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John “Jack” Francis Clabby was a family man. Growing up with his multi-generational family in Brooklyn and Queens, he shared a bedroom with his beloved French Grandpa who taught him many life lessons, including how to make wine in the basement during Prohibition. His parents filled his childhood with gatherings of extended family and summers at Rockaway Beach. These experiences shaped him, and for the rest of his life his abiding Catholic faith found expression in this love and devotion to family and friends. He immersed himself in each parish community he joined, serving as a lector and volunteering for bingo, carnivals, and wherever he could be of service. Raising nine children with his beloved wife, Ginny, they cultivated a home filled with love, faith, humor and unflagging optimism.

As a father and grandfather, Jack emphasized the importance of education and admired the scholarship of the Jesuits. His pastor, Msgr. Kinsella, recognized something special in this devoted altar boy and arranged for him to attend Chaminade High School. Despite being late for school every day due to the long bus commute out to Mineola, young Jack flourished there, earning recognition as “Lefty Clabby” on the basketball team, running track and being voted Senior Class President. Gifted with a unique intellect, he always excelled academically, but when the Second World War broke out, he interrupted his college education at St. John’s University to enroll in the Merchant Marine Academy at King’s Point. His service carried him across the Atlantic Ocean as a midshipman, including one return trip taken through fields of icebergs to avoid German U-boats. After an accelerated term of study, Jack accepted a commission in the United States Navy and served until the end of the War. It wasn’t until his later years that he would share memories of voyages across the Atlantic, Indian and Pacific Oceans. From convoys to Liverpool to kamikaze attacks in the Pacific, this man of peace matter-of-factly related his extraordinary adventures. Jack spoke mostly about the camaraderie he shared with his shipmates, which culminated in a reunion of members of the crew of the USS Lacerta many years later. After the War, his education continued at Fordham University, where a liberal arts education captivated his mind, fed his soul and led to a lifelong bond with this educational institution.

Jack often reminded his children that “man is a social animal,” and he fostered within his family a diverse love for people, music and differing points of view, encouraging a “catholic with a small c” perspective. Musically, he pursued a lifelong appreciation for jazz, folk and rock. With his evening turntable “concerts” he would entertain his family with a broad range of talent from Dave Brubeck and Ella Fitzgerald to Neil Young and Judy Collins. As a native New Yorker, he reveled in the clubs, bands and live music offerings that abounded in there in the 1940s. His eyes would light up when recalling nights out listening to jazz legends at places like The Blue Note. It was fitting then that he would meet the love of his life on one of those outings into his beloved city, when he joined a few shipmates for a night out with some student nurses. On the steps of St. Vincent’s Nursing School in Greenwich Village he first laid eyes on Ginny Dolan, who hopped onto his lap in the cab and the rest, as they say, is history. Their shared love captivated all who knew them and now lives inside their children and grandchildren, who continue to share it with the world.

Jack excelled in the business world, attaining his CPA, working as a public accountant, and eventually rising to be Treasurer and Comptroller of the Heide Candy Company. But work and business always took a backseat to family and friends. He would say, “you don’t have to be a world-beater.” Adored by his grandchildren, “Grandpa” had the good fortune of living into his 100th year, sharing a robust life of retirement with his many friends and his growing family. He leaves behind a long list of quips and sayings, including the admonition “to take everything in moderation, including moderation.” Until the end, his mind remained sharp as did his quick wit. He never failed in dispensing remarkably sound advice. Even in his final days, he offered wisdom from a life well-lived. We were all so very fortunate to have him in our lives as father, grandfather, great-grandfather, uncle and devoted friend.

Now in the embrace of his wife Ginny, son Danny, son-in-law Daniel Arndt, grandson John Nye, and granddaughter Virginia Byrnes, Jack is survived by his children, Patricia Arndt, John and his wife Wendy, Mary Jane McGinnis, Joseph and his wife Eileen, Ginny and her husband Paul Harrington, Peter and his wife Bonnie, Michael and his wife Susan, Anne and her husband Sean Byrnes, his 32 grandchildren and 30 great-grandchildren. His parting message to all of us was to live a life of love, and that’s surely how he lived his.

All services and interment are private under the direction of Thompson Memorial Home. Funeral Mass will be livestreamed on Tuesday, August 17th, 10:00 am at www.sjredbank.org. In lieu of flowers, donations to Lunch Break in Red Bank would be greatly appreciated.

 

 

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Bruce S. Thompson, Owner & Manager, NJ LIC #3740

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