Longtime local resident John Tuck died in a senior rest home in Austin, Texas, on Thursday, Feb. 18—from a combination of Covid-19, pneumonia and dementia.
Tuck was one of those who seemed much larger than life, and he left behind hundreds of friends and a lot of wild stories here in Santa Cruz, where he lived for more than 50 years. He was dedicated to his profession of making sure children were in safe homes for the county, but along with friend Billie Harris, also serious about acting. They played together in Arms and The Man at UCSC’s Barn Theatre, acted in Separate Tables at the Pasatiempo Inn, and in The Boyfriend at Cowell College. He was also the lead in Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf at the Staircase Theatre—where I saw all 14 performances and rehearsals.
Tuck was devoted to his community. He wrote a weekly column for the Buy and Sell Press in Soquel in 1970, convincing me that I could, too. After pushing from Manny Santana, he and I joined the board of the Cabrillo Music Festival, and Tuck became a director—and I the treasurer—of the Santa Cruz County Fair. Tuck and I emceed the Christmas dinners and worked with the Grey Bears for 25 years or more: We also bought the very first beers at the “New” Catalyst, Chris Mathews’ Poet and Patriot, Clouds, and Lulu Carpenters.
Amid all this, Tuck found the time to be fiercely political. He was a prime mover in saving Wilder Ranch, acting as an ombudsman to raise the necessary funds to hire a professional organizer. He got me into that battle, too, as a result of which I got sued for $121,000,000 for libel! Attorney Jack Jacobson further reminds me that Tuck was also a member and supporter of Community Bridges.
Tuck went to Africa with the Peace Corps and loved it, then served the Corps again in China. While there he fell in love with his second wife Ming, bringing her back here to Santa Cruz. Probably the fondest memories any of us have of him are the backyard parties that he, Paul Dragavon and I held. We called them the “¼ of July” Gatherings, and welcomed dignitaries like Leon Panetta, Henry Mello and Sam Farr along with local politicos like Bert Muhly, Gary Patton and others. In these and so many other ways, Tuck gave a huge amount to Santa Cruz.
His friends are legion, and deeply saddened by his loss. His family, Kyle, Jaala, Buddha, probably Ballan, and his former wife Sherry, miss him very much. And I do, too.