Jack Pokress celebrates his 100th Birthday, by Neil Miller The New York Extra/TheNYExtra.com
Last weekend,Jackson Pokress turned 100 years old. A milestone very few people reach was celebrated with family, friends, and of course The North Massapequa Fire Department. A parade from many local fire houses went down the street where Jack lives, and neighbors and local political people also joined in the event. Please see the attached gallery of photographs and video to join in the fun of that day!
Jackson B. Pokress, commonly called Jack, was born in Manhattan on June 27, 1920 to Lillian Jackson Pokress and Morris Pokress. He graduated from the prestigious Stuyvesant High School in 1938 and New York University in January, 1942. Soon after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor Jack enlisted in the U.S. Army and after completing Basic Training he asked to be assigned to the Signal Corps so he could use his photographic talents as a combat cameraman. The Army detailed him to the Army Pictorial Center in Astoria, Queens to train as a motion picture cameraman. Upon completion of that training he was sent to the China-Burma-India Theater and transferred to the jungle fighting unit Merrill’s Marauders where he documented the Marauders campaign through Burma to expel the Japanese army which had overrun the country. He was honorably discharged in November, 1945. During his time in the Army he became friends with boxing heavyweight champion Joe Louis.
In 1947 he married his wife, Wilma, and raised two sons, Robert and David. Wilma died in 2001. During the post war years he produced and photographed several feature motion pictures. Some of those movies are still available today on Youtube and the internet. Wheels of Steel was made for the Pennsylvania Rail Road. Other classics were You’re In the Ring, about boxing and starring his army buddy Joe Louis and Lipstick and Dynamite about lady wrestling starring the lady wrestling icons of the era. That movie was remade in the early 2000s for general theatrical release updating the lives of the women who starred in the 1949 version. A movie of personal significance was made about the North Massapequa Fire Dept. titled When Seconds Count. Jack joined the fire department in March 1956 and is still an active member today after sixty-four years.
The North Massapequa Fire Department is a major part of the Pokress family life. He was involved in just about every facet of the fire service but his passion was rescue-first aid. The fire department had a competition rescue team, The Witch Doktors (yes, with a K). They were prolific winners on the competition circuit nationally and won the New York State Championship five times with Jack as Co-Captain. He was also a founding member of the department’s drum and bugle corps which won the New York State championship in only its second year of existence. That corps was also a prolific winner in parades around the state and Long Island. He served three five-year terms as a fire commissioner and fifteen years as the fire district secretary. In 1981 he was elected president of the Association of Fire Districts of Long Island. He was also a driving force in the creation of the LOSAP (Length of Service Award Program) program to provide pensions to volunteer firefighters in New York State and retain members.
Jack took up photography in his teens when his father bought him a Speed Graphic camera. His passion for photography never waned and has been his profession his entire adult life. He was the owner, publisher and editor of The Observer newspapers, a chain of weeklies that served the south shore of Nassau County. He also served on the staff of Congressman Peter King.
Besides his sons he has three grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.