by John Leavitt
Bear with me as my memory is not as blessed as it once was, having just turned a deck of cards and a joker (53). As I sit here trying to figure out how to tell you about a friendship that started over 40 years ago, a tear or two starts to fall. I have cursed and yet feel blessed to know this man for that long of time. How can a friendship be cursed and still be a friendship? Let’s get the cursed part out of the way first. I was told that I was tied to my bike as a kid by the neighborhood friend I speak about and others, then sent down a small hill to crash in the ditch — I vaguely remember it.
Another time said neighbor and I were fishing the Sol Duc River with his family’s tiny black dog by his side. It was winter and icy out and I remember having a hard time standing as it was and I already was freezing when this little dog named Twinkie weighing in at maybe 10 pounds came sliding down the ice on the bank and slid right into me. Yes you guessed it, little Twinkie became a bowling ball and knocked me into the cold river —needless to say it cut our day short. OK, my friends that knew me back then, you can stop laughing now as I know you’re thinking it didn’t have to be icy out or a dog John, for you to fall down.
Then there was another time that we were in a small four-wheel drive pickup truck probably out hunting and we may have been going a little too fast for the condition of a small logging road, when said friend’s driving skills put us in the ditch. These are just a few of the examples and I’m pretty sure I cursed him when they happened.
Enter Paul Harvey with the rest of the story. Now I want to get to the true reason why I am writing about my friend Jack Iotte as tears start to fall again. Jack and I played, hunted, fished and went to school together and other things as well.
I owe Jack a lot more than I feel I could ever repay him for. I’m sure he’d tell you differently, saying I have done things for him that maybe I don’t remember. I know of a few small things lately, maybe praying, giving them a couple photos or finding his family dog … no not Twinkie (the dog bowling ball).
For starters, while I was away in Tennessee Jack helped look in on my parents. He helped to keep their well pump running, taking my dad hunting and just being there if my parents needed something. I thanked him numerous times and he’d say that’s what neighbors do. As many of you know I moved back from Tennessee three years ago and shortly after my nephew Rafe was rediagnosed with brain cancer.
Jack made a promise to me that he’d take Rafe and I fishing when Rafe got back home and was feeling better. I started to think that it might not ever happen and then Rafe finally got to a point where he could go. We went down the Bogachiel River with Jack and we both limited out with two salmon a piece.
Since that time Jack has donated his time as a guide to other causes to help raise money for various fundraisers. I believe Jack also has taken Wounded Warriors down the river fishing. I also remember asking him about taking a young man down with a disability and he was in a wheelchair and he said he could make it happen. Jack also has said to me, that anytime Rafe wanted to go fishing again he’d take us. As he knows how much Rafe loved to fish, before he started his fight and now still continues that fight against cancer.
What reminded me to write this article about Jack that is so long overdue in my mind is that my son would be in town for a week visiting from California. I was asking my son what he might like to do while I had a day or two with him he said, he hadn’t really thought about it much. Then I came up with the idea that maybe Justin might like to go fishing and catch a salmon.
I also knew that his chances would be better if we had a guy that now does it for a living take us, as I have not been fishing much in the past 10 years. I knew if anyone could help my son catch a fish going down the river in a boat for the first time my friend Jack could, as he is one of the few men that I know could catch a fish out of a mud puddle.
So, I messaged Jack asking how much he would charge me take my son and me down the river in his boat. Jack’s responses brought tears to my eyes as he responded, “Free” followed by “For Friendship.” Yes, I let Jack know he had made a grown man all teary eyed. I then messaged Justin and his response was priceless to me as well, he messaged, “That’s super awesome.”
I am looking forward to sharing a day of fishing on Wednesday with my son and good friend who constantly shows me what true friendship is about … giving from the heart out of love.
I bet he’d even give you the shirt off his back, but you’d better find a tailor as he’s a big guy. Yes, Jack may be a big man, but his heart is even bigger as far as I am concerned. Jack, I can’t thank you enough for your friendship over the past 40 plus years to me and my family. Thank you my friend. Love, John
P.S. Thank you God for Jack and Christmas in July or maybe in my case, a late birthday present. Love, John