I met Jack Gilbert at Act One‘s summer writers’ program in 2012. He was on the faculty and did the heavy lifting of reading all our work and carefully writing pertinent comments that would lift our script’s quality. I still have my final projects comments.
He was a pillar of Act One as he knew all the writers better than anyone else and encouraged all of us who took on the marathons that are Script Frenzy or NaNoWriMo. He ran a Great Book’s book club for I think 20 years, predating Act One. I was part of the online group and without this club I would never have gotten around to reading In Search of Lost Time” , Kristen Lavransdatter, Moll Flanders, King Lear, Don Quixote (our current read), and so many others. It’s so easy to procrastinate as one endeavors to become a better writer, Jack held us accountable, made us feel the guilt we should those times we weren’t writing, while encouraging us and shining a light on the glimmers of art we didn’t realize we’d produced.
Jack had a deep knowledge of story and literature. He was a humble and sincere man, without a pretentious bone in his body. Every time I show my students Casablanca, I think of Jack whose birthday ritual was a screening of his favorite film.
For the last week or so hundreds of Act One people have been praying and hoping he’d beat the pneumonia that took him in the end.
Here are a few of the messages people posted on Facebook about Jack:
There are men and women who do great things for vast numbers of people who they will never meet. Then there are the Jack Gilberts of the world – those who do incredible & compassionate things for people on a one to one, face to face level. I wonder how many people consider Jack’s passing last night as one of the worst moments of their lives? I’ll bet it’s in the hundreds.
I had the great privilege of being invited a little over a year ago into the book club Jack Gilbert led. I am so sad that we have lost his guidance and enthusiasm, but grateful that I had the opportunity to get to know him. He was a man of immense faith, and I’m happy that his battle here is over. He is missed already.
We lost one of the good ones today. Jack was a friend and writing mentor of mine, as well as to hundreds of others. I was lucky enough to have been able to say goodbye. He passed peacefully, surrounded by friends and family. What a way to go. What a life he lived.
Grieving the loss of Jack Gilbert. A wise and gentle mentor to many writers and storytellers, and a man who knew that all our little stories were somehow about the one big story.
I’m not the first to say this, but it’s perfect so I will. Jack, here’s lookin’ at ya kid.