Gallery: Jack Severs [4 Images] Click any image to expand.
By Anne Batty
Musical artist Petula Clark advises in song … “When you’re alone and life is making you lonely, you can always go downtown. Forget all your troubles, forget all your cares and go downtown.”
Heeding the songstress’ advice seven-days-a-week 8 am to 1:30 pm, San Clementean Jack Severs can be found walking up and down Avenida Del Mar meeting and greeting residents, visitors and shopkeepers alike.
This friendly greeter’s downtown wanderings started over four-years-ago after his beloved wife of 60-plus years, Virginia (Ginny) - a teacher at Las Palmas Elementary School for almost 40 years - suffered a serious illness and eventually passed away. Serving the dual purpose of daily exercise, as well as socialization, this routine has been his way of filling a painful void in his life.
Becoming high school sweethearts, the Severs met while living in Alhambra, CA. Their plan after graduation was to attend Whittier College together (President Nixon’s Alma Mater). But as the best laid plans are often thwarted, the draft for the Korean War threatened to take Jack into the Army. To avoid being drafted into the infantry, he immediately enlisted in the Navy, and like many teen-aged couples dating during those times, the lovebirds rushed to get married.
Following Boot Camp training in San Diego, Jack soon shipped out, serving on the USS Bon Homme Richard aircraft carrier. Named after John Paul Jones’ Revolutionary War frigate, and to honor Benjamin Franklin, this battleship’s history includes a prominent role in the Korean War, and the earning of five battle stars. Severs also spent time on the Frank Knox Destroyer, a craft named in honor of the Secretary of the Navy. During Jack’s tenure it is said to have supported the Inchon invasion and patrolled the Taiwan Straits.
Having been left behind after Jack shipped out, Virginia continued her education at Whittier studying to be a teacher.
“Because she was married, the school required Ginny to stay in the dorm,” Jack recalled chuckling. “She was the very first married woman to live in the dorm at that college.”
Upon Jack’s discharge and return, the couple decided to settle down in San Clemente. Purchasing a home near the Riviera District at the south end of town, they enjoyed many years there raising their two children - Sallie (presently residing in Coto de Caza) and Scott (currently dwelling in Cincinnati). Then when the children were grown and Virginia became ill, they downsized into a condo in Forrester Ranch.
“San Clemente was a pretty small town in those days,” Jack reminisced. “My wife was a well-known and revered teacher. I was over-whelmed with the outpouring of support when she passed. I run into people she taught all the time and I still keep all the notes and cards I received along with mementos of her and our life together.”
After settling into their first San Clemente home, Jack sought employment at Vic’s Market in Capistrano Beach. Apprenticing under a butcher in their meat department, he quickly learned the ropes. Mastering the trade, he worked there until that market closed. He then spent the latter years of his meat-cutting career working on Del Mar at Billy’s Meats Seafood and Deli (known as Willy’s at that time). It was there that he met what would become one of his closest friends, Reggie Fernandez.
“Jack came to work with us and he was such a happy, friendly guy that the customers loved him,” Reggie remembered. “We hit it off right away and we have been good friends ever since.”
It has been said that, “your true friends can be counted on one hand.” Reggie Fernandez proves himself one of those five true friends in Jack’s life daily. Since Jack no longer drives, whenever his daughter Sallie is unavailable, Reggie picks him up at 8 am, drops him off on Del Mar at Café Calypso, then returning at 1:30 pm takes him home.
“I am happy to do this for my friend,” Reggie exclaims. “It’s nothing, it makes him happy, and I enjoy doing it. He is a good person, I hope everyone sees and understands that. I love that guy.”
When asked what he does on Del Mar every day, Jack responded, “at least three mornings a week I meet up with eight or nine of my friends, men and women, at the Café Calypso. We chat, play music and sing. When Reggie or Sallie drops me off, I get things ready, pushing tables together and setting up chairs while I wait for my pals to arrive at 9 am.”
As Jack tells it, his friends bring guitars and ukuleles, and they not only entertain themselves but patrons of the café as well.
“We play and sing all the old songs, those with the lyrics most people know,” Jack remarked. “Before long the people dining are having a great time singing right along with us.”
On the days there is no meet-up at the cafe, Jack strolls the avenue interacting with shoppers and business owners along the way. There was a time when he knew many of the merchants personally, but several former business owners and friends, like Realtor Craig Strickland, have closed their doors and retired now. Craig and Jack shared a longtime friendship, business association and lots of history together. Along with butchering, Jack had also worked part-time selling real estate in town.
Following lunch at either Café Calypso or Avila’s El Ranchito restaurants, he grabs an ice cream at Billy’s. While awaiting his pickup he is ready to move on, eager to spend the rest of the day puttering around his condo and garden and watching his favorite TV shows.
Looking back over his life, Jack feels blessed. He says he wouldn’t be where he is today if it hadn’t been for his wife Ginny, as well as the daily help and support he gets from his daughter now that his mate is gone.
“Ginny always took care of all the household business as I was never very good at it,” Jack shared. “But thankfully I have my daughter Sallie to help me now.”
Aside from the customary “senior moments,” at 83 Jack Severs remains healthy, positive, energetic and friendly. He keeps busy, filling his retirement years with the company of his King Charles spaniel, Harry, his grandchildren Julie, Amanda, Kellie and great-grandson Keegan. And most importantly, his treks “Downtown” to meet and greet everyone he encounters on Avenida Del Mar continue on.