A Battery man for the battle, Jack Rickard

A battery man for the battle, Jack Rickard

2 blocks over, down a hill, left, up a half a hill was a bricklayer’s house complete with the pile of sand and concrete mixer in the driveway. This bricklayer’s house incorporated natural lighting, constructed by a man exposed to many of the trends in 70s suburbia expansion.  Behind was an empty lot.  Neighborhood kids could bike cross. I met with friends to make rides over humps of dirt piles leftover by the rapid construction of the expanding suburbs in middle America. This was Jack’s house, not Jack junior, the man from EVTV, but his father Jack senior, a near carbon copy Jack jr. Junior was a man that didn’t fall far from that apple tree. Jack senior was one of the good guys, all around a working man that plied his trade by laying concrete blocks and slopping the mortar mix with trowels. He did it profitably.

 I volunteered to help him block at the local Pike lodge, stood with Jack senior. He would say, “when my hand gets to here, hand me another block.” That’s what we did; block by block. We built a wall.

 Jack senior always drove a white van. It was a workingman’s van filled with tools and mix bags. The van had four different tire brands cause in Missouri, working people bought their tires one at a time. 

Jack Jr. wasn’t there when I was riding my bike on the empty lot behind this house. He was long gone, rolled out of town, joining the Navy at 18 for the war we called Vietnam.

Leaving His seven member Catholic family. His father had already made a man out of him, a hod carrier packing wet cement up ladders to awaiting bricklayers. 

On April 23, 1975, President Gerald Ford announced the Vietnam War was “finished as far as America is concerned.” Military involvement had ended, but the U.S. still faced a crucial task: the safe evacuation of Americans who remained in Saigon, including the then-U.S. ambassador, Graham Martin.

 Back home, I parked my boomer bike under the carport next to my mother’s Mercury Montego, walked into the house on a normal day. I clicked on the television, turned the knob on every channel: helicopters flying across the screen. No Gilligan’s Island? no Brady Bunch? What was going to be watched that afternoon? Vietnam WAR. The beast’s camera crews at the US Embassy filmed bodies smashed against the gate.

Dozens of Bell UH–1 helicopters, nicknamed Huey, with twin blade main rotors served that day buzzing up and down the television screen like a dragon flies in a field

In the middle of the helicopter evacuation of Saigon was the USS Midway Aircraft Carrier. On it stood one tough man, Jack Rickard, son of a bricklayer and former hod carrier.

The amateur boxed in the Navy. Jack could do all the pushups a drill instructor wanted at will. 

“Heck,” he said, “anything in the Navy is easier than being a hod carrier.”

“Other than standing in line or painting something gray.”

Jack was an aviation tech handling APU /auxiliary power unit, battery banks, and various sophisticated electronics of fighter jets providing its juice to perform a mission. 

He would often state, “If there ever a problem 99 percent of the time it’s the battery or a connector.”

  He was good at battery quirks and needs. Rapidly running through a gauntlet of operations, removing covers running connectors to the charges checking voltage tracing down ground faults. Some power units had odd voltages: 24, 28 volts others have 115 AC each had its necessities, wrong moves could destroy parts not easily replaced on a ship at sea.

Jack was a survivor of the war, having survived a Cod (short takeoff cargo prop plane), crash off the deck of the carrier. Propellors chewed up the plane, killing 11 soldiers. Aircraft carries don’t turn around. A rescue helicopter plucked Jack out of the water.  He left the war with stories he rarely told. I knew him for 10 years before he told me that story.

This day as helicopters landed on the deck where the human cargo was unloaded, he was on a different duty recording names of refugees, as a foreigner with some working Vietnamese language skills.

This 81 helicopter rescue operation lasted for 18 hours, the biggest helicopter operation in history saving 1,373 Americans and 5,595 Vietnamese. Jack Rickard was checking the human cargo in on a list, taking names and calming them down. Then rotating back through tech duties as various worn sailors rotated through the tasks barely getting sleep then back to a rocking deck of helicopters rushing to land overloaded and out of fuel, living each moment knowing those in the air lives depended on a clear landing spaces In the surrounding seas 40 warships another 65,000 Vietnamese were fleeing in fishing boats basically anything that floats to escape a curtain of advancing troops death and destruction.

The haunting memories Jack wrote brought home for the Vietnam War besides being chewed up in an aircraft carrier’s propeller were the flight deck teams of sailors grabbing Huey skids pushing it over the deck into the ocean to its death. In the sky, more helicopters full of passengers were waiting. As they ran out of fuel, they dropped like ducks. Sometimes people jumped out.

And then it ended. The last helicopter with the last person on the last rooftop pushed the ladder away, stringing the line of wind blown refugees, crying, shouting, looking skyward for the rescue for the evening news. The next day Gilligan’s Island was back on, like it had been. And here I was in middle America, walking distance from his parent’s brick home, safely riding the streets and looking for the box of hidden Ding Dongs.

He left the navy and the war behind with technical prowess; experience with batteries. DC power was life or death for pilots, soldiers and sailors. 

Jack landed in San Diego, bought a 1977 Pinto with rack and pinion steering and saw the gas lines of the 1979 energy crisis. The long lines of people waiting to get gas was only one part of this scenario. Jack saw armed men in the back of pickups marauding around gas stations, cutting in line to get a favored position for a fill up. It was the guns that left a lasting impression on him. 

“It’s not the price of gas, that’s the problem, it’s no gas.” he would often state.

The early days of the Internet was started by friends of Jack. Military and engineers that wanted to avoid long distance charges. Back in those days they charged you for long-distance calls, so they schemed that if you would communicate a message that only lasted a few seconds, you would avoid the long distance call. So they skiing they designed as system of posting boards that could be forwarded via phone line to another computer downloaded and then disconnect before the phone company could assess a bill. Brilliant. Jack had connections in this system. He developed a single sheet merged phone contact listing that he printed and sold at various conventions birthing the computer age and coming World Wide Web of Internet connectivity. In simple terms, he monetize a primitive form of the search engine. Along came the infamous Al Gore to help, which Jack defended,and the rest was www. history, Jack had his surfboard ready to go when the wave of the Internet landed on the American shores.Boardwatch spawned an ISP industry tradeshow, ISPcon, and published a yearly Directory of Internet Service Providers. He was a talented writer and could technically analyze equipment and test it. One of his breakthrough editorials was in his testing of the download speeds claimed by various big Internet players. He proved them in fact wrong that they were exaggerating their clients. He received a lot of Flack over that possibly even some death threats just for telling people the truth, but he pressed revered, always having the reader and the Internet consumer in mind.

His money bag came by creating Internet supplier convention where floor space sold and resold for hundreds of dollars per square foot. Everybody who was anything HAD to get into the Internet business. Jack was there with the right plan. He’s smartly helped by arranging these conventions. And he created an enormous fan base which served him later in his EVTV.

He bought the second Hummer sold in the United States right after Arnold Schwarzenegger. There was a cover on Bill Gates that sold 40,000 copies. He was the man, in the industry at least for the time of his surfboard ride on the wave of the advancing technology sweeping the world. He’s so Boardwatch at the peak of the Internet boom. The stock bubble had created companies flush with cash, and he walked away with $38 million cash. Who won the proverbial business scenario Super Bowl.

When I first meet Jack to talk about going to work at EVTV, his dad’s white van was parked in the corner. I knew why, just for looking at. Jack had come back to Cape to ease his father’s burdens. 

He flew in town on his private King Air plane.

He barely made it back to his hometown before his father constricted Alzheimer, ended up in the Veterans home. They parked his van with four different tire brands inside the corner of the EVTV building.

“So.” I asked Jack “Are you planning to convert your dad’s van to Electric?

“No.” he said. “Too heavy.”

And right then we became friends.

Jack was a forefather of the of “this moment” early adoption of the electric movement along with names Elon Musk, Tesla and Bill Gates at Microsoft. He didn’t play for those teams, but he did get the opportunity to coach, they listened.  

Jack Rickard, a man of celestial asperity, stood up for the risk-takers and experimenters trying to make something electric. He worked hard and put his money where his mouth is; to coach and encourage the movement of sustainable energy solutions.

He founded EVTV, electric vehicle television, a webcast producing over 500 videos. His broadcast instructed how to convert gasoline cars to electric drive, technical reviews, and industry news related to the production sales of electric cars. He produced and funded the electric vehicle conversion convention, which he hosted for several years gathering electric car converters from around the world to share in his vision of electric vehicles and battery power saving planet earth. He was a huge fan of Tesla and his stock tips produced hundreds of early Tesla stock owners who gained significant fortunes from his enthusiasm for Tesla stock. He famously predicted on video that Tesla stock would reach $1500 when the stock was valued below $300 and it did. His product development included the braided battery strap designed to help home build electric cars adjust to the vibration of road travel, a cell booty battery terminal cover, GEVCU the General Electric vehicle control unit which he developed the printed circuit board for and source the chip for the microcontroller. One of his most significant designs which came from significant research cost was the development of a standalone BMS system for the repurposing of salvage electric vehicle car batteries.

Jack passed to the other side on Monday early a.m. at the exact time he would normally rise the start is workweek; fitting, elegant, so Jack. His was the perfect ending in a blaze of glory as the sun rose over the Mississippi River the birds sang, his Model Y didn’t honk; ahead in the day was a Tesla stock split. 

Jack’s natural world was in order on the day of his death, as it should be for a servant of the Lord. Jack’s celestial aspersion was complete. He found his answer I am sure most satisfactory as God’s team welcomed him with a big horah.

 

 

 


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