August 31, 2012
I was fortunate to have grown up with Jack Bitar in my family. Jack was married to my Aunt Mable and lived in the apartment above us. If you met Uncle Jack in the yard or while taking his daily walk, meticulously groomed, attired, and wearing his signature straw hat, you were never disappointed by the reception he gave you. His genteel manner was sincere when inquiring how the world was treating you, and he stood waiting for you to answer. My friends called him Uncle Jack and they loved his wit and sense of humor. He made them feel good about themselves during those teenage years. At the other spectrum he was constant in his friendships with the aged of the community, visiting invalids and shut-ins, offering solace and attendance even when they were departing this life.
A renowned language and music scholar, he was self-taught, curious about all aspects of life, and never stopped learning. I still visualize Uncle Jack socializing with patrons of the Norwood Theatre and adding a new word to the notebook kept in his pocket, eager to reference the dictionary or ask your opinion on the subject.
Dressed in his red jacket, black bow tie and black striped trousers, this short in stature greeter stood head and shoulders above the tallest of men. Whether sharing a chuckle with moviegoers or accepting a movie ticket from their hand in the Norwood Theatre lobby, these strangers became his friends and soon after Uncle Jack was as big a draw as the film they came to see. This camaraderie with Jack Bitar ensued and snowballed into an on-demand day of love and appreciation in 1980 coordinated by his church, the town of Norwood, and the movie public who celebrated knowing “Mr. Bitar” with open arms.
Needless to say, he was overwhelmingly humbled by that event and their accolades were met by Jack’s “My mother thanks you, My father thanks you, and I thank you.” He brought the house down! Uncle Jack’s extraordinary innate feeling for people remands his legacy 30 years after his death. He possessed no wealth, had less in tangible possessions, and lived simply but fully. Never accepting praise for being Jack Bitar, he would direct favorable comments to the Lord for His blessing or family, faith and “coming to Norwood” as an immigrant.
“God is Love” he would say, and Uncle Jack was created in that image.
The writer worked at the Norwood Theatre (1960-1962 during high school) selling tickets, candy, and ushering with a flashlight ordering kids to keep their feet off the back of the chairs (that was the fun part).
Submitted by Regina Jennings Noonan.