WESTBROOK – Kenneth L. Jack passed away peacefully at his home on Jan. 2, 2021 at the age of 87 after a brief illness. The son of Capt. Davis L. Jack and Gladys P. Jack, Ken was born and raised in Portland. Born into a family of commercial fishermen, Ken reminisced fondly about his connection to the sea, his childhood adventures and the many friendships he formed while growing up on Munjoy Hill.
He received his diploma from Portland High School in 1951, and in early sign of Ken’s life-long love of knowledge he graduated with 50 percent more credit hours than were required. Ken was one of the first men in his family to earn his high school diploma. Prior to his graduation the majority of Jack men had forsaken their formal educations in order to go fishing and provide for their families. When Ken graduated from Portland High it became one of the proudest moments of his father’s life. As much as graduating meant to Ken himself, the memory of the happiness it gave his father, a man he deeply respected, was one of Ken’s quiet joys to his final days.
In addition to being an exceptionally motivated student, Ken was also a member of the Portland High football and track teams. Though he found time to take numerous elective courses on any subject that piqued his interest, Ken also worked a number of jobs, both to assist his family and for his own benefit. From the age of 15 he worked summers on the Agnes Elizabeth, a 104 foot wooden fishing vessel captained by his father. He also unloaded railroad boxcars at nights after school. Upon graduation, prior to entering the service he worked full-time on a variety of fishing vessels, often traveling many miles offshore during these trips.
Ken was a gifted writer and quick to enter any local or national essay contest that gave him the opportunity to present his skills to a broader audience. As proof of his talents, during his time at Portland High he won three national essay contests. The prize he won for one of these contests, sponsored by the Propeller Club of the United States, resulted in him enjoying one of his greatest adventures, an ocean voyage via freighter to Africa. Departing from Boston at the age of 18 he spent four months traveling by sea and by land, exploring South Africa and Portuguese East Africa, the area now known as Mozambique. Often alone and sometimes traveling by foot, he related tales of sleeping outside under the stars and walking on the open savanna, unaware of the dangers he faced by traveling in the wild amongst some of Africa’s largest predators. He made the acquaintance of a river trader and eagerly accepted an invitation to travel on his boat up the Limpopo River. Accompanied by missionaries who were also onboard, Ken met and interacted with the various tribes they encountered along the journey, using the trader’s knowledge of the local dialects to communicate.
During his journey to Africa he had the pleasure of forming a friendship with the ship’s engineer. The engineers name was Harvard Hodgkins, and as a youth Harvard played a role in the apprehension of two Nazi spies during WWII, gaining him a measure of national fame at the time. Shortly after Ken returned from Africa, he joined the U.S. Naval Reserve. After receiving his discharge from the reserve he became a member of the U.S. Army, serving in Korea and Japan from 1953 to 1955. Upon his return he met his future wife, Mary E. Kittredge, a registered nurse working at Maine Medical Center and they married in 1957. Ken and Mary enjoyed an overdue honeymoon when they traveled to Europe in the early ‘60s, spending weeks in England, France and Holland. Ken returned with many rolls of film that were later turned into slides. The yearly slideshows of their trip to Europe became a family staple as we lived vicariously through those images and dreamt of our own adventures. He and Mary were also members of Maine’s first scuba diving club and enjoyed diving with friends at locations such as Fortune Rocks and Kettle Cove.
Ever the savvy entrepreneur, Ken founded his own insurance agency and maintained that career for much of the next decade. Eventually deciding to try something new, he moved into the sales of marine and industrial products. The lessons learned from those experiences led him and Mary to begin a company of their own, K.L.Jack and Co., which continues successfully to this day with locations in Maine and New Hampshire. After devoting much of his time and energy over the next 15 years to the growth of the company, Ken then began renovating a 44 foot sailboat that he and Mary named Runaway. In what he often called some of the happiest times of his life, Ken and Mary traveled on Runaway to the Bahamas and enjoyed a life at sea for several years.
Following their sailing adventures the next chapter of Ken’s life was spent traveling in their camper, visiting many of America’s most beautiful National Parks and enjoying nights out under the stars. In his later years Ken spent the winter months at his home in Florida, returning each spring to reconnect with family and to stay in touch with the activities at K.L.Jack.
Ken also devoted time to the renovation of his Westbrook home, allowing him the luxury of organizing and displaying in his personal library the thousands of books he had collected over a lifetime. A voracious reader, he kept a journal to record every book he read, and little that he learned ever left his memory. Ken will be remembered not only as a successful business person but also for his quick wit, a ready laugh and his willingness to teach and communicate his lifetime of experiences, knowledge and wisdom. As one person said, “I could listen to him talk for hours”. With his passing a rich treasure of experiences and knowledge is gone as well.
Ken is predeceased by Mary, his wife of over 53 years; and his brother, Erville.
He is survived by his two sons, Gus and Christopher; his grandson, Ryan; his nephews, Ken, Steve, Brian and Davis; and his dearest friend and companion, Janice H. Powers of Westbrook.
The family would like to extend their gratitude to several organizations that made Ken’s final days more comfortable. The staff from Comfort Keepers was invaluable in the last week of Ken’s life. Their support, professionalism and compassion were remarkable and we will always be grateful to them. Ken’s desire was to end his days at home if at all possible, Hospice of Southern Maine gave us the ability to fulfill Ken’s wish and to do so in a manner that preserved his dignity and maintained his comfort. Words cannot convey our appreciation for the role they played in his care. Ken’s long and very full life will be honored at a later date with a celebration attended by friends and family.
To view Kenneth’s guestbook or to leave an online condolence, please visit,www.athutchins.com.