My father-in-law Jack G. Shannon passed away Friday, March 14 after 84 great years on Earth. I was privileged to be asked to give him the following tribute at the service held in his honor.
The world just lost a great man in Jack Shannon.
Jack was a great man because he was good man. I’d contend that the world needs good men a good deal more than it needs great men. And because they are so rare and necessary, good men like Jack are thus regarded as great.
- A good man will serve his country. He’ll leave his family and friends and personal comforts and he’ll go around the globe, to the darkest corners of the world, to ensure that freedom and democracy and other noble values are protected.
Jack served in North Korea — as a 187th Infantry Regiment Air Assault “Rakassan” — in the 1950s. He experienced things that sound like great adventures; they tell like a campaign in Call of Duty. Around his dining room table over a cup of coffee. Or two. Or three – you might know that Jack could talk! – I heard his stories. Jack was a paratrooper, and I heard about all of his jumps, including the time that he was at 20,000 feet, working to slide a Jeep out of the back of a transport plane. Finally the Jeep’s skid went, and with it, so too did Jack! He was able to barely climb through thin air into the vehicle and hold on tight. The parachutes on the skid opened up, and Jack had a hard – but safe – landing.
There were dozens of stories like that. But there also were plenty of stories that we didn’t hear about: about being shot at and – more difficult to bear for him, I think – about returning fire. He did what his country called him to do and in doing so, kept himself and his brothers in arms alive. These experiences haunted him for the rest of his life. That he found no glory in his heroism makes Jack great.
- A good man will sacrifice himself – all that he has, and all comforts for others. Everyone in this room, I’m certain, knows of something Jack did to help a brother or a sister in need.
- More than once, he crawled under a neighbor’s car in the cold and the snow to get it running, so that she could get her children to school and get herself to work.
- One of Tina’s favorite memories was of waking up – every day for all the years of her childhood – to find an entire loaf of bread or Tony’s pizza crust, toasted, buttered and coated with cinnamon and sugar and set on the table, with a cup of hot chocolate and Flintstone vitamin for each, to ensure each of his kids – and sometimes one or two neighbor kids – got a good start to the day.
- Indeed, it was only a week ago, that Jack continued to go out to his shop, despite the weather and his declining health, to make what must have been his 10,000th birdhouse. He enjoyed building birdhouses and he had dozens of styles of them, but after 542 of them – and at the age of 84 – it might have become a tad tedious; for me it certainly would have. But Jack continued to build them for anyone who wanted one, and if it wasn’t a birdhouse, it was a hope chest or a jewelry box or a cross or anything else that he could build or give or do to bring joy into the lives of others.
We’ve been sharing stories like these with one another over the past few days, and as we continue to do so in the coming months and years, they will be bittersweet moments of remembrance. Jack truly was his brother’s keeper, and in that, he was great.
- A good man is a father and brother to all. Jack raised a beautiful family – 5 daughters and 2 sons, 15 grandchildren and 3 great grandchildren. Love, nurturing and care for his immediate family could be expected. What’s uncommon – and what made Jack great – is how he extended this love to so many others outside of the obligations of family.
I’ve been around Jack and the Shannons for more than 20 years; some of you a lot longer than that. Rick. Terry. Gary. In fact, I think Rick’s been around the Shannon family longer than I’ve been alive. But we can all share the same account: That Jack treated each of his inlaws as family – and family of the best sort. He never criticized or judged or put conditions on his love for any of us. He certainly never meddled in our marriages, though a time or two I wished he would have! We joke about it amongst ourselves, but made a point to tell every one of us – son or daughter, or in-law – that we were his No. 1. And I truly believe that we each were. Only someone with a heart as big as Jack’s could have dozens of “No. 1s.” He had room in his heart to truly love his neighbor as himself – and that made him great.
- A good man gets up when he’s knocked down. Every time. Many of Jack’s battles were physical, and would have ruined a lesser man. When Jack’s back was broken, he endured operations and was told that he wouldn’t walk again. But he did. Maybe the former Airborne Ranger didn’t lead men to take any more hills, and maybe he no longer hefted the heavy end of a pool table. But he got around enough to help care for his family and to continue to help others.
Most importantly, Jack proved that 10 years of medical school doesn’t mean you know it all – and it certainly doesn’t give you insights into what a good man is capable of. Jack faced down heart bypass surgeries, aneurisms, lung cancer, heart attacks, diabetes, strokes and more. And don’t forget the bullets and mortars of Korea. In a fallen world, a man as good as Jack walks around with a target on his back, and maybe that explains all of the hardships his body endured. But it’s evident that a Greater Force of Good wanted him around a good long time – so he was.
- A good man loves his Lord and Maker. That was Jack Shannon. Raised in the Salvation Army, Jack never lost his way. The Holy Spirit was in him always, and he bore His rich fruits: of love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and for the most part, self-control.
I’d say that of those fruits of the spirit, Jack was most full of Joy. A lot of times, this came out melodically. With a deep baritone and a broad catalog of tunes and spirituals, sometimes he hummed hymns, sometimes he sang hymns, sometimes he prayed hymns, and he passed into sleep every night comforted by the same hymns – all of the favorite hymns that he was raised on.
Jack Shannon just left this world and is now with our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. He’s perfectly at rest after a long and fruitful life. March already has an Irish saint, but by virtue of his unwavering, simple and humble goodness, and in a Heaven full of only good people, Jack surely stands out as a saint amongst saints, and as a great amongst the great.
God bless you Jack Shannon, and may peace and understanding be with his family and with all of us who loved him and miss him.