A life full of adventure and music came to an end for well-known Richmond man John (Jack) Russel Wentworth earlier this year.
The esteemed musician was born in 1931 during the great depression in the States where, from an early age, he learned the heartache of hardship, the rewards of hard work and to chase dreams.
As a teenager he joined the US Airforce which took him to Eniwetok Island, followed by Northern Japan where he immersed himself in the music, even learning Japan’s traditional instrument the shamisen.
Later, while based in Alaska, Jack’s detachment was marooned for several days where Jack’s innovative procedures ensured contact remained between Alaska and Washington, earning him a medal and the choice of anywhere in the world for his next posting.
And so began a love affair with God’s Own.
Posted to Blenheim, Jack learned to sail in the Marlborough Sounds while indulging his love of theatre and music, before hitting retirement, returning to the States, filing for divorce and purchasing his beloved ‘Don Quixote”, a 21 foot trailer-sailer.
Back in the states Jack struck up an unlikely friendship with fellow actor Richard Fehlman, a hippie more than two decades his junior.
Together this dubious duo set about ‘beefing up’ the Don Quixote as they hatched a plan that culminated in their sailing to New Zealand, where Jack planned to stay.
This was a feat previously unattained by a trailer-sailer.
Richard says their 8-month journey was “wildly adventurous, exciting and danger-prone that changed our lives”.
At one stage their rudder ripped off during high seas and Jack figured out how to steer with sails alone.
“That’s when I realised that Jack didn’t know how to do everything, but could figure out how to fix anything,” says Richard.
With Jack’s immigration requirements to land in New Zealand before his 45th birthday, the pair arrived on our shores “battered, tattered and soaking wet”.
Resettling in Blenheim, Jack moved over the hill in 1977 and brought with him a talent and enthusiasm for music.
Teaching guitar at Waimea College, Jack instigated and took part in numerous music groups and sang in a band, while always encouraging others to sing.
He never lost his love for the sea and sailing, and on a soft summer’s evening in January he quietly slipped his moorings for the final time.
He is survived by his wife of 19 years, Liz, and his three children David, Daniel and Catherine.

Spread the love.