“Shirtless Jack” Clinton McGovern
Around election time in the United States, people would tell him, “I know whom you are voting for!” Though Jack could not vote in 1960, he canvassed for his namesake, Jack Kennedy. Twelve years later, he supported a cousin, George McGovern. And he voted in 1992 and 1996 for a third namesake —Bill Clinton. No one could call Jack a democrat in name only. He was also a lifelong Cubs and Red Sox fan, despite hailing from San Diego.
Jack Clinton McGovern, 64, beloved teacher and movie lore expert, has lost his battle with cancer. The Tarzan novel he was writing remains unfinished.
During his 20 years in Panajachel, Jack was respected by expats of every ideological bent and by uncounted Guatemalans, many of whom studied under him at LIFE School. He had a crusty, and, in his early years in Guatemala, underclad exterior. But all who knew him even casually knew he was kind, though nonplussed by his kindness. He grew gardenias and regaled students’ mothers with them.
Jack had taught abroad in places like Chile and Sweden. While still employed at Guatemala City’s American school, expat Jennifer Martin cornered him in Chalo’s grocery and hired him as the first teacher at LIFE, which Martin had just chartered. He was the only person available with proper teaching credentials, if not proper attire.
“He was ‘Shirtless Jack’ back then,” Martin notes. “All he wore was shorts.” As a new staffer at LIFE, he added T-shirts and flip-flops to his attire.
“I had the unique honor of having Jack teach all four of my kids,” Martin adds. “He was the most inspirational teacher. All my kids felt the same. He really taught them things that served them in their lives. Peace, Jack!”
“Jack was my true mentor in Panajachel,” says LIFE principal George Nippo. “I arrived fresh from college to teach at LIFE. He took me under his wing and taught me the ropes.”
“The world is sadder without him.” says friend Gary Hagan. “I’m sure he’s still cheering the Cubbies.”