A Memorial Tribute for John House by a Friend
In 2000, when John House was 91, a reporter of the Rome, N.Y. Observer interviewed him for an article. The reporter noticed that John kept looking at his watch and asked, "Do you have somewhere to go? Are you in a hurry?" "Wwwell," he said with a smile and somewhat sheepisly, "I do have a dinner date tonight. Dinner and ice cream."
John House was born in 1908 in upper New York state and led a full life until he went home to the Lord on January 14, 2005 in Rome, N.Y. where he had spent most of his life. He always seemed like a man who enjoyed every moment of his life. He always told his friends to "Call Me Jack." He was upbeat, always smiling, with a twinkle in his eye. He was a man for all seasons, a truly Renaissance man. Most of all, John House was a dedicated Christian who lived out his faith.
Jack never really did anything but get in trouble with his art work at school for doodling in the textbooks, but years and years later when he had forgotten all about it, a brother-in-law told him that after Jack's mother died, they found a huge trunk full of his art work in her attic. After his wife died and he stopped skating, he had a lot of time on his hands so he started looking at what he had done more than 60 years earlier, copied some of them and put them in a scrapbook. Once friends saw the results of his artistic talent, they encouraged him to show them. Hence, his one-man art shows at Trinity UCC, the RACC and Jervis. Maybe the main key to his long, healthy, happy successful life is--ice. Ice? That's right--ice!!! He put on a pair of ice skates at the age of five and never hardly ever took them off until he was 85 years old. He'd still be skating --if he had the skates.
A very popular and wonderfully smooth and talented figure skater,he was a member of the Clinton Figure Skating Club for about 50 years. Jack, who was the first from Rome to join the Clinton club in 1955, was popular wherever he went, especially at the Clinton Arena, where he was very much in demand as a figure skating partner, and took part in many shows with well-known partners.
Jack lost his treasured figure skates in 1995 when he inadvertently took them out of his car before putting the car in the garage. He forget to go rescue the skates from the snow bank he laid them on, and he remembered the next morning, they were gone. He would have bought a new pair, but "Good figure skates cost at least $700, and I didn't have that kind of money. Never made much money, but I sure had a good life."
John served in WWII in Europe and was discharged a Staff Sergeant, was awarded the Bronze Star for his European service. The story of Jack's trek across Europe is contained in a book titled "The 245th" which he acquired while still in Germany and sent home, inscribed lovingly to his wife Betty, "To the sweetest girl this side of heaven. Your loving husband, Jack, 1945."
In the 1980s -90s, he regularly came to the St. Jacobís UCC worship service in South Bend when he was visiting with his stepdaughter, Betty and Ken Boyer and granddaughter Susan Mann in Apollo. He also kept in close touch with granddaughters Darlene Ernst in Landrum, South Carolina and Carol Delameter in Port Orange, Florida.
During these annual visits, it became a ritual that John and I would play the best of three games of pool on my table. Over the years, I never beat him, and he took pleasure in asking me each visit, with a twinkle in his eye, if I had been practicing so I could giving him some "real" competition.
John and I kept in touch with each other over the past 15-20 years or so by letters. He wrote on his old upright carriage typewriter until, as he said, "It died an honorable death after many years of faithful service." For some years, I kept in touch with him by e-mail through the church secretary of the Trinity UCC , who passed them on to him. He was still driving his car locally when he was 95 years old.
John wrote numerous articles for the St. Jacobís newsletter over the years, many of them on the background of the most poplular hymns. I would transcribe them into a format that fit our newsletter. Occasionally I would miss doing this and it wouldnít be long before I received a letter from him asking if I have received his mailing. This gentle reprimand kept me on my toes.
Granddaughter Susan Mann, who had spent several weeks with her grandfather in his last days told me that several days before his passing, he asked her to get out the Christmas cards he had not seen and read them to him
The reporter in 2000 wrote the following as his conclusion of the article and I canít possibly improve on it to sum up John Houseís philosophy of life:
Satchel Paige once asked a friend, "How old would you be if you didn't know how old you were?
Jack's answer would be, "Somewhere in my 40s, maybe 50s. I feel very good. I never smoked, not even once. I haven't had anything to drink since I was a GI. I stayed active with skating and dancing, I loved what I was doing and who I was doing it with. I've been very lucky." Every word was spelled correctly and there was no white-out used, but Jack apologized anyway, "My fingers are not as nimble as they once were, so please excuse any mistakes along the way."
Jack, you haven't made any mistakes.
Maury Tosi - January, 2005