Remembering Jack McFarland -June 2011
by: Lindsay Pykosz
After vacationing on Nantucket for the first time in the summer of 1976, Jack McFarland said he never wanted to leave the island. He and his wife of 41 years, Susan, began making regular visits to the island on vacations, and 22 years later, McFarland’s dream finally became a reality when he found himself the facilities manager of the Nantucket Public Schools, a position he held from 1998 until he lost his 25-year battle with lymphoma in December 2009.
McFarland was a man whose primary motivation was to make a difference for the community, especially its young people, and throughout his tenure, he was able to accomplish that and more.
Though he is gone, his memory lives on, as he left behind a physical imprint in the form of school-employee housing, the Nantucket Elementary School playground and a 120-foot-tall wind turbine behind Nantucket High School, a project he championed until his passing, and one he was honored for during a ceremony beneath its gently-spinning blades Saturday, May 7.
An inscribed boulder at the foot of the turbine reads “We hereby honor the man who worked tirelessly for the exclusive benefit of the students of Nantucket Public Schools always with a warm smile,” and he was remembered by many at the ceremony, including School Committee member Dr. Tim Lepore, town manager Libby Gibson and Nantucket High School student Colin Carr, but it is the comments from McFarland’s family, like his daughter Kelly Stratman, and those who had the opportunity to work with him over the years on various projects, that speak to the kind of man McFarland was and the legacy he left behind.
“In his personal life and in his professional life alike, my dad was infallibly giving,” said Stratman to the roughly 80 people in attendance at the ceremony. “He just never acted out of selfishness or self-interest. Not once. He never chose the path of least resistance in order to save himself trouble or effort. Instead, he blazed paths, he actively pursued issues that he thought were important. In short, he just stepped up again and again in support of other people and in support of things that mattered to him – all while maintaining a warm sense of humor.”
That sense of humor resonated with new facilities manager Dave Kanyock, who worked with McFarland for seven years on various school projects and conservation programs. Kanyock said McFarland would often joke with him about how the schools would have to start generating their own energy on campus to keep electricity costs down.
But McFarland wasn’t joking, and it was at this point that Kanyock truly began to see what the word determination meant.
“We joked about doing the wind turbine at some point and he said, ‘Wouldn’t it be cool/,” Kanyock said. “When the committee was formed and it looked like it was going to happen, I never saw him more excited about any project ever. He was on a mission at that point. He pulled together a committee, worked hard and was just relentless and didn’t give up on anything.”
After McFarland died, Kanyock made it his mission to make sure the turbine project came to fruition, something he calls a “great honor.”
The $600,000 project was the brainchild of Dave Fredericks, a regional vice president with utility-provider National Grid, and Wendy Schmidt, the president of ReMain Nantucket, and was partially funded by Schmidt’s family foundation, along with state grants.
Since the three-blade, 100-kilowatt turbine began spinning in October 2010, it has saved the schools $24,272 in energy costs, on track to meet the annual goal of $40,000, and generate roughly 13 percent of the school’s electricity requirement for the entire year, said Kanyock.