Who We Are – Living Life to the Fullest

At 97, Army veteran teaches fencing, enjoys writing
about his adventures
Senior man wearing armed services clothing
09
Nov '21

Jack Hayne was only 12 years old when his brother-in-law gave him fencing lessons. Not an easy skill to hone, Jack admits he was not very good at first. But it wasn’t in his nature to give up.

After some practice, he became good enough to compete at New Utrecht High School in Brooklyn, New York. And later, he would become quite good, fencing at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.

“To round out the team, my coach, Servando Jose Velardi, switched me to saber where I did very well, and he made me the assistant coach. Now I fence three times a week and give lessons in foil and saber to three adults,” says the 97-year-old.

Jack, A U.S. Army veteran, has always been deeply committed to his family, his country, and his community. He graduated from West Point in 1949 and went on to see action in Korea during a 21-year military career.

These days, he sees action at the local community center where he gives fencing lessons.

“There is another fencer in the group who fenced in the 1964 Olympics for Iran,” says Jack, matter-of-factly. “I do not give him lessons, but I do enjoy ‘bouting’ with him. It’s an opportunity to get some good exercise at my age.”

Jack lives at Orchard Estate at Woodbury, where he prefers a busy schedule. When he’s not teaching fencing, he’s writing and publishing excerpts like the one below for Korean War Veterans Magazine. The article is titled “Trip from Busan to the Yalu River.”

“This being November 1950 in North Korea, it was very cold. My assistant platoon leader, Lt. Armitage and I occupied a Korean farm building and used a GI stove for warmth. If we faced the stove our back side froze and vice versa.”

Jack enjoys writing about his military experiences, and other “hair raising” moments in his life, like the time he raced up Pike’s Peak in Colorado in the “Pike’s Peak or Bust Race,” providing safety measures for professional auto racers. His favorite topic though, is the love of his life. He married Pearl the day he graduated from West Point. A year later, he was in Korea. They would have a son and a daughter, and later, a grandchild.

After 72 years of what Jack calls true “wedded bliss,” Pearl died of breast cancer in April of this year. She was just seven days shy of her 95th birthday.

Looking back, Jack downplays his accomplishments. Like so many veterans, there is a humility about him. He feels fortunate to have been afforded the opportunities that he so embraced.

“I did very poorly in the subject of English at West Point, and was almost sent on my way,” he says. But I was very proud because I never really expected to attend the Academy,” he explains. “I took a commercial course in high school expecting to be an office manager but then became a machinist apprentice before being drafted in 1943 during World War II. After over two years in the Army, I received an appointment to the Academy. My lack of a math background made academics difficult.”

But he persevered, an approach that has served him well.

His advice to others?

“Enjoy yourself, it’s later than you think,” he says.

Old photo of man in armed services uniform
Orchard Estate of Woodbury