Jack Sheehan was a loner and not one to talk much about himself. But the multi-talented, well-traveled musician and sports enthusiast had a big heart and loved his friends and community deeply. An only child, the never-married, Knightsville native was a very intelligent man.
He graduated from Indiana University then attended Yale for two years. A cousin, Jack Harper, isn't sure why Jack dropped out of Yale but thinks it might have been because of his wanderlust. His travels included China, Russia, South America and Panama. But his heart always remained in Clay County.
The paradoxical man was well-to-do. But he was a hard worker who lived so frugally, a stranger might have thought him to be destitute.
He worked for nearly 30 years at the General Telephone Company in Brazil. A co-worker, Ellena (Kaelber) Botner, didn't know if Jack was a bookkeeper or an accountant. She just knew, "He took care of everything. He was well educated and he knew what he was doing."
Botner was emphatic about her opinion of her former supervisor, co-worker and friend.
"I don't know of anybody who was a nicer person," she said. "He would help anybody he could. He was so kind. I don't know anybody who didn't like him. He would never say anything bad about anyone."
But Jack didn't take good care of himself. He ignored nutritional needs. Maybe he was just too busy to eat. He seemed oblivious to the physical upkeep required to maintain a house and home. At least his frugal nature would not allow him to spend money on repairs, replacements or remodeling. Jack did without luxuries. Money brought him more pleasure.
"Money became his God," said Harper. "He spent hours everyday trying to analyze which stocks to buy. He reaped happiness from his investments. Saving money was his life. But he was a sensitive man."
Jack's social life consisted mainly of attending professional ball games, especially St. Louis Cardinals baseball and Chicago Bears football. He occasionally shared a holiday or special meal with a friend, although to many people he seemed almost reclusive. He was considered a friend by neighbors and co-workers. And he never forgot them.
The 87-year-old Sheehan died Dec. 2, 2002. He bequeathed $124,480.48 to each of three local public facilities: The Brazil Public Library, St. Vincent Clay Hospital and the Clay County YMCA. Jack also remembered 27 individuals in his will that he considered friends.
Jill Scarbrough, from the Brazil Public Library, said they would probably use the money for an expansion project for the main library. She expects the undertaking to begin in the next year.
St. Vincent Clay Hospital Administrator Jerry Laue said they had no immediate plans for the money but will probably establish a foundation that the hospital board is trying to develop.
Attorney Margaret Berry, YMCA Board member and the Executrix of the Sheehan estate, said, "It would be my hope that all of the charities use this gift for long-term projects that will benefit the community." "Mr. Sheehan was brilliant," Berry continued. "He was always a gentleman and he really did care about people. He was miserly with his money but he was not a miser. Mr. Sheehan didn't spend money on himself but he was gracious to others."
Berry said that during the years she worked with Mr. Sheehan he expressed his feelings of love and loyalty to his community.
"I remember he'd say, 'People need to give back to their community. People made their money here and they should give some back.'" Berry said. "That's something Mr. Sheehan took seriously. He did that."