October 18, 1927 – January 4, 2023
In loving memory ~
Jack Roocroft had a big, amazing and courageous heart that propelled him through a fascinating life. An only child, born in San Francisco in 1927 to Harold and May, Jack and his parents settled in Vancouver in 1930 and Vancouver, with her surrounding mountains and oceans, became Jack’s playground.
As an 11-year-old, having promised his mother to be home by dark, Jack would take a small ferry across Burrard Inlet to West Vancouver and hike up Hollyburn Mountain with his skis on his shoulder. He would dog trot up the mountain and ski down – again and again. This was likely the start of building that amazing heart. One afternoon the boys on Hollyburn met up with Nels Nelson, a celebrated Norwegian ski jumper. Nels convinced the boys to help him build a ski jump and Jack’s future passion was ignited. By 1950, Jack was the North American Ski Jumping Champion and in 1954, he went to Norway as a member of the Canadian jumping team for the World Championships but was unable to compete after breaking his ankle in a training jump. Jack also competed in National and International downhill races, winning many of them. Jack retired from jumping in 1960 and went on to teach at Mount Seymour. He skied Whistler/Blackcomb well into his 80’s. Jack first laid eyes on the love of his life in a window she was dressing at The Hudson’s Bay store in Vancouver. He knew she was the one for him and he married Rae in February 1950. They lived briefly in the Maritimes and later settled in West Vancouver.
Jack and Rae raised five children, Linda, Laurie (Paul), Lesley (Chris), Tom (Amber) and Leanne (Mitch). Jack was fishing from a skiff off Bowen Island one cold winter morning when he was offered a tow by the skipper of a sailboat. Jack was so taken by the experience that his second passion was born. Jack learned to sail and race on a Star Class boat and graduated from there to bigger boats. He loved their holidays in Desolation on a 26′ Spidsgatter; two adults, five kids, two cats and a dog. If the children squabbled, they were towed behind in the dingy.
In the 60s Jack built his beloved Mauriah, a Discovery 32, in his carport. Jack participated in 15 Swiftsure races, the last, in his 80s; in Southern Straits races, and in the club races out of West Vancouver Yacht Club which he had joined in 1963. His best stories involved races with Peter Cooper and Mike Carr, the hot rums flowing freely as they thawed out down below at the end of a winter race. As if there wasn’t enough to do with his family, skiing and sailing, Jack built several log cabins on Hollyburn Mountain during an era when all the cabins were built using hand tools, was a serious tennis player and would spend days in the interior in the fall tramping around with his bird dog by his side or on the banks of a river with his split-cane fly rod. Jack dove in Howe Sound gathering specimens for the Vancouver Aquarium and was an excellent “free diver”.
Rae died in 1997 after suffering significant health issues. On a sailing trip up Hotham Sound the following summer Jack met Jan and decided she should be the second love for him; becoming part of a family that included her girls Sylvia and Sally. Jack and Jan sailed year-round until Jack was in his late 80s. In 2017 Jack and Jan moved to Sidney. Always social, Jack would take his dog Jenny hiking up Horth Hill and come home with stories of all the people he had met. Jack had a few health issues towards the end of his life but he was horsing around with his grandkids at his 95th birthday and playing games with the family at Christmas. The staff at Saanich Peninsula Hospital were good to him and his GP, Dr. Michael Dillon was a great source of support. Jan thanks them all.
Jack will be missed by his family, by his former daughter-in-law Christine, by his ten grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren and a great many friends he made over the years. Somewhere, Jack is happy with the powder under his skis and the mountain falling away before him while the wind is up and his hand is on the tiller at the start line, with all the old racers who have gone before, yelling “starboard!”.
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