Over the course of 100 years, Jack Hayne said he’s learned not to worry about what’s going to happen next because he’ll be able to handle it.
These days, Hayne’s life is quite simple. He lives at the Orchard Estate of Woodbury, an assisted living facility. He moved there shortly after his wife, Pearl, passed away in the spring of 2021. Despite being wheelchair-bound for the past couple months, Hayne, as a lifelong sabre-man, instructs fellow seniors in fencing and continues to stay involved with temple and the local Jewish War Veterans post, where he was commander for 20 years. On Jan. 17, the Orchard Estate of Woodbury held a birthday party for Hayne. He also got to celebrate with his family and the Jewish War Veterans, marking his 100th birthday with three separate birthday parties.
Hayne is certainly a man worth celebrating.
Born in Manhattan and raised in Brooklyn, Hayne was drafted in May of 1943 into the U.S. Army, serving in the Coast Artillery, Anti-aircraft, Field Artillery and Infantry.
He received an appointment to West Point, United States Military Academy, graduating in June of 1949.
“West Point is the very center of his life and his soul,” Mitchell Hayne, Jack’s son, said. “And he’s very proud of his service in the army. When he went to West Point, he also fenced, which was really big at the time. In the early ‘50s, late ‘40s, fencing was really big and West Point was NCAA division 1, so it was a top school for fencing.”
He joined the fencing team as soon as the off-season began in September 1945. But, he had been fencing since he was 12.
During his time at West Point, he also joined the Cadet Camera Club, becoming president. As president, he had keys and 24/7 access, as long as the Tactical Department didn’t catch him.
“There were many enlargers in several rooms for printing photographs,” Hayne said in a memoir he wrote about his time at West Point. “The camera was a large format speed graphic. I had borrowed it from the Signal Corps Detachment when I took over the club during Yearling year. A 4×5 negative lends itself to making excellent enlargements.”
Before West Point, he was introduced to his wife, Pearl, by his mother in 1943.
They had to forestall getting married until graduation from the Academy.
Besides the birth of their two children, Nancy in 1953, and Mitchell in 1957, Hayne called meeting Pearl his “happiest moment.”
The two married in 1949.
“Early on we requested the use of the Old Cadet Chapel, which was being used as the Jewish Chapel during our time at the Academy,” Hayne wrote. “We had no competition and were the first to be wed there on Graduation Day. Everything was going well until my brother-in-law asked where my mother was. Oops! I had forgotten to pick her up in Highland Falls. Someone drove to get mom and the wedding was able to commence. Rabbi [Marcus] Kramer officiated. Classmate Bernie Rosen played the organ as he had done for four years as a cadet. Pearl and I exited the chapel under an arch of sabres.”
A year after graduating from West Point in 1949, he was stationed in Korea.
“After that I became a Guided Missile officer of the U.S. Army Air Defense Command for the East Coast and the entire U.S.,” Hayne said. “Before moving to Old Bethpage, NY, I was stationed in Germany teaching nuclear weapons employment and efforts at the special weapons department to officers of allied nations.”
The family lived in Oberammergau, Germany for two and a half years.
“The plan at the time was we would use tactical nuclear weapons if the Soviets moved all their armor out into West Germany,” Mitchell Hayne said. “There were a couple of things that happened, like when Kennedy got shot and the Cuban Missile Crisis and the plan there was women and children got shipped to France and the men went to the front or the command center. That actually happened to us. We always had blankets and food in the trunk of the car.”
At Northrop Grumman, he was in charge of the E2C trainer program.
Mitchell Hayne explained there were two electronically identical trainers that were used to train members of the Navy on how to use the Electronic IFF, battlefield coordination and electronic countermeasures capabilities of the real planes.
“I grew up saying ‘yes sir’ and ‘no ma’am,’’ Mitchell said of his childhood. “If I didn’t polish my shoes and I was told to polish my shoes, I’d get grounded. I was an army brat as they were called back then… He’s very honest, West Point code. He was a really good dad, really good teacher.”
After retiring from Grumman, Jack and Pearl Hayne took many cruises and traveled throughout the United States.
“I spent much of my free time horseback riding here and in Colorado, also skiing in the winter,” Hayne said.
Today, as Hayne resides at Orchard Estate, he’s slowed down some, but, Mitchell said, has remained very sharp.
“He was driving until last April,” Mitchell said. “He’s very sharp. He’ll tell you the name of the redhead that was sitting next to him in the bar in Edgewood, Maryland in 1941.”
When asked how he’s feeling these days, Hayne said he feels a little sad and tired at 100 years.
“I’ve outlived many excellent friends and relatives,” Hayne said. “Those that remain are keeping me active.”