Alaska News

Man found dead on loading dock was longtime Bean’s Cafe volunteer

Each day, Gregory Jack woke up at 6 a.m. and walked from his Karluk Manor apartment to volunteer at the kitchen in Bean’s Cafe.

He spent his days slicing fish and meat, labeling it and storing it. He was often the first to volunteer to do other tasks like changing trash liners, washing dishes and serving other clients at the soup kitchen. He often stayed until the kitchen closed at 5:30 p.m. He rarely missed a day on the job.

"He made sure our meat was cut for the week," said Aaron Bollison, cook supervisor at Bean's Cafe. "Whatever job that needed to be done, Gregory was one you could call on."

On Thursday, Jack, 59, was not in his usual place in the kitchen. His body was found early that morning on a wooden loading dock outside a warehouse along 4th Avenue.

Police are still investigating the circumstances of the death. Anchorage police spokeswoman Jennifer Castro said autopsy results are pending, but a preliminary investigation revealed no obvious signs of foul play.

Well before police released his identity Friday, word of Jack's death had spread among the people who come and go from Bean's Cafe, where he had been a fixture for about two decades.

In 2013 alone, Jack volunteered more than 1,000 hours for an organization heavily reliant on volunteer work, said Lisa Sauder the executive director of Bean's Cafe.

"We called him the 'Energizer Bunny,' " Sauder said. "He was one of those who was always doing something."

Lenora Popo, a monitor at Bean's Cafe, heard Thursday morning from two of the cafe's clients that Jack's body had been found about a block away. She and another monitor walked up to the warehouse. After checking Jack's pulse, they dialed 911, just after 7 a.m.

A former nurse, Popo has seen death before. But seeing Jack hit close, she said. Popo first met Jack seven years ago, when she was working as an intake officer with the Community Service Patrol.

He was a "fiesty, fiery guy, but very big-hearted, even in moments of being intoxicated," Popo said.

"He had a habit of drinking, ... it was foreseen, a matter of time," she said.

Later on Thursday, the cafe held a "talking circle" so people could share memories of Jack -- the nicknames he gave others, the way he always had a smile on his face. That same day, the cafe held its monthly birthday party. Jack turned 59 last week.

There was a moment of silence, and his best friend said a few words, Sauder said. Relatives of Jack's are both clients at Bean's and members of its staff.

"The place won't be the same," Sauder said.

Jack wasn't homeless -- he had an apartment on the third floor of Karluk Manor, where he had lived two years, three months, and six days, according to staff. The manor provides efficiency apartments and support services for chronic, homeless inebriates in Anchorage.

Since it opened in December 2011, nine Karluk Manor residents have died, including Jack, said Kenny Scollan, the on-site manager at the building and the division manager for the Rural Alaska Community Action Program Inc., or RurAL CAP.

Jack is originally from the Bethel area.

Before coming to live at Karluk Manor, Jack most likely spent his time between campsites and the Brother Francis Shelter, Scollan said.

"I think this is probably the longest he's been in stable housing" in a long time, Scollan said.

Just recently, Jack purchased a new easy chair for himself, Scollan said. He was proud of it and was planning to use it as a bed.

He never got a chance to sit in it. The chair was delivered at 4:30 p.m. on Wednesday. Jack talked to the staff about it, and then left, saying he was coming back later. That night, he didn’t come home, Scollan said.