Despite stormy weather, a bunch of us gathered at Roswell Street Baptist Church in Marietta, Ga., on Sunday afternoon to celebrate the uniquely bright life of Jack R. Linscott Jr. He died the week before at age 46.
Jack’s father was taking classes at Southern Tech (now Southern Polytechnic State University) when I became Baptist campus minister there and at Kennesaw State University in 1981.
Young Jack was about 19 or 20 at the time and came with his dad to Bible studies, intramural football games and other activities.
Jack’s developmental disabilities kept him from completing a traditional high school education, but it didn’t keep him from enjoying college life.
He was as much a part of the Baptist Student Union (now called Baptist Campus Ministry) as anyone. And he stayed connected for three decades.
Unlike many parents who overprotect children with mental or physical disabilities, Jack Sr. pushed young Jack’s independence.
For years he rode his bike all around bustling Cobb County with an amazing sense of direction. He was also known for all kinds of creative ways to get to his destination.
Jack liked to call people by their first and last names at all times. He would often give the person addressed a thumbs up and say: “So-and-so, you are a trip and a half.”
His unexpected death brought together many of those who had known and loved Jack through the years. And everyone one of us had a story — or more than one story — that brought smiles to our faces.
I recall Jack going to a training program once for persons with similar mental challenges. When I asked how it was going, he replied: “I don’t really like being around all those retarded kids.”
I laughed because Jack didn’t see himself in that way at all. He spent so much of his time hanging around with college students.
In restaurants, he would hold a menu that he couldn’t read and order based on what he heard from others. His ability to fit in with the student group was amazing.
He participated in retreats, mission projects and other campus ministry efforts. He even shared an apartment with some students for awhile.
I once heard maturity defined as “learning to play the hand you are dealt.” If so, Jack — though childlike in many ways — was quite mature. He played the hand he was dealt in life with maximum enthusiasm and created much joy for others.