RIP, Jack Wilcox: Teacher, Coach, Outdoorsman, All-American Athlete
Anyone who has spent time on Valley or Sierra waters chasing trout and kokanee surely bumped into Jack Wilcox. The same is true for hunters seeking a big buck.
When it came to fishing and hunting, Wilcox was one of the best and he loved sharing his keen knowledge with all who crossed his many paths.
In fact, Wilcox was so passionate about the outdoors that he didn’t let a protracted bout with Lyme disease deter him from his quest for trophy deer and German brown trout.
Wilcox, who left his mark on the Valley in many ways, died on March 21, at the age of 89.
When I learned of his passing, my thoughts turned to rising at 3 a.m. on a November morning so that we could get to Edison Lake because word was, “the browns are biting.”
He caught a nice one early at the back of the lake where Mono Creek enters, but our goal of catching a six-pounder or better went unfulfilled.
I thought, too, about the time he took me and my son Andrew on his boat to Pine Flat. That day, the trout and king salmon seemingly were jumping onto our lines — exactly as he had predicted. We left tired, sunburned, and happy.
Two-Time All-American in Track
Ronald Jack Wilcox was born near Fowler during the Depression and spent almost his entire life in the Valley — leaving to play football at Santa Ana College, serve his country in the U.S. Army, and further his education.
He loved track and field as much as he loved the outdoors. At Fresno State, he became a two-time All-American by finishing sixth in the 880-yard event at the 1957 NCAA Championships and third the following year.
After graduating from Fresno State, Wilcox taught biology and coached track at McLane High School, where one of his proteges was future AAU national decathlon champion John Warkentin. Then he earned a master’s degree and joined the Fresno State coaching staff in 1968.
Two years later, it was off to the University of Utah for a doctorate in physical education and back to Fresno State on the track staff and in the classroom as a professor. When the Bulldogs needed someone to step in as interim athletic director in 1979 he answered the call. He coached and taught at Fresno State for 25 years, retiring in 1993.
A Lifelong Learner
Jack was a lifelong learner who preached the power of education. He helped former athletes become teachers and coaches by spelling out what they had to do to get their credentials and encouraging them along the way.
When I told my son that Jack had passed, he was surprised. In his eyes, Jack was an indestructible force of nature. Certainly, that’s how I will remember him.
Jack is survived by his wife Priscilla, five children, six grandchildren, and eight great-grandchildren.
There won’t be a memorial service. But the next time I’m fishing at Huntington Lake, the first cast will be for him.