Coming of age during World War II, Jack Majesky and everyone he knew were close to a soldier, sailor or marine who was involved in the war effort.
By 1948, when he graduated from high school and left Missouri for the University of Colorado, he set along a path that would make him a part of a different area of battle: the seas of the Pacific Ocean during the Korean War.
Majesky, a veteran of the U.S. Navy, is this year’s Memorial Day keynote speaker. While attempting to keep at least some of his speech close to his chest, the longtime Wiltonian said he’s got a few important things to say about veterans in town.
“I’ve got a lot of ideas, but I intend to talk about why Wilton is such a great place for veterans, and what amazing recognition veterans receive in this town,” he said while sitting at his kitchen table, slightly harassed by his dog, Maggie.
“I’ve got about three examples of that,” he said.
Majesky began his naval career at college as a scholarship cadet with an NROTC program, something he says made a fundamental impact on his life.
“It was the best scholarship you could ever have in your entire life,” he said last week. “They paid for all of your tuition, all of your books, all the fees, and even paid you $50 a month in a stipend. In 1948, $50 a month was a lot more than it is today!
“They treated me super. I always felt that I could be the luckiest guy in the world.”
Two weeks after he graduated from the University of Colorado with a degree in civil engineering, he was “on the water” in the Pacific, he said.
During the three years he served on the ocean, he spent most of his time in the Western Pacific theater, but also had the chance to sail through the Panama Canal as one of the command duty officers on his ship.
“I spent a lot of time around Japan and Korea and all over the WestPac, in the Philippines, Vietnam and China,” he said. “I served all three years on an APA — an amphibious assault ship with about 56 officers and 450 enlisted men.”
His ship would take part in one major landing during the war, delivering 2,500 marines to a “feint” attack in Korea, Majesky said.
“We did one of those landings into Korea,” he said. “It was a feint into North Korea, behind the battle lines. It was about the same time as the Marines and Army broke out of the Pusan area in the Southeast.”
Considering the fact he served in Korea, he said, many newspaper reports about the secluded country of North Korea can be surreal.
“It’s amazing that we have countries in the world like that today,” he said. “But while that’s going on in the world, it’s a nice thing that I’m talking on Memorial Day. I’m able to say, hey, let’s remember why we’re here, and who took care of us while we’re here.”
Many in Wilton are certainly familiar with Jack Majesky — especially his unique Missouri accent and love of high school golf — and what he did after he left the Navy in the 1950s wouldn’t surprise many of those who know him.
“I was at sea for three years, and I didn’t have anyplace to spend money,” he said. “So I went home, and for about six months, I played golf in Webster Grove, Mo. If there’s a better place to grow up than Wilton, Webster Grove is it.”
Even when he was still at sea, he always carried “his sticks.”
“I always had my sticks on the ship. Always the executive officer or the captain like to play golf, and like anywhere else it didn’t hurt if you knew how to play. We’d dock at Seattle or Long Beach or wherever and the first thing I would hear from the captain is, ‘Hey, Jack! Let’s go play some golf.’”
But beyond his accent and his sports accolades (“I love the high school golf team,” he says), he’s also been influential in directing the town’s Community Emergency Response Team, which now responds to more than 35 incidents every year.
CERT is an all-volunteer group that assists and supports Wilton’s professional emergency departments. It’s the group that was directing traffic when a car was pushed into Horseshoe Pond, and when a truck caught fire on Route 7 a few weeks ago.