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Opinion Column
For the week of January 3 through January 9, 2001

Jack Hemingway: 
‘A Life Worth Living’

Commentary by PAT MURPHY

History books are filled with tales of sons who either lived in lackluster obscurity in the shadows of famous or notorious fathers, or slid through life profiting from their father’s name.

Not so of Jack Hemingway’s 77 years.

In ways that outdoorsmen and environmentalists understand, Jack Hemingway in his own way left as large a paw print with deeds in behalf of Mother Nature as his Nobel Prize-winning father, Ernest Hemingway, left on literature.

Family, friends and admirers of several generations gathered Saturday in Sun Valley to memorialize Jack Hemingway’s life in a farewell filled with affection, admiration and appreciation for a man whose friendship was never conditioned on wealth, status or power. To them, he was more than the son of Ernest Hemingway. He was the world’s greatest fly-fisherman with a passionate love affair for the outdoors.

They talked of Jack Hemingway’s robust sense of humor and cheerfulness, his tenacity against overwhelming odds to do good for Idaho’s environment, his genuine likeability as a longtime Ketchum fixture, and his boundless friendliness toward anyone who shared his passions as a naturalist.

Although the Hemingway family was dogged by tragedy -- his own father’s suicide, daughter Margeaux's death from a drug overdose and the clan’s susceptibility to suicide -- Jack treated it with dark humor.

He said that he was "determined to see how long a Hemingway can live."

Jack’s actress daughter Mariel, distraught and unbearably grief-stricken, put her father’s life in a unique perspective when she spoke. His life, she said tearfully, was in constant praise of God in the grandest cathedral of all -- nature.

His contributions as an individual and as a member of the Idaho Fish and Game Commission were vast and diverse. To name but a few, Jack Hemingway badgered The Nature Conservancy into buying and saving the famed Silver Creek area from development, and then to maintain this picturesque preserve in perpetuity. He also beat back opponents and pioneered the catch-and-release concept on many of Idaho’s prime trout fishing waterways to preserve their fisheries.

TV sportscaster Tim Ryan, a Sun Valleyite, who was at Hemingway’s bedside in New York City before he died Dec. 2 after heart surgery, spoke the sentiments of many of the 300 attending the memorial.

"I’m trying," Ryan said, "to get from denial to acceptance" of Hemingway’s death.

Perhaps there was comfort in what another of Hemingway’s outdoorsman pals said.

Adam West, TV’s original Batman and a Sun Valley resident, said, "I choose to think Jack has just gone fishing."

Curiously, Hemingway unknowingly provided his own memorial in the last days of his life.

Just before his death, Hemingway finished writing a new book. The title is "A Life Worth Living."



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