I wanted to wish everyone a Happy Jack Frost Day. You likely assume this observance has something to do with the weather or fictional character. It does not. This day marks the sixth anniversary of the death of a silver-haired man I was honored to know, work for, love, and respect. If you are very lucky, you stumble upon a handful of people in your life who seep into your very soul. For me, that was Jack Frost and yes, he heard every name joke you can imagine.
When I first started with my company, Jack was leaving the Southeast to run our European division. Our paths only crossed for a couple of days and I honestly didn’t think he liked me very much. So, years later when it was announced that he was coming back to Atlanta, I was a little nervous. He had quite a reputation as a serious, no-nonsense professional and I was kind of the office screw-up.
The reputation that preceded him was way off (as those things often tend to be) or maybe his wife and children mellowed him… who knows. The Jack Frost that became my boss was one of the kindest gentlemen I have ever known and quickly became my friend and mentor. I could write about him for many pages, but I’d like to share just a few things he taught me:
Family comes first – Jack found his beautiful wife, Juli a little later in his life. They were separated by years but together in everything that mattered. They had four children, but sadly one died very young. You didn’t have to know Jack long to know that his world revolved around those kids. When he would come to the office in the morning, he would plop down beside my desk to tell me stories about them. Sometimes it got to the point where I had to shoo my boss away so I could get some work done.
Listen more than you talk – Jack was a master conversationalist who always asked questions and then closed his mouth, showing genuine interest in the answers.
There is always room for kindness – a tender spirit, he loved others well and treated everyone with respect.
Lead with a smile – Jack’s smile and good humor were legendary to the point where he came to us with the nickname, “Champagne Jack.”
The truth is crucial – In all my years with him, I never saw Jack resort to anything even borderline deceptive and he always confronted problems head-on with integrity.
Faithful isn’t just for dogs – Jack didn’t just live his faith at church on Sunday, he carried it with him everywhere he went, seven days a week.
Fight to win – When cancer invaded his body for the second time, he fought with everything he had to the very end. I don’t think he ever imagined anything other than victory and healing. In fact, he often came to work when he shouldn’t have and never let on just how bad his health had gotten. I vividly remember the day Juli called me and said he had been transferred to hospice. I felt such shock because he had emailed me not an hour before asking for sales projections.
When I visited him later, his body weak and failing, he hugged me and asked me about my girls. That was Jack. He listened while I told him whatever details I could think of as he drifted off to sleep. In tears, I kissed him on the forehead and left him there where he passed into eternity the following day.
I miss you, Jack Frost. I’m a better man because of you. Thank you for being my friend and investing in me.
Happy Jack Frost Day. If you think of it today, raise a glass for Champagne Jack, a wonderful gentleman I once knew.