The flag at Coupeville City Hall flew at half mast Monday in honor of Jack McPherson, a community leader, former mayor and volunteer who had wide reach in many organizations.
McPherson died at the age of 92 on September 6.
McPherson’s commitment to community service began when he joined the Navy. He was commissioned an ensign, served in the Korean and Vietnam wars, held four command posts and served in four ships as a surface warfare officer, according to an obituary he wrote himself. . He retired in 1976 with the rank of Major, and he and his family moved into a historic home on Front Street in Coupeville.
His wife, Joan McPherson, said her interest in a wide range of subjects has sustained her active role in the community over the years. She said he spent a lot of time researching and working on various activities.
“He took his responsibilities seriously,” she said. “He tried to do the right thing.”
McPherson was a member of the Coupeville City Council and became mayor in the late 1970s. He was also involved in a long list of organizations throughout his life, including the Lions Club, PTA, Audubon Society, Whidbey Playhouse, Whidbey Island Center for the Arts, the Military Officers’ Association, Disabled American Veterans, Veterans of Foreign Wars, the American Legion and Vietnam Veterans of America. He appeared in the Whidbey News-Times several times over the years in various roles.
Nancy Conard, the former mayor of Coupeville, said many people may not realize how much McPherson has done for the community.
“He was a solid person, quietly doing good in the background,” she said.
One of his greatest accomplishments, she said, was the creation of the Coupeville Community Education Program, which he led as supervisor for a decade. She said he found all kinds of people with interesting skills and knowledge to teach adult education classes at school. She worked in the district when the program was active and remembers the buzz of activity in the building after classes ended.
McPherson helped his wife start a movement to preserve Ebey’s Landing, which led to the creation of the Ebey’s Landing National Historic Reserve, the first of its kind in the country. He also played a key role in the construction of the Island County Veterans Memorial at the county courthouse.
He performed in numerous plays at the Whidbey Playhouse and the Whidbey Island Center for the Arts. He even wrote a novel, “One More Sunrise”, which was influenced by his own wartime experiences.
Additionally, he was a businessman, owning two businesses in town over the years. His daughter, Coupeville attorney Molly McPherson, said he opened McPherson’s Confection primarily to give her a job while she was in high school.
She said her father was “a big softie” who was relentlessly generous.
On a personal level, McPherson was known as a caring and caring husband, father, and friend.
Joan McPherson said he was supportive and caring for the family when she decided to go to law school later in life. She eventually became a lawyer and Superior Court judge.
“Not many husbands would do that, at least not back then,” she said.
Dave Williams, the former harbor master of Oak Harbor, met McPherson when he was a tenant. Williams recently came across a note McPherson left her in 1998 with her traditional gift of a bottle of spiced rum from Sailor Jerry’s; the post encapsulates McPherson’s sense of humor and playful thinking.
“Every year around this time, on my birthday, I try to do something nice for some old airman who may be in need of a stimulating refreshment,” McPherson wrote. “Normally, I just leave the package outside his door; but in this case, I don’t want my intentions to be misinterpreted. (The idea that you might be a decent, cooperative, thoughtful harbor master never crossed my mind.) It’s simply a sign of reconciliation between airdales and blackshoes.
Williams described him as a “good and honorable man” as well as a valued friend.
“I am filled with thanks for her friendship and for her kindness, and of course for introducing me to Sailor Jerry,” he said.
Williams also remembers McPherson changing boats often, even switching from sail to motor and back again. It’s a habit Joan McPherson remembers well. She said her husband promised to stop sailing several times as he got older and would sell his boat. But inevitably, she said, he would come home looking hesitant and eventually she would let him know he had bought another boat.
“He loved sailing,” she said. “He really enjoyed it.”
Molly McPherson said her dad helped keep her grounded throughout her life.
“He always made me feel loved and had a home and security,” she said.
He also had a special skill.
“He was the best martini maker on the planet,” she said.