Jack Beasley was a World War II veteran. He survived quadruple heart bypass… (Ken Hively / Los Angeles…)
Jack Beasley died.
You might say “Who?” and I wouldn't disagree.
I knew him like I do so many people: To say hello, chat a little, laugh a little, so I really didn't know him at all.
But you probably saw him, a regular part of your life maybe on some Saturdays, or at the very least you looked through him.
He was the guy standing on the concourse monitoring access to the press box elevator, a fixture at the Coliseum since 1967.
He worked hundreds of football and basketball games and saw none of them. His job, as with so many others in the background, was to make sure everyone else saw the game without a problem.
Ordinarily I deal with the people who count in the public eye, the ones who can be quoted in the newspaper like the players scoring touchdowns or the coaches who have all the answers.
But Jack also worked at the Rose Bowl, a shining star as far as I was concerned, because sometimes he was the only friendly face I could count on at a UCLA game.
Loved the guy, one of those friendly people you run into all the time, but darn if I didn't know his name for nearly 20 years.
“Did you know Jack's wife died?” someone said as I entered the Coliseum elevator six years ago, and that's how I came to know his first name.
I learned Jack's last name when we talked about his wife, Mina. She had run the Rose Bowl elevators.
I probably rode with her many times, but I could not place her and felt badly that I couldn't tell him what a sweetheart she had been. He seemed to already know.
I asked how long he had been married.
He replied without hesitation, “58 years, four months and four days.”
Then he gave me one of the best quotes I have ever heard in 40 years of doing this.
“She was the best wife I ever had,” Jack said.
It was the perfect blend of wit, love and Jack. And once I knew his name we became even closer strangers.
Jack always wanted to shake hands like someone who really wanted to say hello. And he liked to tease or toss in a crusty opinion.
If you wished to get a rise out of him, as a columnist might, you just had to say something nice about Ben Howland. And the fight was on.
But it was easy to take Jack for granted. He was just there. Some folks didn't even know he had stopped working. He could no longer walk; his last visit to the Coliseum was a few months back for the Notre Dame game. As a fan.
When I heard Jack died Thursday at age 86, I didn't think it was right to let him go without knowing him better.
We knew almost everything about Jerry Buss, and it was still written repeatedly. The Times produced a special section to commemorate his life.
What about Jack? What did he do with his life? Whom had he touched?
“He was a great, great man,” said Jack's son, Bill, who started working USC sports events in 1973. I wonder where he got that idea.
Jack was a salesman of precious metals, growing up in Pasadena a Dodgers lover, thrilled when his son became the team's ball boy.
Jack loved music, giving his daughter Leslie her first record, Little Richard's “Tutti Frutti,” and how can a daughter forget that?
He was a World War II veteran. He survived quadruple heart bypass and prostate surgery. He dealt with diabetes, but had taken to falling recently.
I just always saw him standing, eight hours each Saturday, hot, cold, rain or Mike Garrett.
“A tough son of a gun,” Bill said. “He believed you reap what you sow, and then have some fun. He liked a good cigar and a shot of whiskey.”
That explained it. I had lent Jack my coat on a cold night after a UCLA game and Jack looked disappointed. If I wanted to make him warm, where was the shot of whiskey?
“As you know, he had a great sense of humor,” Bill said. “But when Mom passed away, a part of my dad did as well. I think he just wanted to be with her.”
Jack had already suffered through the death of a sister who killed herself. One of his two grandchildren would do the same. And the day after his wife's wake, he learned Cindy, one of his two daughters, had committed suicide.
That's some paragraph. And Jack lived it, while somehow still making the day a little better for the strangers he counted as friends.
Quite a guy.