Sometimes you don’t realize the impact a person has on someone until they’re gone.
Such may be the case with Jack Chappell, who was a local icon if there ever was one.
Jack was a sixth-grade teacher for Lodi Unified for 30 years. He also owned and operated Chappell’s Lodi Swimming Club for 50 years on the corner of Orange and Lodi avenues. Besides running his private members-only club, Jack also taught thousands (10,000 by his count) of Lodi kids — generations, really— how to swim.
He hated to wear shoes.
You always knew where Jack stood on an issue.
He was a man’s man who lived life out loud. And his Lodi Swimming Club was his life.
“My dad was a character. He was big and bold,” his daughter Cindy Chappell would tell a local reporter after his death.
Jack’s pool was about as famous as he was. It had no heater. Chlorine was used sparingly. The pool needed to be emptied and scrubbed almost daily. It had no filter. The brutally cold water came from a well on the property. It had a 15-foot high dive that scared the heck out of youngsters, at first. Minnows would sometimes swim in the deep end.
The clubhouse part of the property had porthole windows and an upstairs deck with white railing that made it resemble a ship. The deck was built by Stan Fleener, according to Fleener’s daughter, Laura Fleener Nickel.
“My dad made a deal with Jack. He would build the deck in exchange for a lifetime membership for my sister and myself. They shook hands and dad, a carpenter by trade, built the deck and stairs. When I returned to Lodi with my own two girls, I reminded Jack of the deal he made with my dad and Jack honored the deal,” says Fleener-Nickel.
Jack loved kids. In fact, his own kids would say that their father was a kid at heart. Jack’s son John would tell a reporter, “We’re all kids at heart, and my father was the perfect example.”
As a teacher, Jack was one of the first to take his sixth grade class to science camp at Jones Gulch in the Santa Cruz mountains. He would become one of its biggest supporters.
Jack lived on the corner of Avena and Lodi avenue, adjacent to his pool. He loved to cook and was quite good at making sourdough French bread. He claimed to have gotten the sourdough “mother” from someone who lived in the High Sierra along one of the rivers he used to fish. He nursed the starter for years, making his extra-sour bread for himself and friends.
About as iconic as his pool was his red 1967 Jeepster that he bought from Weil Motors in Lodi. He would drive it around town while wearing his ship captain’s hat. The Jeep was also a fixture in the Lodi Grape Festival parade. Those were fun times. The Jeep would eventually be purchased by local car enthusiast Kirk Wentland, who meticulously restored the vehicle to mint condition. It’s now included in his extensive car…