Frank Jackson wore lots of hats in his lifetime. And that’s not just a figure of speech.
Jackson, who lived in Pleasantville and died last month at 72, was known for his collection and selection of hats “from the frivolous to the fancy,” said his stepson, Vernon Walker. Jackson wore so many styles and colors, they became part of his identity — his nickname was “the man of many hats,” his family said.
“Every morning, Frank would come to work with a different hat on,” said Jackie Tyler, of Pleasantville, a colleague for 25 years at the Atlantic City Housing Authority.
Jackson worked there for 33 years before he retired as maintenance foreman. He was a guy who could fix anything. “And even after he got sick, he could tell you how to fix it,” said Harriet Jackson, his wife.
Tyler, an assistant manager at the housing agency, agreed that Frank was a very handy man, a great guy to have around if trouble hit.
But that doesn’t mean he was a guy who always took life, or himself, very seriously.
“He’d come in the office and tell all these corny jokes — and he’d do more laughing than the people he told the jokes to,” said Tyler, who goes to Community Baptist Church in Atlantic City, where she knew Frank as a trustee and longtime member.
Frank was serious about his church. That’s where he met Harriet — and the two got married in 1997, six months after she proposed to him on Christmas Day, 1996.
His mechanical skills and religious faith combined to make him a regular at Community Baptist, even when it wasn’t time for services. “He spent a lot of time in that church, fixing everything,” his wife said.
Community Baptist was hit hard by Hurricane Sandy, and “if he’d still been healthy, he’d have been there every day of the week,” helping with the repairs, Harriet said.
But even though Frank was sick for a while, he still managed to help his church family get back home. In fact, his funeral was the first service Community Baptist held in its own building since Sandy, almost 15 months earlier, said the Rev. Elias Thomas, the pastor.
“He was chairman of the trustees ... the man with all the keys, who knew where everything was and how to fix it,” said Thomas, who added that the church was about “95 to 98 percent of the way there” following a long list of “hiccups and red tape” in its recovery.
So as the pastor told the crowd at his services, “It took Frank Jackson to get us back into this church.”
And even though that was a serious occasion, for a man who was serious about his church, his family also paid tribute to Frank’s other side. On his funeral program, they included about a dozen pictures of him — wearing a different hat in each one.
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