December 1, 2021

Memorial honors SUNY swimmer

Kramer Jakubek posts his brother Jack's record times in the breast stroke during Saturday's memorial service for former SUNY Cortland student and swimmer at the Harriet Holsten Pool in the Park Center.

Joe McIntyre/staff photographer

Kramer Jakubek posts his brother Jack’s record times in the breast stroke during Saturday’s memorial service for former SUNY Cortland student and swimmer at the Harriet Holsten Pool in the Park Center.

The sister of a champion SUNY Cortland swimmer who drowned in May shortly after graduation recalled Saturday how her brother always had an influence on others and believed people could better themselves.

“Jack’s positive spirit and zest for life always brought people together,” Anna Jakubek said during a memorial service.

Jack Jakubek, 22, of Newburgh, Orange County, graduated from SUNY Cortland on May 14 with a bachelor’s degree in outdoor recreation. Two weeks later, on May 28, Jakubek was found dead in10 to 15 feet of water in Pilgrim Lake in Orleans, Massachusetts, after going beneath the waves during a lifeguard test.

“Jack was a mensch, a Yiddish word for a man’s man, someone who people go to when times were difficult,” Erik Bitterbaum, president of SUNY Cortland, told family and friends.
During Jakubek’s time at his outdoor education practicum at Raquette Lake, Sharon Todd, his instructor and chairwoman of the college’s Recreation, Parks and Leisure Studies Department, got to know him.

“These trips are a necessity for everyone, not just rec majors,” Todd shared from Jakubek’s own journal. “More and more I’m beginning to realize the importance of the wilderness and what it actually does for the soul.”

Jakubek was the swim team captain for two of the four years he was on the team, and planned to return to Cortland this fall to pursue a master’s degree and serve as a graduate assistant coach with both the Cortland adapted swim team and the varsity team, according to SUNY Cortland’s website.

On Saturday, two memorial services honored Jakubek — one poolside at SUNY Cortland’s Park Center and the other at Lime Hollow Nature Center, where he volunteered andinterned.
Jakubek’s coach and mayor of Cortland, Brian Tobin, recalled how he could always rely on Jakubek. “He was always looking out for the other guys,” Tobin said. “But that was Jack. If somebody needed something, he was there.”

Reeve Callen, Jakubek’s roommate and teammate at SUNY Cortland, called Jakubek a brother.

“Jack was the type of person you went to when you needed an answer, when you needed encouragement and especially when you needed a friend,” Callen said.

Callen’s favorite memory of Jakubek was their love offishing.

“It turned out to be some of the best times, fishing,” Callen said. “From now on, fishing will forever remind me of my good friend Jack.”

A former assistant swim coach, Tom Eickelberg, recalled the first time he had metJakubek; the young freshman at the time told him he was going to break the records for the 100-yard and 200-yard breast stroke. He later did just that.

At the end of the poolside ceremony, Jakubek’s brother Kramer changed the team’s record board to reflect his brother’s most recent swimming accomplishment: breaking an 18-year-old school record in the 200-yard breast stroke. Jakubek’s record, 2:06:42.

Family and friends were then welcomed to gather at theLime Hollow Nature Centeron Gracie Road in Cortland-ville for a reception and the chance to share more memories. The reception was followedby a 1.5 mile hike in his memory. At Lime Hollow, Jakubek’s favorite spot among the trees and trails was memorializedas the Jack Jakubek Memorial Forest.