Jack Shark jamming at Gate 5 (in background, r.)
Jack at his Co-op welding shop in 2013
Jack’s Flying Snail sculpture near the new park is a constant reminder of his unique character and talent | post by Larry Clinton | photos by Larry White, Larry Clinton and the Dinghy Dame
Long time Co-op resident Jack Schwaner, known as Jack the Welder, recently succumbed to a heart attack.
As the Dinghy Dame wrote about Jack in the Floating Times back in 2013:
“Jack was born in a tiny town in west Nebraska on the Wyoming border. He led a pretty sheltered life until he won an art scholarship to the Kansas City Art Institute. When he arrived there in 1964 he was overwhelmed by what he considered a vast metropolis. He had never been exposed to such a large city, or marijuana, but said, ‘Even the teachers were smoking pot.’ By the time 1966 rolled around, he had dropped out of college, headed to Haight Ashbury and found the waterfront.
“Jack says, ‘I was a successful hippie and lived the life of a psychedelic Reilly.’
“He traveled between Kansas City and California dozens of times before finally getting his degree in Sculpture in 1969. He then rented a balloon barge on Yellow Ferry.
“When Jack lived there he was carving totem poles for Barney West at Tiki Junction which was located at the foot of Napa St. He was also playing guitar in a rock band which was the lead-in act for Jimmie Hendrix. He smiled when he told me he had once shared a joint with him.
“Jack said he lived ten years on the waterfront before the Co-op was formed and he never paid rent.
“Jack then became a commercial fisherman. He was still playing guitar and first met Joe Tate in Fisherman’s Wharf where he inadvertently was playing on Joe’s street corner. They eventually played in the Charles Van Damme together where Joe’s band, The Redlegs, was a regular.
“Eventually, Jack said, the fishing died. The boat just quit, and they had to hire a welder. As Jack was watching the guy make the repairs, he thought, ‘Hey! I know how to do that!’ So, he started Jack’s Welding.
“Jack is an incredible sculptor, and hopefully The Snail which is on top of a short piling in the Co-op shallows will remain a testament to his work. For a while, Jack was known as Jack Shark because he carved magnificent wooden sharks, many of which were commissioned, and he sold them to make a living.”
In his later years, Jack enjoyed strolling through the floating home community and picking up litter, especially recyclables. At the FHA’s 2015 Annual Meeting, President Katherine Boschetto recognized his work cleaning up Gate 6 Road and the adjacent parking lots.
Jack’s Flying Snail sculpture, which he created as an art school project, is still on that piling, just off the southern edge of the new Waldo Point Harbor park.