At the Finish Line
Jack Duffy 1925 - 2007
Jack Duffy was old school, to be sure. I went to the same school. I think that’s what endeared him to me. He was the first important people I met in the business. It goes back to the spring of ’68. I was a NFG in the drag race media. Endless snubs. Or the ever-popular “Yeah, howya doin’?” My name was too weird. Two letters? Can’t be right. Jack got it right the first time and forever after. He took time to chat. I knew that’s really what he did for a living so it was probably easier for him than for me. It meant a lot to a shy boy.
He was devout Catholic but he never spoke a word of it, him standing there with a tall, cool glass of beer in his hand and that beatific smile on his puss. Jack loved beer. Jack wasn’t tall or fit. His body was round. His face was round and perpetually tanned it seemed. It sat perfectly on his shoulders, though altered by sometime sideburns.
Jack was from the whisky shot days. Jack got it. I’d thought I got it, too. We struck it off, even though neither of us talked of this. That’s how it was in the old days. Gestures and deeds. Not bullshit. Because of that, being around him had a calming effect on me. He always knew what to do and what to say, and it came out of his mouth like gospel. He knew the script. He maintained the stability when those around him went occasionally bat shit. He had a knack for pissing on fiery fuses. Jack hung out until the wee hours.
John J. Duffy passed away March 16, 2007. He was born in Philadelphia and lived in Levittown. He was 82. As his bio states, “He was a model in the industry for outstanding achievements,“ Whatever that sentence is supposed to mean, Jack was the out-front guy. He spent 25 years as a Navy pilot, retiring as a Lt. Commander. The out-front guy? Yeah.
In the private sector, he became the VP of Public Relations at Hurst Performance, Inc. He was also responsible for the advertising and auto racing support programs. Jack went to a lot of races. Spent a lot of time away from home. After Hurst, he became the VP of Public Relations at Thrush, Inc. He also served on the Board of Directors of Pocono International and was a two-time board member of SEMA. To no one’s surprise, the NHRA named him Public Relations Man of the Year. Yes, he got you do what you didn’t want to do, but his sincerity/diplomacy double-whammy always ruled benign. Jack is survived by his wife Rita, his wife of 60 years, his brother Robert, five children, ten grandkids, and four great-grandkids.