Remembering Jack Price

by Ronnie Lovler

Jack Price’s passing is everyone’s loss. He was an inspiration to me and probably to most people who knew him. Often when we call someone an inspiration, it is an empty word. But that is not the case when referring to Jack. 

Jack died of COVID-19 early in the morning hours of July 15. He had become frail and weak, at almost 91, with both his eyesight and hearing failing. He died in his sleep and that was a blessing. 

Jack was not a Gainesville native; he was born on Oct. 11, 1929 in Vero Beach, Florida (a birthday he always bragged that he shared with Eleanor Roosevelt). He grew up in Jacksonville and later lived in a number of cities including New York, Atlanta, and Tampa where he worked for different social justice organizations. 

When he was looking to retire in 1990, he chose Gainesville. 

Jack was a staunch supporter of the Civic Media Center and the Alachua County Labor Coalition. He loved, supported and appreciated both organizations. He spoke out on Medicare For All, before the concept had even been branded. 

It was my honor and privilege to be one of his friends. All of the many of us who were lucky enough to number among his friends know that Jack was not always an easy man, but his overall kindness and generosity were what counted most. He also had an amazing wit and a photographic memory. There was very little that Jack forgot or could not bring up with instant recall. 

You might have also recognized Jack by the way he dressed. He usually sported a beret, used suspenders or a vest, and decked himself in the campaign buttons of progressive candidates seeking political office at the time. He carried a man purse stuffed to overflowing with sunglasses, some cash and credit cards, as well as newspaper clippings. In his earlier days, he was known as “Jack the Clipper,” for his propensity to clip and share interesting newspaper articles with his friends. 

Jack was a self-described Luddite and a real technophobe. He did not use a computer, a cell phone, or a tablet. When he really wanted to share a piece of information wide and far, he would ask the woman who was probably his best friend, Terry Hamilton Wollin, to write an email to “friends of Jack” to share the news. 

Jack was always aligned with the left’s political causes, particularly around Latin America in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s. Once democracy was restored to Chile, the Chilean government honored Jack for what he had done to help make Chile a free and democratic nation once again. He was also involved with political groups working on behalf of Puerto Rico, Nicaragua and El Salvador in the 1980s.

Jack was proud of being Jewish and identified with the Jewish Renewal movement of Congregation B’nai Or. He also occasionally attended services and went to other events at Shir Shalom and B’nai Israel.

Jack was an ally of the African American freedom struggle and was thrilled to see how the Black Lives Movement finally picked up steam during the last few months. 

He kept up to date on developments through the only channel he liked to watch — MSNBC. 

He loved Rachel Maddow. I don’t think he ever willingly missed one of her shows. If a nurse dared to change the channel to suggest he might like some variety, he let the nurse know in no uncertain terms he was very happy with how things were. 

During the last year or so of his life, Jack took action (or had people take action on his behalf) to give away his belongings. He donated his vast book collection to the Civic Media Center. He gifted his collection of menorahs and his paintings. In other words, he gave away everything that meant something to him to the people who meant something to him. 

We thought Jack would have made it through until Nov. 3, so he could vote. That was his stated goal. Every time I talked with him, during visits before COVID, and on the phone after that, he would talk about voting. Earlier, his candidate of choice was Elizabeth Warren. Naturally now he was going to vote for Joe Biden. That is the kind of man Jack was, passionate about progressive politics to the very end. 

Jack has no surviving family, but he did have plenty of friends, and I guess we became his family.

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