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For the week of December 6 through 12, 2000

Jack Hemingway: 1923-2000

Celebrity’s child was committed to Idaho wildlife


By TRAVIS PURSER
Express Staff Writer

Jack Hemingway, Idaho conservationist and son of famed novelist Ernest Hemingway, died in New York Friday at 11:30 p.m. of heart failure. He was 77.

"He was in very critical condition before his death," said New York Cornell Medical Center spokeswoman, Kathy Robinson.

The longtime Ketchum resident fell ill in New York last week and suffered complications following heart surgery there.

Thursday night, a spokesperson at the hospital’s intensive care unit said hospital equipment was "breathing for him."

Hemingway grew up among an elite literary crowd, a fact that belied his adulthood spent hunting and fishing in Idaho.

As a toddler, he was the "Bumby" of his father’s expatriate years in Paris. His father recounted some of his early life in A Moveable Feast.

The youngster’s first home was above a sawmill in Paris. Growing up, he associated with such literary greats as F. Scott Fitzgerald, John Dos Passos, Ezra Pound and James Joyce. Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas were his godmothers.

He was noted for saying that he spent the first 50 years of his life being the son of a famous writer, and would spend the last 50 years of his life being the father of his famous daughters, Mariel and Margaux, both models and actresses.

But when asked by Idaho Mountain Express writer Pat Murphy in 1999 what question people asked him the most, he revealed a positive glimmer into what was obviously a happy life.

"Simple," he said. "Most people ask, ‘What’s it like being the son of a famous father?’ "

His answer: "The pluses greatly exceed the minuses."

Though he lived sandwiched between generations of celebrities, people who know him say he made no excuses for his comparatively simple existence as an Idaho outdoorsman.

Nearly 20 years ago, he wrote his autobiography, Misadventures of a Fly Fisherman: My Life With and Without Papa, the nickname referring to his hard-drinking, four-times married and often absent father.

The book describes his adventures during World War II parachuting behind enemy lines, with fly-fishing equipment, along with his military gear. He was captured and spent the rest of the war in a German prisoner-of-war camp.

When he returned to the United States, Hemingway married the youthful war widow Puck Whitlock, and the couple had three daughters: Joan (nicknamed "Muffet"), Margaux and Mariel.

During the 1970s, Hemingway sealed his reputation as a conservationist with a six-year tenure as an Idaho Fish and Game commissioner. Then-governor Cecil Andrus appointed him to the position in 1970.

"Jack really understood wildlife, and fisheries in particular," said Joe Greenley, a now-retired Fish and Game director who Hemingway helped hire during the 1970s.

Greenley called Hemingway an advocate for "ethical" hunting and fishing that emphasizes recreation over killing.

As a Fish and Game commissioner, Hemingway was instrumental in getting the state Legislature to apply "catch and release" rules to many of Idaho’s fishing areas.

Bill Goodnight, a retired chief of information for Fish and Game, said the conservation of fish was Hemingway’s most important contribution as commissioner. The "catch and release" rules have meant bigger and more fish in some areas, and even an end to some of the "planting" of hatchery-grown fish to replenish depleted waters.

Goodnight called Hemingway’s death a "big loss," adding that "he was a great friend to Idaho wildlife, that’s for sure." Hemingway also worked on protecting elk in Idaho, donated a large amount of land along the Little Wood River to be used for public access and joined forces with The Nature Conservancy to purchase property for the Silver Creek Preserve.

Of course, not everybody agreed with his "ethical" philosophy.

"There was something called the ‘committee of 10,000,’" he told the Idaho Mountain Express in 1999. "And one of their objectives was to hang me," because of his work on Silver Creek. The "meat fishermen" wanted something to take home for their dinner tables despite dangerously low numbers of fish.

After leaving his commissioner post in 1977, he narrated the Incredible Idaho television documentary series produced by the Department of Fish and Game.

Silver Creek-area rancher Bud Purdy said Hemingway spent much of his recent years at a residence in Oregon, and traveling the world in search of new hunting and fishing grounds.

Purdy, a hunting partner of two generations of Hemingways, said Jack Hemingway complained to him last spring of "having a little trouble" with his health. "But he looked good," Purdy said.

Purdy said he would miss hunting chukars—a kind of partridge—with the "astute fisherman and hunter."

Friday marked the end of an era for Purdy, whose 61-year association with the Hemingways began in 1939, when he first met Ernest Hemingway here in the Wood River Valley. Purdy hunted ducks with the novelist until he committed suicide in Ketchum in 1961. Purdy then continued hunting and fishing his land with the younger Hemingway.

In the words of Goodnight, "no one could say he didn’t live a full life."

He is survived by his brothers Patrick and Gregory Hemingway; his daughters Muffet and Mariel; and his wife, Ketchum socialite Angela Holvey, whom he married after Puck Hemingway’s death in 1988.

In 1996, Margaux, who rocketed to fame as a Faberge model and starred in the movie Lipstick, died at 41 in Santa Monica, Calif., from an overdose of barbiturates.

The eldest of his father’s three sons, Hemingway was born in Toronto at 2 a.m. Oct. 10, 1923, to Hadley Richardson, Ernest Hemingway’s first of four wives.

When the father first saw the newborn several hours after delivery at 9 a.m., he is known to have told Hadley that their son had a nose like the king of Spain.

Devoted fans of Spanish culture, his parents chose a name for him that had a Spanish flavor, too: John Hadley Nicanor Hemingway. The name honored both his mother and the matador Nicanor Villalta.

His family and friends plan to hold memorial services Dec. 30 in Ketchum in addition to services being held this week in New York.

He is scheduled to be interred near his father’s grave adjacent to Highway 75 at the north end of Ketchum.

 

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