JOHN HEMINGWAY: 1923-2000.
Jack Hemingway, 77, Sportsman-Environmentalist. "I never saw him kill a fish. He was a gentleman with both fly rod and shotgun. He cared about people and the environment."
--former Idaho Governor Cecil Andrus
That his passing was mentioned along with tributes to Steve Allen, Walter Matthau, and Loretta Young, says much about him. That the magazine did not mention either his father or his daughters says more--Jack was able to rise above being the son and father of famous people and live his life on his own terms.
Jack's soon-to-be-published sequel to his earlier memoir, Misadventures of a Fly Fisherman, is titled A Life Worth Living. The title is a good summation of his seventy-seven years. He was not only the son of one of the greatest writers of the twentieth century, but one of the last remaining links to a great cultural period of our history.
When Jack was asked by writer Pat Murphy what question he was most often asked, he said the answer was simple. "Most people ask, `What's it like being the son of a famous father?'" His answer: "`The pluses greatly exceed the minuses.'"
He grew up living the experiences that Hemingway biographers have made part of literary legend. Both his father, Ernest Hemingway, and his stepfather, Paul Mowrer, were Pulitzer Prize winning writers. He was named in honor of his mother, Hadley, and the great Spanish matador Nicanor Villalta. Gertrude Stein was his godmother, William Carlos Williams his pediatrician. He lived in Paris in the 1920s, often spending afternoons or weekends at Sylvia Beach's bookstore where he met James Joyce, Ezra Pound, John Dos Passos, Archibald MacLeish, Adrienne Monnier, and Ford Madox Ford. He spent holidays with the Murphys at Juan-les-Pins and was on the winter ski trips to Gstaad and Schruns. Ernest dedicated The Sun Also Rises to Jack and his mother Hadley.
In the United States Jack visited his Hemingway grandparents at Oak Park and the Pfeiffers at Piggott, Arkansas. He vacationed at the L Bar T Ranch in Montana and Sun Valley in Idaho. He lived in Key West and Cuba, and went fishing on the Pilaf. He was a decorated veteran who was wounded in combat and spent time as a German prisoner of war. He was in Berlin with Army intelligence during the Berlin airlift and was one of the first members of the Army's Special Forces.
In 1949 Jack married Byra Whittlesey Whitlock, a stunning war widow from Twin Falls, Idaho who was known to everyone as Puck. They were married in Paris. Hadley attended the wedding, but Ernest was in Cuba. Julia Child was matron of honor. David Bruce, the U.S. Ambassador to France, and Alice B. Toklas were among the guests at their wedding reception. Their three daughters would write books, appear on magazine covers, act in movies, and model in the fashion world.
Jack became a world-class fly fisherman and an avid hunter. He had a great personality, a winning smile, and a sense of humor that always kept him from taking life too seriously. Had Jack been his father's age and of different parentage, he could easily have been one of Ernest's heroes, joining the likes of Chink Dorman-Smith, Colonel Charles Sweeney, General Buck Lanham, and Taylor Williams. Jack, who figured as a child in his father's short stories "A Day's Wait" and "Fathers and Sons" grew into a man who would have been a great character for one of his father's novels.
But Jack Hemingway's lasting legacy is not necessarily attached to any of these accomplishments. He used his money, family fame, and personal connections to ensure that many in the present and the future will have an opportunity to appreciate nature just as he did.
Jack's love of nature began in France in the 1920s when he fashioned a fishing outfit using string and a bent pin to fish for minnows. As a teenager he joined his father for sport-fishing in the Gulf Stream and fly-fishing in Idaho. He also hunted birds and big game. During World War II he parachuted on a mission behind enemy lines in France, taking along his fly-fishing outfit as a disguise.
Following his discharge from the Army, Jack and his young family lived in Oregon, Cuba, and California. In 1967 they moved to Ketchum, with its ready access to hunting, fishing and the out-of-doors. Their new home, north of Ketchum, was located near the banks of the Big Wood River.
In 1970, a young member of Senator Frank Church's staff approached Mary Hemingway and Jack and asked them if they would sponsor a fund raising party in Sun Valley area for Cecil Andrus, the Democratic candidate for governor of Idaho. Much of Andrus's campaign focused on his efforts to protect the White Cloud Mountains near Sun Valley from an open pit mine supported by the incumbent Republican governor. Jack said that while he was a solid Republican, he would be willing to break ranks and support the Democrat who wanted to protect the environment. He also agreed to tape a T.V. commercial endorsing Andrus.
Andrus won in November. In early 1971 he nominated Jack to become an Idaho Fish and Game Commissioner. It was an appointment that Jack took with a single-minded seriousness. He later said that his six-year term on the commission was "the most challenging, gratifying, and exciting job" he ever had. Jack became a strong advocate for catch-and-release fishing. He was an advocate for "ethical" hunting and fishing emphasizing recreation over killing.
Jack Hemingway played a leading role in developing the Silver Creek Preserve in Idaho with the Nature Conservancy. Through his connections he assisted in raising money and public awareness about the significance of the project. Because of his efforts Silver Creek has become one of the finest stretches of fly fishing water in the world.
After leaving the Fish and Game Commission in 1977, Jack narrated a television series on the Idaho outdoors called Incredible Idaho. He took viewers to visit places in Idaho that few of them had ever seen and used the series to expound his hunting and fishing ethics.
In the 1980s he was appointed by Governor John Evans to the Idaho Centennial Commission. The commission had been charged with planning and administering the celebration of Idaho's state centennial in 1990. After the first few meetings he sent a letter to the Governor submitting his resignation. He said that it had suddenly become apparent that he was going to be expected to devote considerable time and energy to the effort and it would likely take time away from his hunting and fishing opportunities.
At about this same time he completed work on his memoir Misadventures of a Fly Fisherman. The book was scheduled for fall publication in 1986, with the release to be accompanied by a nationwide publicity tour featuring newspaper and television interviews as well as personal appearances. Discovering the difficulty of scheduling publicity appearances during upland game bird season, he had the book's release delayed until after the end of the year. While he missed the Christmas book-buying season, Jack did get to spend the fall out in the fields. For him, the probable loss of sales was not a consideration.
Following Puck Hemingway's death in 1988, Jack married Ketchum socialite Angela Holvey and built a new home in Ketchum along Trail Creek. But his dream home was outside of Anatone, Washington, near the corner where the borders of Washington, Idaho, and Oregon meet. The large log home he built there was within thirty miles of four of the rivers he loved to fish--the Snake, Salmon, Clearwater and Grande Ronde. He had elk in his front yard and game birds in the stubble fields of the surrounding farm land. Unlike Ketchum, there were few tourists and no condominiums in the Anatone area, although a few celebrities including Eddie Murphy and King Gustav of Sweden did come to visit him. He divided his time between Ketchum and Anatone, and continued his numerous travels to the far reaches of the earth in search of great fishing experiences.
Jack's death on 2 December 2000 attracted national attention. But, perhaps most importantly, it attracted considerable attention in his home state of Idaho. His memorial service at Sun Valley Lodge attracted about 200 people including family, local friends, and a few celebrities. They heard from his daughter Mariel and from Guy Bonnivier, the former Idaho director of the Nature Conservancy. Actor Adam West and Idaho Governor Dirk Kempthorne also spoke at the memorial service.
In his State-of-the-State Address on 8 January 2001, Governor Kempthorne praised Jack's conservation efforts saying, "He lived a life as big as Idaho's outdoors and in turn he gave his time and talents towards conserving our natural heritage for generations to come." He went On to say that beginning on 10 October 2001, Idaho will begin a new tradition. Jack Hemingway's birthday will become an annual observance known as Jack Hemingway Conservation Day. The Idaho Department of Fish and Game plans to launch a series of habitat restoration projects with the help of sportsmen groups, conservation organizations, and individual volunteers. The Idaho Fish and Game Foundation is expected to name their new conservation center in Boise "The Jack Hemingway Conservation Education Center" His legacy in Idaho will be felt for many years to come.
In one of the episodes of Incredible Idaho, Jack summed up the attraction that trout held for him:
Trout do not lie or cheat, cannot be bought or bribed; they're not impressed by power.
The same could also be said about Jack Hemingway. He will be missed by all who were fortunate to know him. And his positive impact will be felt by many, many more.
MARTIN L. PETERSON University of Idaho