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October 22, 2012

Why We Sell Pies: Ode to Jack Hart

Since the late 90's, the staff at Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP have been supporting Food & Friends in memory of their friend and colleague Jack Hart. They began by collecting money and pies for Thanksgiving and now serve as one of our Slice of Life Pie Sales Teams - Cleary DC for Jack Hart. A friend wrote an Ode to Jack Hart as a way to remember a man who touched the lives of so many and to share why she and the firm began supporting Food & Friends.

Ode to Jack Hart
By a former co-worker and friend

To Jack Hart, working as a paralegal at Cleary and living in DC were literally a dream come true. He visited our Nation's Capitol on a family vacation when he was a small boy and exclaimed to his family that he would live in DC one day. And, they all knew he would. He adored DC and, even when he was his sickest, never ever wanted to live any other place. In fact, he flat out refused to move back to Wilmington, NC when he was so seriously ill frequently stating "DC is my home and the place I want to be." Jack lived in Petworth in a historic co-op complex near Rock Creek Cemetery – the cemetery that ultimately became his final resting place.

In a word, Jack was a very special person. He was a true Southern gentleman, an amazing storyteller, kind, very genteel, very proud (especially to be part of the Cleary team) and possessing a remarkable wit. He had the most amazing speaking voice --- it was deep and rich. His words and thoughts were always carefully composed. Jack was a small guy and a very natty dresser. To look at him, one would never have expected such a deep voice to come out of such a little fellow -- its one of the things I miss about him the most. Add in that eastern Carolina accent --- I always said Jack had a "Radio Voice." Jack was eloquent, refined, and thoughtful. As a result of all his travels and life experiences, Jack had a true thirst for knowledge and appreciation for beauty whether it be in the flowers planted in window boxes, worldwide travel, Haitian art or study of Southern literature. But, one of the greatest areas in which Jack excelled was how he made those around him feel – special and appreciated. He knew the names of every clerk at every business he frequented and made it top priority to ask how they and their families were doing. When you were one of Jack’s closest friends, you were part of his family.

This is why his illness hit us so hard --- all his friends from Cleary. When he finally became so ill, Jack could only work sporadically. By that time, his sister and her family had all moved back to North Carolina. We friends were all he had up here in DC. And, he did not want to spend his last days in North Carolina. DC was where you choose to live and, frankly, where he wanted to die.

The last few years were very difficult --- several hospitalizations, much pain and discomfort, many periods of blue moods and depression. Very low, sad times. Already diminutive in size, Jack’s weight plummeted and keeping up his nutrition to fight his illness was a MAJOR undertaking. All of his friends brought him food, cared for him and his home as best we could. But, we had to work to make a living and couldn’t provide ‘round the clock care. (I had left Cleary by that time but the folks still at Cleary reinforced what I knew – that is, Cleary as a firm and as the caring people that make the Firm, were always there in support of Jack.)

It was then that the services of Food & Friends became a true Godsend. They provided complete meals, snacks and nutritional support delivered directly to Jack’s home. (Sometimes directly into his refrigerator.) There were many times Jack lacked the strength to open a can or even make a sandwich. When that happened, he could eat the foods provided by Food & Friends to get the nutrition he so greatly needed. I have long thought that if not for Food & Friends Jack would not have lived as long as he did, as sick as he was.

It’s been 15 years since Jack Hart passed away. And, in all those years, I’ve tried to make Food & Friends a priority for financial contributions for the great work they do and the support they give those in such great need. Jack would be so pleased to know he lives on in the memory of those at Cleary by way of donations to such a wonderful cause.

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