Parade Chief Marshal Jack Tkachuk spent a lifetime putting out fires all over Boston, and this Saturday he’s trying to spark the beginning of the Battle of Bunker Hill Parade season with a $10K fundraiser and raffle time at the Charlestown Knights of Columbus.
The annual Chief Marshal’s first fundraiser typically kicks off the activities and planning sessions for the parade, which is on Sunday, June 10 this year, with June 17 (Bunker Hill Day) falling on the next Sunday.
“We’re really excited about the time on Saturday,” he said, noting that the time will be 7 p.m. “I’ve sold all my chances in the drawing, and that’s a great first step. It’s a free event to everyone, but there will be some great raffle items that I think will go off very well…The whole family is excited about this. I talked to my wife about it at first and she and everyone said to go for it. My kids love it. They’re all helping me and we’re trying to get them all to come to the Parade.”
Among the raffle items include a host of hockey jerseys, given the Tkachuk connection to hockey (Jack’s son is former St. Louis pro Keith Tkachuk, his grandson Matt is an emerging star with Calgary, and his other grandson plays at Boston University). Some of the signed jerseys include Austin Matthews, Charlie McAvoy, Matt Grzelcyk, Cam Neely, Sidney Crosby, Matt Tkachuk and others. There will also be some fabulous wine baskets, and gift card baskets.
Tkachuk, who now lives in Medford, grew up on Sheafe Street (off of Cook Street) and his father still lives there. He attended St. Francis School in Grades 1-8, and then graduated from Boston English High School in 1965.
After looking into school, he decided to join the Marines with several other Charlestown friends, going to California and shortly after getting drafted.
He arrived in Vietnam in December 1967 and was assigned to Marble Mountain working with helicopters. He spent 13 months there, and then went back for a second tour.
“I tried to go back for a third tour, but I didn’t have enough time on my enlistment to get it,” he said.
After working for a year at the Navy Yard, Tkachuk embarked on a long career with the Boston Fire Department, working in Charlestown first off at Ladder 22. He also spent a brief period in Charlestown at Engine 50.
However, the bulk of his career (22 years) was at Ladder 17 on Columbus Avenue in the Back Bay/South End.
“That was a big station when I was there,” he said. “There were a lot of fires and that’s when people were burning a lot of buildings down. I just loved the camaraderie, working together with people and helping people. That’s what it’s all about. It was never the same every day. We had some really big fires, but it went by very quickly.”
After 42 years on the Department, Tkachuk retired.
During his days at the Fire Department, he also worked at the Garden on the Bull Gang for the Celtics and Bruins. In addition, he worked on the docks near Castle Island, something his wife Geraldine still does.
Through it all, he said, from his days as a kid to his time as an adult, the Parade was a highlight each year.
“I used to live and die for the Parade,” he said. “We had so many people that would have parties along with the Parade. You would go from house to house. I always made sure to get my Hoodsie’s at the Clubs and Firehouses when I was a kid. The people were just really good to us.”
So far, Tkachuk is working on getting the Marine Corps Band to make a run in the Parade, and he said he would continue the new tradition of the Chief Marshal hosting a family-style Block Party during Pride Week.
Tkachuk’s wife is Geraldine, and he has four adult children, including Kevin, Keith, Mary Kay and Beth.