Solving for X ~ JEFF KATZ


By: Jeff Katz – Dec. 2015

Katz2I have been privileged over the years to meet many notable folks including celebrities from the entertainment world, athletes and elected officials. One man I met about seventeen years ago however, touched me in a different way. He was not a professional athlete, but he had a passion for baseball. He did not play at Fenway Park, but he did give tours of the place. He was not a politician, but he had a love for current events and enjoyed talking about all of the issues of the day. He was not an entertainer, but I found him to be quite entertaining.

His name was Tom Jaillet and for more than fifty years he was a schoolteacher. No, I never had the chance to sit in one of his classes but I certainly did learn a lot from him. I met him when his daughter brought me home for Thanksgiving dinner. He had just met me, but Tom welcomed me like he had known me forever. Good thing too, because I would wind up as his son in law!

I can remember one of my first chats with Tom where we were talking about our respective professions. He knew me from the radio and I recoiled in mock horror when he told me that he was a math teacher. I broke the news, as gently as I could, that I had never been able to “solve for X” and I hoped that would not be a problem. He laughed. “X” is a mystery he said, but the answer is always there.

I feel blessed to have had Tom in my life for these past seventeen years. I always knew him to be a decent, honorable and hardworking man with a love of life and the appreciation for a good joke. I also loved his bartending skills. Nobody made a chunky Bloody Mary like he did and I’ll miss that. You see, Tom died a few weeks ago.

A couple months ago, you would have found my father-in-law on the golf course or sitting on the deck enjoying a beer. He had just retired and was making plans to take a cooking class, travel, and spend more time with his grandchildren. My favorite memories of him were watching him with his grandchildren. His beaming ear-to-ear smile showed everyone just how he felt about them.

Tom’s funeral took place at Tabor Academy in Marion, MA. A fitting location since he spent more than a half-century teaching there. The chapel was packed, which was a meaningful tribute to such a well-respected faculty member. The most touching part came as we learned that many of his former students had flown in from around the country to pay their final respects to Mr. Jaillet.

I still don’t know exactly how to solve for “X” but I’m thinking that the lessons from Tom’s life might point me in the right direction. Live your life with a sense of dignity and purpose. Look out for others. Enjoy simple pleasures. Do the right thing. Laugh. Make that chunky Bloody Mary exactly the way your daughter and her husband like it, even though you think it has too much horseradish. Smile.

If you are so inclined and would like to honor the memory of one of the best men I’ve ever known, please make a donation in Tom Jaillet’s name to the Friends of the Northshore Education Consortium, 112 Sohier Road, Beverly, MA 01915 or online HERE