images of friar

Bookmarks distributed at Jack’s celebration of life honor his memory and gift for the written word. Photos by Sr. Eileen Connelly, OSU.

“This means everything,” Tese Neighbor said as she observed the group of friars, family members, colleagues and friends who came together Sept. 11 at St. Francis Seraph Friary to celebrate the life and ministry of her brother, Jack Wintz.

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Tese Neighbor, Jack’s sister, and his brother Gary, share memories of their sibling.

When Jack passed away in January of this year at the height of COVID, Tese, their brother, Gary, and other out of town family members made the difficult decision not to attend his funeral in Cincinnati.

“Jack had a great love and devotion for his family,” Gary explained. “He wouldn’t have wanted us to travel and take the risk.”

But Jack’s siblings also wanted to provide the opportunity for those who knew and loved their brother, whose lives he had touched, to honor and remember him, so they began to plan for a gathering when things were safer. “We made up our minds that we weren’t going to let the chance to be together to celebrate Jack pass us by and that he should not perish from this life without the opportunity to share the loss we all experienced, along with the joy,” said Gary.

He welcomed friars and guests to the refectory on a warm, late summer Saturday afternoon, saying, “We’re here to celebrate all Jack did for the Franciscans and the greater Church.”

His written word

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Fr. Murray Bodo speaks fondly of his longtime brother friar and friend.

“Jack dedicated himself to the written word and did a great job of it,” he added, referring to his brother’s distinguished ministry as a writer and editor for St. Anthony Messenger Press/Franciscan Media. “He loved the Franciscans, so we honor the Franciscans and St. Francis, whose spirit Jack expressed in his day to day life. We honor family. We honor fraternity. We honor fun, because Jack liked to have fun.”

Although Jack was 19 years her senior, Tese said, “We became close friends and confidants. I’ll always remember Jack’s robust laugh, the twinkle in his eye, his goodness and graciousness.”

To Jack, she said, “I am so blessed, so fortunate, so extremely grateful to have you as my brother. I carry your smile and faith inside me, and I’ll always carry you with me.”

A touching eight-minute slideshow featuring photos from Jack’s childhood, youth, time in formation, experiences in ministry and with family and friends, brought both smiles and tears as those present watched. Heartfelt and humorous memories of Jack’s sense of fun, fondness for Skyline, and love for his family were shared. Common themes were Jack’s fascination with listening to and sharing peoples’ stories, his gifts as an interviewer, writer and editor, and gentle nature.

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Tese receives hugs and greetings from those who knew and loved her brother.

“I never heard him say an unkind word about anyone,” recalled Murray Bodo, who had known Jack since their formation days. “He just had this kindness about him and was always patient. He was a dear, dear person. We both loved writing, but had such different personalities. He was the athlete, and I was more the intellectual, but we were always great friends.”

Spreading support

Former Province Communications Director Toni Cashnelli related how Jack’s book, I Will See You in Heaven, is continuing to offer comfort to those struggling with the loss of a beloved companion animal. During a recent visit to Pines Pet Cemetery, a staff member told Toni that she often shares the book with grieving clients, including a little boy who had just lost his dog. She asked that Toni share the following at Jack’s celebration: “You tell them that he is still bringing comfort. His legacy will just go on and on.”

Carol Ann Morrow, a former editor at St. Anthony Messenger, recalled Jack’s great passion for his work there, his professionalism, humility and the joy of working with him. Robert Seay noted how Jack was always in the background, offering support and reassurance about his ministry.

Guests then gathered for refreshments and fellowship and to continue their remembrances of Jack. Tese shared what opportunity to remember Jack meant to her family, saying, “It was so hard not to be able to visit Jack, to be there for his funeral. It just warms my heart to feel all the love here for Jack this afternoon and to know that he touched so many people.”

photo display of deceased family members

St. Francis watches over photos of family members lost due to COVID. L-R: Paul Wintz (Jack’s brother), Jack, Judy Wintz Hirn (his sister), and their uncle, Harold Thalheimer.