Last night my father-in-law was named the East Bridgewater Citizen of the Year by our local rotary club. He chose me to give his testimonial and I thought you’d all like to read what I said. It’s long so sit back, relax, and enjoy.
I have known Jack Julius for over 20 years and I have been his daughter-in-law for over 15. While this doesn’t make me an expert on “all things Jack” it does give me some perspective on a life that has been devoted to family, service, and community.
Jack’s reputation as a generous and humble man is well known throughout East Bridgewater. Before I ever knew him, I had heard of him. He was a competent mechanic with a reputation for being fair and always available. He was the Scout Master of a Boy Scout Troop and he was known for throwing great dances to raise money for the troop. Those dances featured, of course, Dale and the Duds, and it was at one of those dances that I met my husband Dale. I also met Jack that night and his wife, Ruthie. Together they were a force to be reckoned with, a fun loving couple, obviously proud of their kids and dedicated to their community.
But, you know, I didn’t really “get it” then. I could see that many many people loved Jack and wanted to spend time with him. I could see that he was the heart and soul of that gathering, buying drinks for friends and strangers, buying loads of raffle tickets and cajoling others to do the same, all the while denying to anyone listening that he was doing anything special, insisting that he was just a regular guy doing what anyone else would do. I recognized that he was a nice man and I could see why people liked him but I wasn’t sure what all the fuss was about. I wasn’t sure that he really deserved to be so greatly revered. As I said, I didn’t “get it.”
Now, though, all these years later, being in this auditorium and looking out at his family and friends, all gathered to honor him, I can say that I do indeed get it. Hopefully, by the time I’m done with this testimonial, you all will, too.
To give you a sense of where we’re going here, I think that Jack’s dedication to a life of service to others can be seen in three separate but connected areas of his life.
The first is his dedication to his family. From the moment that Jack saw Ruthie Emery at the armory in Avon in 1944, he was smitten. After a whirlwind courtship, they married and Jack set out to serve his time in the U.S. Air Force. When his service was complete they returned to this area, along with their first son Randy, and ultimately settled in East Bridgewater in 1953. By then they had 2 more sons, Glen and Dale, followed quickly by his daughter Lisa, and this family became the focus of Jack’s world. When he wasn’t at work, he was with his family, doing the things they loved to do and raising them all to be trustworthy and responsible individuals. His pride for his son Glen overflowed when Glen followed in Jack’s footsteps and joined the service and to this day he will boast about when Glen would fly in for the weekend so that he could bring lobsters back to the officers on the West Coast. When Randy and Dale decided to form Dale and the Duds, Jack was an integral part of that, allowing the boys to practice at his garage for many years and, perhaps most importantly, keeping their vehicles running. There are countless stories about 2am phone calls from the road every time the band truck broke down. One time Jack came to rescue the boys in his Suburban. They were late for their job so they quickly loaded their equipment into Jack’s vehicle and drove away, leaving him stranded on the side of the rode with a broken truck. No one ever thought to ask him how he got home. Even Jack had his limits, though, and a phone call at 3am from the former Governor Dummer Academy in Newbury on a particularly frigid evening didn’t bring the results the boys normally got. They were told to find a couch, sleep it off, and he’d see them in the morning. True to his word, of course, Jack and Ruthie pulled in bright and early the next morning and saved the day. He became President of the Boosters Club when his daughter Lisa got involved with girl’s sports. Together he and Ruthie were strong advocates for equality in female sports, rallying support for the girls to get the same recognition, awards and jackets that male athletes received. And finally, when he became a dad again at the age of 42 – at a time when his oldest son was already 21 – he embraced that experience and relished the chance to do it all over again. He took Barry with him everywhere and had no problem balancing the needs of a toddler, the attitude of a teenager, and the active lifestyle of his 3 older sons.
The second thing I want to talk about is Jack’s dedication to his business. When Jack started his business back in 1960 he billed himself as a 24/7 service station. The only problem? He was on his own and that meant HE was the 24/7 part. I have heard many stories about Jack being called in the middle of the night to go on a service call and I believe that dedication to his business is what resulted in the success he has had as a mechanic. The employees he has had over the years have been loyal and true and I’m sure that’s mostly because of Jack’s loyalty to them. He has always been willing to take a chance, to hire someone who might not have experience but who really needs a break, to extend a helping hand and train someone who needs some skills. The same could be said for the way he has treated his customers. No one was ever turned away – every job was completed, every customer treated like a family member, every car cared for like his own. And while these business practices weren’t always lucrative and sometimes people took advantage of him, Jack had a clear conscience. He owed no one and he always figured that anyone who owed him had to live with that themselves. He was practicing a pay-it-forward lifestyle before it was fashionable, before anyone really even gave it a name. Jack has always believed that helping someone when he could meant that they would help someone else some day when they could. Even today, at the age of 86, he goes to “the shop” every day. Sure, he leased out the building and lets someone else do the heavy lifting now, but he’s still there and he’s still got his say in what goes on. He answers the phone – with his signature growl “whaddya want”, he visits with customers, he consults on the work that is done, and he is the heart and soul of that establishment. Everyone who goes there knows and loves Jack.
Finally, the third area of note is his dedication to his community. Jack became a Little League coach in the 1950s when his sons came of age. For years there were games and practices and hours spent coaching many boys in East Bridgewater. Later, when his own sons had outgrown Little League and they needed something new to occupy their time, Jack got involved with Boy Scouts. Becoming a scout appealed to Glen and that was all Jack needed to know. Legend has it that Jack took Glen down to Troop 32 to join up and Scout Master Dick Perkins said, “do you want to help out? Sign here.” Turns out, Jack signed on the Assistant Scout Master line but it wasn’t long before Dick stepped down, Jack became Scoutmaster, and a legacy began. That was 1960 and Jack stuck to that commitment for over 40 years. In those early days he ran things on his own, ponying up his own money to pay for events, driving boys to and from camp, and making friends throughout the Old Colony Council and particularly at Camp Squanto. He got help over the years and other dads became involved but Jack was still the man in charge. He organized hundreds of camping trips, hikes and camporees, he helped with service projects, badges and advancements. He attended more than his share of Blue and Gold banquets and he sat on many Courts of Honor. But – here’s the thing – it never mattered to Jack whether a boy came into the troop for a few months and learned to tie a knot or two or stuck with the program until the age of 18 and became an Eagle. He was in it for the boys and for whatever they got out of the program and he supported every single one of them on whichever scouting path they chose. His awards from Scouting are numerous and include the District Award of Merit, the Silver Fawn from the Friends of Camp Squanto, and the Silver Beaver. Those awards, though, don’t mean nearly as much as the friends he has because of scouting and the lives he influenced along the way. It’s the memories he made with those kids, the stories they all tell and the laughs they all share when they reminisce together, that’s what means something special. He is still a registered scout and is now affectionately called Scoutmaster Emeritus.
All of these areas of Jack’s life truly come together in one all encompassing quality of his and that is humility. Despite a business that succeeded in good times and bad, despite a slew of awards and honors from the Boy Scouts, despite the fierce love and devotion of his family members, Jack insists that he doesn’t deserve any special attention. He firmly believes that he is just a regular man living a regular life, someone who has enjoyed the ride and done his best but not, surely, someone who has done anything special. And that – that right there – is what makes him amazingly special. The fact that he has done all of these things, dedicated the better portion of his life to others, and had the time of his life doing it is the best part of Jack. It’s the part of Jack that makes him Jack.
And so, I have to ask, do you get it now? Do you see why this man, above all others, should be chosen for the East Bridgewater Citizen of the Year? I think it’s clear that his dedication to service and family, his love for this community and the Boy Scout program, along with his humility in the face of all that he has done, has earned him this honor. I am proud to call him my father-in-law, I am proud to be part of his family, and I am so proud to call him Citizen of the Year. Congratulations, Jack, from all of us.