The Mayor of the J


Guarding the Body, Connecting Physical Well-being and Holistic Health, Shmirat HaGuf | שמירת הגוף

For all of us who spent time in the Lawrence Family’s JCC Jacobs Fitness Center, it was easy to understand how Jack Berghaus became the J’s unofficial mayor.

For decades, he was an inspiration in the fitness center, encouraging others to be more active. Ultimately, at 94 years old, with his love for exercise and his rigorous workout routines, he was a motivational icon to everyone he met. Jack’s son Derek explains that his father was uniquely driven. “He kept the same routine for 24 years, getting up at 7:30 a.m., six days a week, to go to the gym at the JCC, on Sundays he would take a break. He didn’t do it to stay alive, he did it because he loved it. He understood that he was a role model which was extra motivation to make sure he didn’t let anyone down by not showing up. The first thing he asked his doctor after open-heart surgery more than a decade ago was when he could get back to the gym. My mother thought he was nuts.”

Cape Town Roots

Before Jack roamed the halls of the JCC, he lived in Cape Town, South Africa, where he engaged in similar everyday routines. He lifted weights, swam twice a day, and ran nearly every day. But most of all, Jack enjoyed the social connection he had with the small close-knit Jewish community. Derek noted, “Everyone would be coming together, talking about business, what’s going on in the city, and networking while swimming or working out.” Jack thrived on his daily fitness rituals. Later in life, Jack found himself in San Diego, where he met Dennis Pinn through a mutual cycling friend. Due to back pain, Jack started cycling at the age of 62 and quickly adjusted to his new routine. Dennis told us, “Most people would be giving up riding at this age rather than just getting started, but that was normal for Jack.” Their mutual love for fitness bloomed into a wonderful cross-generational friendship. Years later when he could no longer cycle, Jack transitioned to riding a stationary bike.

A New Chapter

Through Dennis’ introduction, Jack soon found himself in a new chapter of his life at the LFJCC. He was thrilled to be a part of another close-knit Jewish community which served as his social hub, workout center, and second family. Derek saw the positive effect on his father and affirmed “the JCC brought back what was missing for a long time since Cape Town, a close-knit Jewish community and the whole routine of people coming together to work out and socialize.” Melanie Rubin, Director of Senior Adult Programs, reminisced about seeing him daily in the Senior Lounge. “I thoroughly enjoyed seeing Jack stop by the lounge almost every day to nosh on a cookie or piece of cake and to kibbitz with his friends. He always brought a smile and great energy. It was also nice to see that he was able to indulge a little after a workout.” His good friend and JCC workout buddy Clive Essakow echoed that sentiment. “I marveled at the ease with which he made so many friends and the warmth and fondness displayed by all toward him.”

It’s Never too Late for Love

The JCC even had a profound impact on his love life years after his wife Esme had died. It was at the JCC where Jack notably met his girlfriend Linda, of course in the fitness center. Derek recalled the last five years of Jack’s life as some of his dad’s best years because of his new relationship. “Linda was very interested in arts and culture. She brought him out to JCC events which included the film festival, book festival, and many other JCC arts programs.”

Profound Appreciation

Derek expressed his vast appreciation for all the ways the JCC impacted his dad, summarizing his feelings with “the JCC was his muse.” He was also very touched to learn that Clive Essakow and Robyn Cohen, the JCC’s Director of Sports, Fitness and Aquatics, organized a tribute to Jack where family, friends, and staff signed up for 30-minute intervals on the stationary bike to ride a combined 100 miles in one day. Robyn plans on making the tribute ride an annual event to honor this special man.

Jack truly was respected and loved by everyone at the JCC and will be truly missed.

Jack Berghaus during his daily routine, passed away in April.



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