Tuesday, April 24, 2018
Obituaries of Note

Rebellious Jesuit John Kaack, who forged lifelong relationships with students, dead at 73

TAMPA — John Kaack was known to curse in public and enjoy a beer.

At sporting events, when calls didn’t go his team’s way, his was among the loudest voices in the crowd, often with harsh words for the referee.

Kaack was also a Jesuit priest who, in part through his rebellious streak, forged lifelong relationships with Jesuit High School students.

"He loved football and he would curse like a sailor," Victor DiMaio, Jesuit class of 1972, said with a laugh. "So, he was able to transcend his role as a disciplinarian priest and become a very real human who connected with everyone in a positive and trusting way. He will be missed."

Friends found Kaack dead in his home on Jan. 6, the Tampa Police Department said, and had not heard from him since Dec. 29.

The Hillsborough County Medical Examiner’s Office said Kaack, 73, died of heart disease.

"Right now, they are yelling ‘Kaack’ in the halls of heaven," said Marc Maseman, Jesuit class of 1991.

"Kaack" and not "Father" is how former students refer to him, like the buddy he was to them, they said.

"When you would walk across campus between classes, people would shout his name out," said Tampa City Councilman Guido Maniscalco, who attended Jesuit for his freshman and sophomore years.

"It was a thing to yell, ‘Kaack,’ or, ‘Kaack-a-doodle-doo,’ and he would smile, pretend to ignore it and keep walking."

But watching the field of play, Kaack ignored nothing.

"In the huddle at football, you couldn’t hear a single thing but his voice," Maseman said. "He’d never stop yelling, ‘Go Blue.’"

Among Kaack’s extracurricular duties at Jesuit was to head the theatrical Masque Club.

Rick Fernandez, class of 1972, said the priest’s choices of shows reflected his rebellious nature.

"My senior year we did the Trial of the Catonsville Nine," Fernandez said. "The idea that Jesuit would put on an anti-Vietnam War play in the spring of 1972, looking back, I can’t believe it happened. And from an educational experience, it opened my eyes to a new world perspective."

John Biemer, class of 1991 and a former Chicago Tribune reporter, wrote in a Facebook post that Kaack’s passion for literature inspired him.

"He gave dramatic readings of Huckleberry Finn in which he nailed the accents of Huck and Jim," Biemer wrote, adding that Kaack also "dished out ‘your mother’ jokes with the best of them."

Still, Kaack was known as one of the school’s strictest disciplinarians.

Tony Garcia, class of 1973, recalled when he was kicked out of the Masque Club after showing up late for rehearsals.

"He warned us if we were late three times we were gone," Garcia said. "It was one of the first instances I learned actions have consequences."

Born in New Haven, Conn., and raised in Baton Rouge, La., Kaack entered the Jesuits in 1963, said Jesuit High School spokesman Pete Young. Kaack taught at the Jesuit High three times — 1969-1971, 1976-1979 and 1984-1999.

He served from 1979-982 as principal of Jesuit High School in New Orleans and finished his career teaching at Jefferson High School in Tampa from 1999-2017, continuing to do pastoral work at St. Lawrence Church through 2003.

"He was well-liked by all the students," Jefferson principal Robert Quinn said. "He was a great personality."

According to former students, Kaack seemed to remember them all, even if they hadn’t seen one another for years. And if asked, he would counsel them at their home or even over a beer if that is what made them most comfortable.

"He was a realist who worked to understand each person’s beliefs rather than focusing only on the doctrine of the church," said Maseman, class of 1991. "He was a teacher. He was a chaplain. He was a mentor. He was a friend."

Contact Paul Guzzo at pguzzo@tampabay.com. Follow @PGuzzoTimes.

Comments
Developer Bill Bishop created

Developer Bill Bishop created "walkable communities"

Bill Bishop was a developer by definition, but those who know him best considered him to be an artist whose canvas was Hillsborough County.Among the communities he created from scratch are Pebble Creek, Westchase, Waterchase and Highland Park. He als...
Published: 04/22/18
Updated: 04/23/18
Actor Verne Troyer, Mini-Me from ‘Austin Powers’ films, dead at 49

Actor Verne Troyer, Mini-Me from ‘Austin Powers’ films, dead at 49

LOS ANGELES — Actor Verne Troyer from the Austin Powers movie franchise has died. A statement provided by Troyer’s spokesperson that was also posted to his Instagram and Facebook accounts says the 49-year-old actor died Saturday. No cause or place of...
Published: 04/21/18
Barbara Bush eulogized as ‘first lady of the greatest generation’

Barbara Bush eulogized as ‘first lady of the greatest generation’

HOUSTON — At the Episcopal church that has been her spiritual home for more than 50 years, former first lady Barbara Pierce Bush was celebrated at her funeral as one of the most beloved political matriarchs in U.S. history.Bush, the wife of the 41st ...
Published: 04/21/18
Epilogue: Muralist Matt Callahan ‘lived 100 percent, 100 percent all the time’

Epilogue: Muralist Matt Callahan ‘lived 100 percent, 100 percent all the time’

With sprawling murals painted on businesses throughout the Tampa Bay area and as far away as Anaheim, Matthew Callahan was known locally as one of the best of his trade.But friends such as Sean Moore cling to smaller pieces with personal significance...
Published: 04/18/18
WWE great Bruno Sammartino dies at 82

WWE great Bruno Sammartino dies at 82

PITTSBURGH — Bruno Sammartino, professional wrestling’s "Living Legend" and one of its longest-reigning champions, has died. Sammartino was 82.Family friend and former wrestling announcer Christopher Cruise said Sammartino died Wednesday morning and ...
Published: 04/18/18
Barbara Bush, matriarch of American political dynasty, dies at 92

Barbara Bush, matriarch of American political dynasty, dies at 92

Barbara Bush, who was the wife of one president and the mother of another and whose embrace of her image as America’s warmhearted grandmother belied her influence and mettle, died April 17. She was 92.The office of her husband, former president Georg...
Published: 04/17/18
R. Lee Ermey, drill sergeant in ‘Full Metal Jacket,’ dies at 74

R. Lee Ermey, drill sergeant in ‘Full Metal Jacket,’ dies at 74

.LOS ANGELES — R. Lee Ermey, a former Marine who made a career in Hollywood playing hard-nosed military men like Gunnery Sgt. Hartman in Stanley Kubrick’s "Full Metal Jacket," has died. Ermey’s longtime manager Bill Rogin says he died Sunday morning ...
Published: 04/15/18
WWE’s ‘Luscious’ Johnny Valiant killed crossing street

WWE’s ‘Luscious’ Johnny Valiant killed crossing street

PITTSBURGH — Former professional wrestling champion "Luscious" Johnny Valiant has died after being struck crossing a street in a Pittsburgh suburb. The Allegheny County medical examiner says in a statement that 71-year-old Thomas Sullivan died Wednes...
Updated one month ago
Epilogue: USF professor was a real life Indiana Jones

Epilogue: USF professor was a real life Indiana Jones

He was Tampa’s own Indiana Jones.James Francis Strange never carried a bullwhip, saved damsels in distress or kept the Nazis from acquiring religious relics that could conquer the world.But like the movie character, he was a biblical archaeologist wh...
Updated one month ago
Longtime Pasco Circuit judge with ‘zest for life’ dies at 78

Longtime Pasco Circuit judge with ‘zest for life’ dies at 78

WESLEY CHAPEL — Ray E. "Gene" Ulmer Jr., whose nearly four decades as a Pasco-Pinellas Circuit judge made him a fixture in the court, died March 7. He was 78. Judge Ulmer was known for his practical jokes, the wisdom he dished out in court, and later...
Updated one month ago