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Jack Labovitz


Jack Labovitz always took his own path. When there wasn’t enough money for a bicycle, he found the parts and built one. He was 9. Athletic and handsome, he was a natural leader. When duty called he volunteered for the Army Aircore (later the US Air Force), becoming a B-17 bomber pilot in 1941. Later that year, on his third mission, his plane was hit at 18,000 ft. and Jack ordered his crew to bail out of the flaming wreck. He jumped last and lived; only half his crew survived. They landed behind enemy lines, and were quickly captured by the Germans.

Jack was placed in a POW camp and was there for more than a year while his family received the news that he was missing and presumed dead. His mother Ethel was devastated, as was Harriet, his little sister and Barbara, his beautiful and intelligent girlfriend. Jack was put in a separate bunk with the other Jewish POWs. One day he woke up and the guards were gone. Some POWs had already scrambled and those remaining decided to disperse to try and make it back to allied territory separately. Jack’s only asset was a chocolate bar he found in a guard’s locker – he was able to trade it for a bicycle. He spent three days moving east through woods deep in Nazi-held territory before coming to an English outpost and safety. The war in Europe ended shortly thereafter – he married Barbara on his fifth day home.

After a successful career as an entrepreneur, Jack flew to Israel in 1973, volunteering with the Israeli Air Force to help out in any way he could, during the Yom Kippur War. He never left. He and Barbara moved to Netanya and he worked with the IDF pilots, teaching them conversational English, ran on the beach and loved his wife. They had a full life with lots of friends, Israel-born and immigrants from France and South Africa. Jack played in a Jazz quartet, jamming on his big bass with strong hands, rhythm and groove.

Jack was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s at 75. The dynamic, bass-playing pilot and man’s man declined rapidly, as had his mother 20 years before, and as his sister would 10 years hence. Ten terrible years before he physically passed, his mind and spirit had left this earth. Barbara’s loss and daily burden grew daily, to almost unbearable levels. But there was never any question – she cared for him till the end.

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