Monday, July 6, 2015

Legacy of Jack Flint

June 29, 2015 © Thomas J. Kollenborn. All Rights Reserved.

Circa 2004- Sharon Kollenborn is leading with Jack Flint behind her on “Ringo,” a very gentle and good trail horse. Neighbor Keith Ferlalnd is bringing up the rear. Jack was 85 when this photo was taken.
We often meet people who make quite an impression on us. This was the case when I met an Englishmen named Jack Flint in April of 1998 on the porch of the Bluebird Mine. Jack had just purchased a copy of our book Superstition Mountain: A Ride Through Time. Louis Ruiz told Jack I was sitting on the veranda of the Bluebird having a soft drink and that I would probably sign it for him. Jack walked over, introduced himself and asked me if I would be so kind to sign his copy of my book. I told him I would be pleased to do so. This simple gesture began a friendship that would span almost two decades. At the time Jack was seventy-nine years old and in excellent health. He was a tall man, 6’4” and weighted about 195 pounds. His skin lacked any tanning because he had lived most of his life in England in a town called Camberly. I soon found out Jack’s favorite sports were rugby and soccer. Jack was a very athletic individual. I visited with Jack for a couple of hours and soon learned he loved America. Jack had spent considerable time here when he was in the military. I also found out Jack Flint was retired from the Queen’s Royal Artillery. He joined the English Army when he was seventeen in 1939 when England was at war with Germany.

Jack was eventually sent to North Africa with the Royal Artillery and fought against the German Africa Corps under General Rommel. General Bernard Montgomery was the allied commander in North Africa. Jack emerged from the two Battles of El Alamein, one on July 1, 1942 and the other October 23, 1942, as a Sargent. He eventually earned a battlefield commission and rose to the rank of Major in British Royal Artillery. When the war ended he was rifted down to a Sargent Major. He had taught artillery classes at Sandhurst. Sandhurst is Britain’s West Point for its army. Jack was also an outstanding soccer player in the British Army. He was also a very talented musician. He played both the organ and the piano. He could hold a crowd in awe with his version of “Amazing Grace” on the piano or organ. Eventually he traveled often to the United States as a liaison to the U. S. Army from the British Army. Jack was very intelligent and extremely resourceful. He had an unusual interest in the history and lore of the Superstition Mountain region.

Our friendship and trust grew very rapidly. We invited him to spend his three-week vacations in America with us. We offered him one of our vacant bedrooms and he accepted. We never took payment for the room from him because we considered him our guest. Also we felt we were honoring his service to his country and ours as well. Jack was a walking history book on European, British, Roman and Middle East history. Jack was never boring to listen to. He had a good command of the English language and was an excellent conversationalist. His conversations about European and Middle East history were fantastic. He presented the history as if you were actually there.

His first visit in our home was quite short and soon over. He returned to England and I wasn’t sure we would see him again. Some of his peculiar habits included eating only bananas and a cup of tea for breakfast. He wasn’t a big eater, but often joined us for meals. Jack was very health conscious. I took Jack on Jeep trip into the old Tortilla Ranch. He was thrilled with the excursion into the Superstition Mountains. I told him when he returned I would take him horseback riding into the Superstition Mountains. He told me he would return. He made friends with my neighbor Keith Ferland and went on several hikes with Keith from First Water Trail Head. When Jack left for England I doubted we would ever see him again because of his advanced age. Upon departure he gave my wife a beautiful gold butterfly and necklace.

Sure enough in April of 1999 Jack Flint returned to America and Apache Junction. He contacted us by phone and wondered if our bedroom was still available and of course we told him yes. During his 1999 visit we took him to the legendary JF Ranch deep in the mountainous area of the central portion of the Superstition Wilderness Area. He loved this trip with my friends Nancy and Trish. Jack was an absolute gentleman. The girls did some sun bathing while Jack and I rode the mountain trails out of the JF Ranch. Jack said nobody in England would believe he spent a day at an isolated ranch with two such beautiful ladies. To top this trip off, Jack lost his wallet when we stopped at Florence Junction for refreshments. The wallet contained all his money and documents. A call to the Florence Junction establishment did not produce any information about his lost wallet. We drove back from Apache Junction to look for his wallet.  Nancy and Trish found  Jack’s wallet. When Jack returned to England he wired those girls the largest bouquet of roses I have ever seen.

Jack retuned again in 2000 and we visited other areas of the mountains an did some more horseback riding into Second Water, Boulder Canyon, La Barge Canyon and other interesting areas. Jack was mesmerized by the beauty and ruggedness of these mountains. We also visited the Indian Paint Mine between Boulder and La Barge Canyons. Jack was fascinated with this old mining site in the Superstition Wilderness Area. I was learning history of the world and Jack was learning about the Superstition Wilderness Area. What a wonderful trade off in our friendship.

The Al Queda terrorist attacked the World Trade Center in New York on September 11, 2001 killing almost three thousand people. This tragic event changed Jack’s schedule. Jack Flint returned to America in early November 2001 so he could attend the Armistice Day Parade in Apache Junction and be with the Americans that he loved so much and cared about in a moment of need. Jack was really emotional about this horrible crime against America, a land he also loved. We attended several events in November of 2001 devoted to the 9-11 tragedy.

Jack arrived every April from 2002 on, prepared to learn more about the Superstition Mountains and its history. He never told me he was searching for anything in particular. He said he was fascinated with the history and stories. Every year he bought something to do with the Superstition Mountains before he returned to his home in Camberly, Sussex, England. He lived near Sandhurst, the British “West Point.” These trips to America continued through 2009 every year. Jack had made eleven trips to America and spent time wandering around the Superstition Mountain area for eleven years in a row. Keith Ferland or I guided Jack around the mountains. Jack rode the horses up to the time he was 87 and continued hiking until his last trip to America. This was a man who fought in two of the biggest battles in North Africa and survived. Jack would always say, “We stopped General Rommel at El Almein.”

Sharon and I received a letter in 2011 from Jack advising us that he wasn’t returning to America because of health problems. He said he would never forget us and hoped someday his daughter would visit us. Jack had converted one of the rooms in his home to a museum on the Superstition Mountains, its people and history. Jack Flint is a name we will always remember in our home. He was a true gentleman, scholar and loved America, however he was still loyal to his Queen and his country. I will never forget at the Veteran’s Day Parade in Apache Junction how he stood erect and saluted the American Flag every time it passed by. Sometimes my own countrymen embarrass me for their lack of respect for our flag by not even standing up. Veteran’s Day is not a holiday it is a day of remembrance for those who gave so much for our great nation.