praise and love for one who had served his family and community well. At the close of the memorial service, John’s younger nieces and nephews performed a rousing haka, led by nephew Lyric Jackman.
Over the years the Jackman family has become intertwined with many other local families and many mourn John’s passing; his courageous energy, his wit, and the serious debates that he mischievously loved to provoke.
Lines written for John Jackman by Jonathan Kline, 28/04/2023 Read with the accompaniment of George Winston’s “Variations on the Kanon by Johann Pachelbel”.
Always a gentleman, a scholar as well,
A part of John’s story I’d like to tell.
I’ve chosen light verse, rhyming couplets that is,
‘Cause poetry captures that essence of his.
Polished with style when that is the need,
Or loud like a lion, if no one does heed.
We met on committee, with MBBC,
He was the one, who knew the history,
Of the club and the town and what came before,
The good places we’d been and the bad - to avoid - for sure.
John lived by the phrase that historians say,
“If you don’t know the past, you’ll fail and be prey.
“Mistakes you’ll repeat, with no lessons learned,
You think you’re ok until you get burned.”
John loved the sea, her moods, waves and sunsets,
There was no weather, which made him upset.
Sunshine or squall they both deserved praise:
Any glimpse of the sea, his spirits would raise.
He loved our club’s tower with its view of the bay,
“Start-Buffalo-Simpson” I can still hear him say.
“Thanks for your watch, John”, we’d call in reply.
And this made him smile, linger his good-bye.
“A pleasure to see your yachts true and stout
Race control here, good night, over and out.”
Boats large and small they captured his fancy,
He had to be tinkering or he would get antsy.
There was Longshot by sail and Matikali,
And even a Hobie when he passed seventy.
A spry and quite fit septuagenarian,
A hero to me, both sailor and librarian!
In one race I remember, he sailed with a friend,
They were way in the back, right at the end.
Then came a wave, a monster from heaven:
Did I mention both crew were near seventy-seven?
Down the long face, they pointed their craft,
The crest shot them forward, they kept their weight aft.
For 300 meters they surfed that great swell
Whooping and waving like bats out of hell.
The grins on their faces could be seen from the shore:
They wanted another, “Neptune give us more!”
“We’ll reel them all in, the whole fleet one by one,
Just one more wave, before which we can run.”
But what I remember as equally true
Was his positive outlook – for me and for you.
It didn’t matter how bleak things did look;
The silver lining he’d find, and not in a book:
‘T was in his heart - his soul - that hope did reside;
And this was infectious; so you stood by his side.
Nonsense, futility he would not accept;
The journey of a thousand miles, starts with a single step.
“Press on,” he’d say, “good sense will prevail,
When it’s just and it’s right, it cannot fail.”
We miss you, John, your voyage has begun;
You’re over the bar, out into the sun.
May fair winds and waves fan your rhumb line:
The gybes and the tacks, you’ll execute fine.
And when that elusive top mark you do reach,
Keep it to port, and head for the beach.
We’ll be there waiting, our toes in the sand,
And once your boat beaches, will give you a hand.
We’ve got your back, and your sweetheart Larissa,
She knows to reach out, when she’s down and does miss ya.
That’s what good sailors for each other do:
At sea and in port, and all the watch through.
It’s said bonds at sea can never be broken:
Truer words than these I’ve never heard spoken.
Caption: The Late John Stanley Jackman.