Jack Love

Jack Love Remembered

I was greatly saddened to learn of Jack Love's recent death. For three decades, he was one of my favorite people.

Over the years, he contributed greatly to the successful administration of Unlimited racing in Detroit. Love was one of the founders of the Spirit of Detroit Association in 1962.

Jack enjoyed telling stories. One of them in particular stands out.

As a youngster, back in the 1920s, he attended a test session on the Detroit River. Gar Wood--the proverbial "Babe Ruth of Boat Racing"--was trying out one of his Miss America boats.

Jack walked boldly up to Gar and said, "I sure would like to go for a ride with you." Wood replied, "Okay, Sonny." Gar then put Jack in the riding mechanic's seat and the two of them went off around the river, the V-12 Packard engines thundering and belching black smoke.

That hooked him.

Jack Love was a boat racing fan for the rest of his life.

But there's more to the story.

That evening, young Jack hurried home and excitedly related to his family the incredible experience of riding with Gar Wood. There was only one problem. His parents didn't believe him.

Mr. Love sternly told Jack. "All right, young man. Tomorrow, we'll go back down there and we'll ask Mr. Wood about this so-called 'ride.' And you'd better be telling the truth, or you are in SERIOUS trouble!"

So, the next day, father and son trekked down to the Detroit River where Mr. Love asked Gar, "Did you take my son for a ride in the boat yesterday?"

Wood immediately sized up the situation. Without saying a word, Gar picked Jack up, stuck him in the boat, and took him around the river once again, while Jack's father watched with disbelieving eyes.

Many years later, Jack met Gar Wood again. "I was the little red-haired kid you took for a couple of rides back in the 1920s."

This is a good example of how important it is for boat racers to make a good impression with the fans to get them "hooked" on the sport.

I'm reminded of a similar story.

At the 1961 Seattle Seafair Regatta, "Wild Bill" Cantrell was there with Gale V. A 7-year-old youngster was gazing longingly at the boat, but didn't have a pit pass to get up close to it. Cantrell reached over the fence, picked the kid up, and took him on a personally guided pit tour.

Years later, Cantrell met that same youngster again. He was Chip Hanauer, the boat racing superstar, who treasured the memory of that once-in-a-lifetime pit tour conducted by his hero.