THE FCCJ LOST JACK SPILLUM, an Associate Member for 51 years, on Nov. 23 in Tokyo. He was 83. A memorial gathering held on Nov. 30 to celebrate his life drew 50 plus friends to a standing room only reception, an indication of Jack’s popularity.
John David “Jack” Spillum was born Oct. 29, 1935 and raised in Grand Forks, North Dakota. He arrived in Asia as a radio announcer with U.S. Armed Services Network in South Korea just after the Korean conflict.
“No one could match him for his ready wit. Always funny and good-natured, he was a pro.”
Jack came to Tokyo in 1957 and never left. He joined the FCCJ in 1967, where he was a colorful and popular personality, perhaps best known among members for calling bingo numbers. “Jack was a great Emcee,” said Sandra Mori, who has long been associated with Club entertainment. “No one could match him for his ready wit and lightning reactions. Always funny and good natured, he was a pro.”
“I got to know Jack almost immediately after arriving in Tokyo in 1977,” says Bradley K. Martin, a long time friend. “He was hard to miss: a very funny man, cutting a wide swath as he ambled through the Main Bar, stopping at tables here and there to crack wise. We had a running gag about his state of origin. I would always introduce him as a South Dakotan. Jack would simulate outrage. He was a North Dakotan, damn it!”
At one time, Jack was a pioneering foreign stockbroker with Sanyo Securities. “He was a major force in introducing the Japanese market to foreigners,” says Martin. “Not only gaijin investors but correspondents, like me. After I went to work for the Asian Wall Street Journal in 1983, it was good to have a real expert like Jack to explain things and introduce me to financial industry colleagues.”
Jack left the securities business and went on to other pursuits, including investment banking, head hunting and the cedar home business. He sold one of these to friend and fellow Club member Bob Neff, then with Businesss Week magazine, who wrote about the experience in the publication in June 1993. Later still, Jack had a prized gig teaching English to top level Japanese business people.
Jack had a very rough time with illness in his latter days. He was stricken by Parkinson’s Disease and its associated illnesses. “One of my great regrets has been that when I tried to visit him some months ago word came back that he was not up to receiving me,” says Martin. “Thinking about that now, I wonder if he was trying to ensure that I’d remember the healthy, jolly, larger than life Jack.” Other friends at the reception made similar observations.
Jack’s son, Jack Spillum Jr., also attended and paid a tribute to his late father, with a hilarious anecdote about their last time together in New York. “With eyes closed, you could imagine it was Jack Sr. at the mike,” said Bob Kirschenbaum, president of Pacific Press Service. “His dad would have been proud.”
– Geoff Tudor