Heart of Louisiana: Jack ‘Mr. Mac’ McNamara

Updated: Oct. 6, 2020 at 9:45 PM CDT
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COVINGTON, La. (WVUE) - It’s been an especially tough year for many of our senior citizens as they face isolation from families and friends due to the COVID-19 virus.

But we found one aging musician who pulled out his horn to cheer up his neighbors and stir up some excitement for Saints games.

It’s been nearly 80 years since Jack picked up his first musical instrument. He doesn’t really practice any more. But this is his warmup for game day.

Jack puts on what he calls his uniform and heads downstairs to a pre-game lunch with his neighbors.

Like so many older Americans, Jack and his fellow residents at the Trace Senior Apartment Community in Covington have been pretty much alone since the pandemic hit.

“I thought it might be fun for him because there’s very little along that line that happens,” says Jack.

Guess what happens today.

This is Jack’s third Saints season of playing his cornet here.

“Clap with me as we go along. Keep time with it.”

He gets a few claps and a few smiles as he tries to bring home the excitement of a Saints game.

Jack grew up in New Orleans and picked up his first trumpet as a fifth grader at Crossman Elementary School. He not only picked up his instrument, but his chosen profession, he wanted to be a band director.

“I was determined that I was going to be a band director. That’s what I wanted in life.”

There is a picture of Jack in Warren Easton’s band. He’s in the back row and clarinetist Pete Fountain is in the front.

“He was an excellent musician and he took it very seriously.”

Jack became a band leader in college as a drum major at LSU and then at Southeastern in Hammond.

After graduation, Jack became “Mr. Mac” to his students in elementary, junior high and high school bands. He also led his church choirs. And he was always tutoring students during his off time.

“I just enjoyed it. And the kids, that kid needed little help.”

How hard is it at the age of 88 is it to pick up the cornet and blow it again?

“I’m surprised every time I do it because I can do it.”

Mr. Mac and Dave McNamara have a special connection. Jack McNamara started teaching Dave about music when he was still in diapers. He also taught him how to catch a football and throw a baseball. And he taught him how important it is to do something you love.

But, like so many other people, 2020 has been a tough year for his dad and the rest of his family. After 67 years of marriage, he lost the real love of his life, Juanita, just a few months ago.

“It’s something in life you’ve got to live with and I’ve learned how to handle it where it doesn’t set me nuts,” says Jack McNamara.

But despite the loss, the isolation of a pandemic and the challenges of old age, this music man plays on.

Jack says he plans on playing “Saints” for every game this season.

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