Jack Edwards

Obituary of Jack Edwards

Jack Clark Edwards died on Monday afternoon on July 16, 2018 in his home in the care of Suncoast Hospice, surrounded by his family.  He was born in Los Angeles, California on September 26, 1920 to Artemus and Anita Edwards. His older sister was Winifred "Fifi" Edwards Jewell and his younger sister was Eleanor Edwards Smith. Their early years were in California where Fifi and Jack appeared as child stars in silent films.  The family moved to the Tampa Bay area, which is where Artemus and Anita met and married  and where Fifi was born.  They returned to Florida when Jack was ready for school.

 

Jack lived in many communities of the Tampa Bay area, including Clearwater, St. Petersburg, and Tampa.  He attended both the North Ward and South Ward Schools of Clearwater, and played "Tarzan" with Henry Bivens III on the Donald Roebling Estate. He had many such adventures growing up all over this area in the 1920's and 1930's and had many vivid memories of his trips to beaches and islands and woods with friends and with his Boy Scout troop. He sold magazine subscriptions door-to-door and had a newspaper route at an early age, worked in his Uncle Lawrence Sumner's grocer in Tampa and his Uncle Earl Sumner's groves near Clearwater.  He was very industrious at an early age. Before graduating from Plant High School, he had attended 18 different schools, nearly all in this area.  He briefly attended school in Montgomery, Alabama.  When he was fifteen he attended school in San Francisco, CA, and walked across the Golden Gate Bridge with his younger sister on opening day.  

 

Jack's whole life has been filled with amazing opportunities of being in the right place to witness historical events. He was present for Babe Ruth's welcoming parade and witnessed the boom of Florida in the 20's and the depression of the 30's.  He was an excellent student and was invited to attend the University of Georgia after high school graduation. He had considered studying to be a civil engineer. Instead, he joined the United States Marine Corps. 

 

As a Marine, Jack chose to be trained in using amphibious tractors so he could be back in his hometown.  He had many assignments stateside and was at  the Philadelphia shipyard when Pearl Harbor was bombed.  He served in the South Pacific during WWII, using amphibious tractors to move supplies ahead for the troops as they moved from Australia northward.  He visited virtually every island and had been on Okinawa for 5 days before being struck by shrapnel during battle on the beach, severely injuring his leg, for which he was awarded a Purple Heart.  During WWII he received a battlefield commission to First Lieutenant.  

 

After WWII, Jack stayed in the Marine Corps, and spent time in Washington, D.C.  While on duty at the White House he was invited to sit in F.D.R.'s chair behind the President's desk in the oval office.  He also met his future wife, Beatrice Marie Kelley, who was working for the Department of the Navy. They fell in love.  She took him home for the Christmas holidays where he was welcomed warmly by her family in a small N.Y. village near the Canadian border.They were in love but they had to put marriage on hold because he had an assignment for single men only with a commitment of two years.

 

Jack had recently applied for an opportunity as a Marine to be working for the State Department on assignment at the U.S. Embassy in Seoul, Korea.  He worked directly for Ambassador John Muccio.  He was the one remaining Marine with the Ambassador when they fled Seoul, guns ready as the Chinese were invading the embassy and traveled from village to village under fire.  He stayed with the ambassador and was also present for the emancipation of Seoul attending with President Syngman Rhee, General Douglas MacArthur, and United Nations Ambassador Dr. Africa. During the Korean War events, Jack also visited Japan.

 

Both WWII and Korea had many harrowing events but Jack wanted to be a career Marine and served on many bases in the U.S. after marrying Bea.  As a drill sergeant he trained many troops and as a sharp shooter he competed in many competitions with legendary Marine Walter Walsh, marksman extraordinaire. Jack often had to settle for "second best" if they were competing.

 

After twenty years of active duty, and already taking college classes, Jack used the G.I. Bill and brought his family,wife Bea, daughter Emily and son Clark, from Oceanside California to Tallahassee, Florida, and earned a teaching degree from Florida State University. He taught mathematics at Manatee High in Bradenton, and at Boca Ciega High in Gulfport / St.Petersburg. He earned a Masters degree from Central Michigan University in Pure Mathematics and became department head at Boca Ciega.  He retired from teaching after twenty years, but continued to substitute teach and also to be a college student once again.  

Jack took Japanese language classes at St. Petersburg College, having taught himself basic phrases to use during WWII.  This led to his sharing a true story of rescuing an elderly Japanese woman from an island cave by using those basic phrases.  The story impressed his teacher and was shared in the "St. Petersburg  Times".  It was also shared at the Japanese Embassy when he gave his speech in Japanese, at the invitation of a national contest.  Jack and Bea not only enjoyed the embassy event and another visit to national sites, but Jack also was interviewed by a Japanese television crew and later received a copy of the taped program shown in Japan.  Jack not only spoke Japanese but taught himself several different alphabets and practiced writing and reading in each type of Japanese writing style.  

Throughout his married life, Jack enjoyed travels with his family.  He enjoyed visiting museums and historical sites, camping and trips to northern New York to spend summers with the Kelley clan at their lakeside camp.  A Southern Baptist, Jack devoted time as a Sunday school teacher, an usher, a deacon, and a pulpit committee contributor, over many decades, and at several churches as he lived in different communities.  His opinions were highly valued.

 

Jack had a very creative soul.  He made toys as a child, made toys for his children, designed teaching games, created three full sized ventriloquist dummies, painted watercolors, and made one of a kind items from natural materials.  Most importantly, his impressive memory has allowed him to write down many of the times of his life that left interesting impressions of what was happening all around him.  He took those stories and spent his last years typing them on his computer using Windows 10.  His memoirs will be titled "1920 to 2019".

 

Jack's life has inspired others to write about him, too.  His British friend Austin Mutti-mewse wrote a stirring obituary for publication in "The Daily Telegraph" to let fans of silent films know of his passing.  Dad had been featured in the May 23, 2015 issue of "The Guardian" and that had brought more fan letters.  Dad shared stories with Austin who is working on a sequel to his book "I Used to be in Pictures". 

 

Jack Edwards was predeceased by his son Clark Sumner Edwards, who died in October 2016, a Navy veteran who is also buried  at Bay Pines National Cemetery.  In addition to Jack's wife of 67 years Bea, and daughter Emily, and her husband Dick, Jack has two granddaughters:  Anna (husband Shawn) and Jeani (husband Greg) and four great grandchildren: Austen, Bayley, Caelan, and Amber.  He has one surviving sister-in-law, Anne Kelley, and many nieces and nephews, and, a growing number of grandnieces and grandnephews.  His wishes to have his stories entertain his extended family will be fulfilled.

 

Jack's graveside service, July 25, 2018, with military honors, officiated by Chaplin Mike Fawser.  

July 28 at 2 p.m. a memorial service in remembrance of Jack for his friends, neighbors, and family will take place in their home site's auditorium.  The service is lead by the Rev. Eric Heintzen, a former neighbor and good friend.  Beautiful piano music is shared by Carole White, dear friend and fellow church member.