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280 Kane St. STE #2
South Williamsport, PA
United States

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Remembering Jack Person: Part of A Vanishing Breed of Community Leader and Philanthropist

When a man dies, mere weeks shy of his 101st birthday, it can be said that he probably had a life well spent. That certainly is the case of John E. “Jack” Person Jr., who “shuffled off this mortal coil” last week. Jack was a part of generation tempered by a global war against fascism

When a man dies, mere weeks shy of his 101st birthday, it can be said that he probably had a life well spent. That certainly is the case of John E. “Jack” Person Jr., who “shuffled off this mortal coil” last week.

Jack was a part of generation tempered by a global war against fascism and, when they returned after that war, they sought to better their communities and the lives of their neighbors and friends.

Jack built upon the doctrine he learned at the knee of his father John Sr. It was the view that “those to whom much is given, much is expected.” He understood that he had an obligation to give back, and to serve his community and others, and to do so while not seeking praise or adulation.

Jack took that view with him and practiced it zealously when he succeeded his father as the president of the Sun-Gazette Company. According to his son Johnny, Jack viewed the Sun-Gazette newspaper as a “public trust,” and that he was entrusted with informing and serving the community and its readers in the best possible and uplifting way.

Outside the newspaper and perhaps as the result of his involvement with the paper, he took an active but quiet role in many community organizations and causes from serving on the board of the Williamsport Hospital, to serving as president of the Williamsport Foundation, serving on the Williamsport School Board, to serving as president of the Williamsport-Lycoming Chamber of Commerce, just to name a few.

He also was involved in many philanthropic activities, from heading the Lycoming United Fund to contributing generously to fund drives for things such as the building of pools, or if the School of Hope or some other charitable entity needed equipment. Countless times he would do this personally. He also put the Sun-Gazette behind these efforts and would have the newspaper generously and quietly support these worthy causes.

One of the enduring contributions he made to this area was his pivotal role in keeping Little League Baseball and its World Series here in the late 1950s when the organization was considering a move to New York City. Offices were offered to Little League in Brooklyn by Walter O’Malley, owner of the recently departed Brooklyn Dodgers.

Jack worked hard to find a new location and to help line up the help from local businessmen, including the Lamade family, owners of Grit, to finance the acquisition and development of the property where the Little League complex now stands. It makes me shudder to think that if Jack and others had not acted what might have happened to Little League if it had moved out. Williamsport, instead of being the center of sports attention in August every year, would have been relegated to being a sports backwater.

But he was much more than the sum of these actions.

He was a loving husband and father and doting grandfather and great-grandfather who faithfully, along with his beloved wife, Honey, supported their family’s various activities, such as sporting events or recitals.

Jack and Honey were very loyal to friends. When I lost my dear wife, Mary, five years ago, they were wheeled into the viewing by their son Tom and his wife, Marsha. It was probably the most poignant episode of that sad night for me. Even now, I get choked up when I think about it.

I think that Jack always wanted to leave his community a better place than he found it, and in this, I think he succeeded profusely.

Jack, “Farewell, thy good and noble servant.”

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