Avid fisherman and former Salt Water Sportsman sales representative Jack Samuel Koontz Jr. died at his home in Bourne, Mass., on July 16 after a second bout with throat cancer. He was 70.
Born on May 13, 1946, in Washington, D.C., Koontz grew up in Edgewater, Md., just south of Annapolis. He graduated from Annapolis High School and attended the University of Maryland.
He moved to Martha’s Vineyard in 1970, and his passion for fishing developed in the mid-1970s, first with surfcasting in the evening and later aboard charter boats. For several winters, he chartered out of the South Seas Plantation in Florida, according to the Vineyard Gazette.
In the early 1980s he started Derby Jack’s Tackle Shop in West Tisbury, Mass. His friend Geoff Muldaur coined the name Derby Jack when Koontz won the bluefish division of the bass derby.
As at the chandlery in earlier years, the shop became a hangout for many up-Island fishermen, where tall tales of all sorts were the norm. For nearly a decade Koontz wrote the weekly fishing column in the Vineyard Gazette, building a large following.
Koontz is remembered as a terrific storyteller, relying on a memory for detail and emphatic gesticulations for color. He never had children, but he enjoyed those of his friends, reading to them, teaching them to fish or just sharing his take on the world with them.
Offseason during the mid-1980s, Koontz worked for Salt Water Sportsman magazine, selling subscriptions at boat shows.
In 1987 he was hired by Chilmarker Spider Andresen, co-owner and publisher of Salt Water Sportsman, to sell advertising in the mid-Atlantic region. Soon he was the sales representative for the East Coast.
“Jack was a central member of the tightly knit Salt Water Sportsman family,” longtime friend Reed Austin told Trade Only Today. “He was one of a kind, a gentleman, a pro’s pro, who was respected and liked by all who knew him."
During his time at Salt Water Sportsman, he met Jaye McAuliffe, who also worked at the magazine. The two married in 1998 and settled in Wrightsville Beach, N.C., before moving to Bourne, Mass., 10 years ago.
“Jack was a great man and we were honored to call him friend,” Regulator president and friend Joan Maxwell told Trade Only. “We first met Jack when he came into the old A&P grocery store” in North Carolina, where Maxwell and her husband launched Regulator.
“He’d heard that there was a start-up boat company there, and as a thorough Saltwater Sportsman ad representative, he didn’t miss an opportunity to make a sale,” Maxwell recalled. “He convinced us to buy a half-page ad. Before we knew it, Owen and I quickly became friends with Jack. We spent many hours together, some fishing, some eating crabs and a special steak he named ‘Bill Tidings Steak’ after a good friend, some in church, and lots of laughing.”
“One Sunday we stopped in Fairfield and attended my parents’ church,” Maxwell said. “As is the custom, visitors are welcomed, and if the name is known, the person is recognized by name. The old country preacher welcomed us and our friend Jack ‘Coon.’ It was tough keeping a straight face through that sermon!”
“As I look around our home I can find tangible gifts of Jack’s love for us — a pair of Tiffany candleholders — a housewarming gift when we built our home and a horse and carriage for our Christmas village,” Maxwell said.
“As things sometimes happen and people take different paths, we lost touch with Jack until last year when we learned he was ill,” she recalled. “Earlier this spring, when we finally made it up to the Cape to see Jack and his wife, Jaye, it was if all that time had evaporated. What a day — when we arrived, Jack was standing at the door watching for us, and when we got out of the truck, Owen and I raced to see who could hug him first. Jack had the same twinkle in his eye and was still full of stories — what a day!
“We were very surprised and saddened to learn on Sunday that Jack had lost his valiant battle with cancer,” Maxwell said. “We, and many have lost a dear, loyal friend.”