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Jack Daly, 92, former athlete with knack for storytelling

By Marvin Pave
Globe Correspondent / August 14, 2011

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Jack Daly was an All-New England center on the 1940 Williams College football team, a cofounder of the Eastern Massachusetts chapter of the National Football Foundation, and a respected football official whose assignments included the Sugar Bowl, the Army-Navy game, and the legendary 29-29 tie between undefeated Harvard and Yale in 1968.

But to audiences at the Gridiron Club of Greater Boston’s annual awards banquet and the National Football Foundation’s Hall of Fame ceremonies in New York City, Mr. Daly was also known as, “the man from Wytopitlock, Maine, the Right Honourable Ambassador of all things ‘Down East’, John J. Daly Jr.’’

Mr. Daly’s hilarious stories, told at sports banquets, corporate conventions and other venues about Errol (Tink) McCutcheon and his trademark line, “Where’s Wytopitlock? . . . about 20 miles north of Mattawamkeag’’ were based on fact.

“There’s nothing mythical about Wytopitlock or Tink,’’ Mr. Daly said in a 1982 Globe story that chronicled his receiving the Distinguished American Citation from the National Football Foundation’s local chapter. “I discovered them when I worked one summer at a Maine camp [after his freshman year of college] at Spring Lake.’’

Mr. Daly, a member of the Boston English High and Williams College Athletic Halls of Fame, died Wednesday at the Harbor House Rehabilitation and Nursing Center in Hingham from complications relating to a fall in his home two years ago. The Hull resident was 92.

“Jack was Mr. Gridiron Club,’’ said the club’s former president and retired Brookline High football coach and athletic director Ed Schluntz. “Jack always had a big smile on his face, and whenever he told his stories, everyone in the audience had huge smiles, too.’’

The Jack Daly Golf Classic, sponsored by the Gridiron Club and which raises funds to support youth football, has been held for the past decade at Sandy Burr Golf Club in Wayland.

Jack Grinold, Northeastern University’s longtime sports information director, helped start the NFF’s Eastern Mass. Chapter 37 years ago with Mr. Daly.

“I attended Bowdoin. Jack was a Williams man, and both schools are in the New England Small College Athletic Conference,’’ said Grinold, the chapter’s executive director emeritus. “When they played football, we’d exchange phone calls, and Jack had the advantage because Williams was beating Bowdoin 9 out of 10 times.’’

“When Princeton’s Charley Caldwell was asked who was the best player he’d coached, people thought the answer would be Princeton’s 1951 Heisman Trophy winner Dick Kazmaier,’’ added Grinold. “But he said it was Jack Daly.’’

Caldwell coached Williams at from 1928-42.

Fred Rudolph, president of Williams’ Class of 1942 and editor of the school newspaper, invited Mr. Daly to be an usher at his wedding in 1949.

“I admired Jack because he was an outstanding athlete who was comfortable with people who weren’t. His storytelling was legendary,’’ said Rudolph. “He was at our house in Williamstown for our annual class reunion two years ago, and his presence was definitely a draw.’’

Mr. Daly was team captain in 1940, leading the Ephs to a 6-1-1 record. A three-sport athlete at Williams, he did not graduate his senior year and instead enlisted in the Navy. At pre-flight-training school in Chapel Hill, N.C., he helped supervise physical fitness training for pilots because of his athletic background that included starring at Boston English High and Cheshire Academy.

“Dad shared an apartment with two of his fellow instructors. On winter mornings, one particular bunkmate always needed a nudge when it came his turn to light the heating stove. Dad leaned his leg over the top bunk to kick him out of bed,’’ recalled Mr. Daly’s son, John III of Hingham. “The bunkmate was Michigan’s All-American center, Gerry Ford, our future president.

He worked in sales starting in 1947, primarily with Kelvinator, and was its regional sales manager. He retired in 1983 as general manager of the appliance division for Northeastern Distributors.

“When my father worked in appliance sales, he brought a group to visit a plant in Grand Rapids. One, a Republican supporter, said ‘Jack, you’ll never believe who’s getting on the plane with us.’ It was Ford, the House minority leader, who said, ‘Jack, how are you?’ ’’

After returning from the service to his home in Jamaica Plain in 1946 with the rank of lieutenant, Mr. Daly was introduced by his aunt Lilly to his future wife, Helen (Murphy), who died in 2001. They were married for 54 years.

Mr. Daly initially officiated high school games and in 1951 was certified by the Eastern Association of Intercollegiate Football Officials, which he later served as president and director of its Boston chapter.

Head linesman at the 1969 Harvard-Yale classic, Mr. Daly called a 15-yard face mask penalty on Yale defender Mike Bouscaren that kept Harvard’s miraculous comeback - 16 points in the final 42 seconds - alive.

That call angered the Yale coaching staff, players, and fans, some of whom held it against Mr. Daly for many years.

However, when the documentary “Harvard Beats Yale, 29-29’’ came out in 2008, Mr. Daly saw it with his son-in-law, Dr. Jim Everett of Scituate, and was vindicated.

In the film, Bouscaren admitted he tried to put Harvard’s quarterback, Frank Champi, out of the game with a clothesline tackle to his face, which drew the penalty.

“Jack told me he always felt he made the right call,’’ said Everett.

Mr. Daly lived in West Roxbury and Hingham for many years and in his later years in Hull - where more than 50 years ago he converted a barn into the family’s summer home.

“Jack worked at least five major bowl games, and he earned the respect and admiration of coaches, players, and officials,’’ said Scotty Whitelaw, Mr. Daly’s friend and former Eastern College Athletic Conference commissioner. “He had a big heart, and I loved his company and his humor.’’

Mr. Daly’s many honors also included the George C. Carens Award from the New England Football Writers Association in 1975, the Eastern Association of Intercollegiate Football Officials Murray Lewis Award in 1986, and the All-American Football Foundation Butch Lambert Award in 1996.

Former Boston Latin School football coach Paul Costello, who succeeded him as Gridiron Club treasurer in 1991, said Mr. Daly was “among the last of a breed when high school and college football was in its heyday and a man of great integrity.’’

An accomplished golfer at Charles River Country Club and most recently at Cohasset Golf Club, he excelled as a hockey player and officiated that sport. Mr. Daly also enjoyed carpentry and woodworking and after his retirement volunteered with Meals on Wheels and Hingham Elder Services. He also taught his family and their friends sailing, body surfing, and water skiing while summering in Hull.

In addition to his son, Mr. Daly leaves two other sons, Andrew of Westchester, Calif., and Christopher of Scituate; three daughters, Cathy Everett of Scituate, Susan Daly Paul of Northborough, and Barbara Daly of Hull; his sister, Marie Dempsey of Lexington; 14 grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren.

A funeral Mass will be said at 10 a.m. Tuesday at St. Anthony’s Church in Cohasset. Burial will be at the Massachusetts National Cemetery in Bourne.

Marvin Pave can be reached at marvin.pave@rcn.com