Richard Jacunski

Richard Jacunski

Died September 24, 2013

Richard Jacunski grew up with both a Yale and a football heritage. His father had played for Yale and was on the coaching staff during Dick’s childhood. Many years later Dick and his brother instituted a scholarship at Yale in their father’s name.

Dick started with the Class of 1963, on a Yale Club of New York Scholarship, after attending St. Mary’s High School, New Haven, and Phillips Academy, Andover. He played freshman and varsity football, but suffered a serious knee injury in his sophomore year that required him to take time off from college and affected him for the rest of his life. He returned to Yale with the Class of ’65 as an industrial administration major. He was a member of Jonathan Edwards College and Alpha Chi Sigma, but he couldn’t play varsity football again.

Over the course of his life, Dick’s early sports injury progressively limited his physical mobility, but not his alert intelligence, his endless curiosity or his pervasive love of people. His adventurousness and energy led him to try many different jobs, ranging from walking girders on high steel construction projects to teaching high school science, but most of his career was spent in business.

During an early job, the Westinghouse Corporation recognized his talent and paid for him to get an M.B.A. at Seton Hall. As a salesman of telecommunication systems he amazed his colleagues with his ability to get entrée to potential customers, starting with only a cold call. His wife understood this to be the result of his exceptional ability to connect with people. “He would just identify the right secretary, start talking, and pretty soon he’d have an invitation,” she explained. Dick ended his career as a successful business broker, sizing up the essence and economics of enterprises and connecting them with the right buyers.

Dick had walked with a limp for years. He might have benefited from a knee replacement, but he never wanted to get involved with doctors and hospitals. By age 60 it had become difficult enough for him to walk that he thought it best to retire.

During the dozen years left to him, Dick read avidly, researched the Internet about things that caught his attention, went to as many Yale football games as he could, volunteered in his community and his church, and ceaselessly engaged with people. He viewed the need to wait on a line at the bank or in a supermarket as just one more opportunity for conversation, and he had something knowledgeable to contribute on practically any subject. His creation of instant friendships sometimes prompted his wife to remind him, “Richard, we really have other things we need to do here.” In his work with the elderly or Catholic charitable activities, he did things to make people’s lives better, unobtrusively and without thought of thanks or credit.

Dick’s first marriage ended in divorce, but produced three children. They stayed local enough that he could remain close to them, and eventually, to his grandchildren, throughout his life. He met his second wife, Joyce, at a dance; they clicked immediately, and were married for 20 years, until his death.

Dick was especially close to his twin brother, Robert, with whom he started at Yale, and with whom he spoke every day for the rest of his life. Robert’s death in 2011 did to him what his knee injury never could; for the first time in his life, he lost his outgoing vigor and became sad and withdrawn.

Richard Jacunski died of a brain stem hemorrhage on September 24, 2013, the day he was to have been treated for prostate cancer. He is survived by his wife, three daughters and six grandchildren.