“You can do almost anything, if you try.”
This phrase was the life mantra of Marion Lorraine Mackey Jack, says daughter Georgia Jack Coogan. And she proved and lived this adage every day, and in every way.
“ ‘Miss Marion’ to literally thousands of dance students, passed at age 95, on June 10, to join her sister, her parents, and many friends in Heaven,” Coogan wrote in a memorial to her mother. She noted that a series of strokes had placed her under the care of youngest daughter Amber in her last days–her illness halting “her perpetual forward motion.”
Hernando residents may know Marion Mackey Jack as the dance teacher who taught everyone from Weeki Wachee mermaids to Hernando High School athletes the fine art of ballet–and who taught countless Brooksville students–many of them preschoolers–ballet, tap and acrobatics. She also taught tap to a class of deaf children, ballroom and etiquette to teens and adults, modelling to many, and gave her students the chance to dance at local events.
Her perpetual forward motion launched at the tender age of 9, when she began dance lessons. She went on to become a high school cheerleader and to teach dance for Ella Mae’s School of Dance, where she completed three years worth of dance teacher training to certify her with Dance Masters of America. She owned Marion’s School of Dance for 50 years, choosing to teach dance in Brooksville, Crystal River and Inverness so as not to compete with her own teacher, Ella Mae Richard. She moved to Crystal River in 1970, and went on to see both daughters also become dance teachers.
“Marion was an entrepreneur in an era where women were an afterthought in the workplace,” wrote Georgia Jack Coogan.
Aside from her arts-related achievements, she was a typist for Ford Plumbing Co. in 1948, modeled for Maas Brothers and Wolf Brothers, and served as a ROTC officer known for selling the most war bonds during a designated time period. She worked at the Crystal River Nuclear Power Plant and was a real estate broker. Profiled often in area newspapers, she became both a local celebrity and a woman of prominence and distinction.
Yet perhaps the title that Marion Mackey Jack valued most was that of family woman. As a daughter, sister to Shirley, wife to George Jack, and–most of all–as a mother.
“She said her daughters Georgia and Amber were her best reason for living,” Coogan wrote.
On the education front, Marion Mackey Jack attended Tampa University in 1946, and actually received her AA degree at age 70.
“Proudly walking the Graduation Walk with her royal blue cap and gown atop her still red hair,” wrote Coogan.
Another milestone in a long, wonderful life.
“Wherever Marion went, things happened,” Coogan wrote. “Always the life of the party, she knew how to wring the most fun out of any situation. She could belt out a song like the stars and dance like a dream.”
Marion Mackey Jack danced her way through the lives of many students, friends and family members–and throughout the Tampa Bay area. Those who wish to share their own memories of Miss Marion can write to [email protected], to share with her daughters their own remembrances of the dancer of distinction.