Jon knew dirty rotten lowlifes well, to use one of his favorite phrases. “You know that car dealer on TV?” he’d say, speaking of certain commercials. “I know him. He’s a dirty rotten lowlife. I’ve seen him at the auction. He has a woman in one arm and he holds a drink in the other.” Jon knew dirty rotten lowlifes because he had been dirtier than any of them. When he muscled in on the mob’s territory, the mob came to pay him a visit. He emerged from his shack with a live grenade in each hand! “Now, what is it that you boys wanted?” They suddenly remembered that they really hadn’t wanted anything at all.
Years later, after Jon had become one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, my son began to sweat when police stopped the car his friend was driving. The two had some fireworks inside—not exactly legal at the time. “Watch this,” the friend said as the policeman approached. The cop asked for his license. “Officer,” the friend asked, ‘“do you know my dad, Jon Markow?” A pause. “This doesn’t say Markow,” the cop said, examining the license. “It says Sanchez.” “Yeah, Jon married my mom. He’s the one who raised me.” This got the officer thinking, and presently he bid my son and friend a good evening and let them go with a friendly admonition to drive safely.
“See that fellow over there?” one cop said to his buddy at the coffee shop, pointing to Jon. “He used to be the meanest SOB around and he turned out better than all of us.”
At a committee meeting over an elder who turned out to be a real stinker and Jon saw it before anyone else—in fact, he spotted it instantly, mostly because he had traveled in the same circles—Jon stated what he had seen and that elder called him a liar. Jon reached across the table and half yanked him out of his chair by the lapels. It was all the other brothers could do to persuade him that “we don’t do it that way here, Jon.”
“How can you brothers be so naive!?” he said astounded to those ones, who could not believe the evidence unfolding right before their eyes. But after the dust finally settled, one of them approached to say: “You’re right, Jon. We are naive.” Sometimes elders are naive.
He also told off a certain overbearing traveling overseer. His body of elders had worked and worked and had a huge number all pumped up excited during the month over auxiliary pioneering—people that hadn’t done it in ages or even ever. They had rearranged priorities and were all hopped up. The visitor came along and said: “Well, it’s a good start.” “Way to crush the spirit of the congregation,” Jon told him.
Besides my sympathies to the family, his death made me sit up and take notice. It didn’t shake me to the core—that would be too strong to put it that way—but it drew more attention than the deaths of most people for whom I am inclined to pass off as ‘another one bites the dust.’ Sounds callous, I know, but I really am one who believes in the resurrection—death is just the beginning of a long but temporary leave-of-absence and I know that I will not see them for a long while but in most cases I was not seeing them anyway. I have said before that “nobody wants to die—it’s inconvenient and it makes people feel bad,” but other than that—so what? The resurrection will undo it all. Jon’s death was different.
He really wasn’t that old—maybe just two or three years more than me, I think. He might even have been younger. Your definition of what is ‘old’ increases as you get older yourself. I am of the age where I think that I have 20 good years ahead of me, plenty of time to get everything down in writing. But you never know. Maybe life will throw a me curve ball and I will be gone tomorrow. What is that verse about how we are a mist appearing for a little while and then disappearing? Ah—here it is: James 4:14. “Tell your dad you love him,” Davey-the-Kid said to me after his dad died unexpectedly, for which notice they had paged him at the Pittsburgh Special Assembly.
I have said once or twice—no more than that because I really liked the man—that Jon was the originator of 100 stories, each one of which he was the hero. Ordinarily this would be an extremely tiresome quality, but in Jon it was not—I think because I never doubted (and still don’t) that each and every story was true and he really did act as a hero. One can tell when something has the ring of truth and corresponds with experience and known fact in every conceivable way. Having seen it all, he had turned all his energy and empathy towards the congregation and the ones within it.
I have fond memories of our family camping with his at the campground In upstate New York. The two of us would talk for hours by the campfire and then continue while walking the grounds. Sometimes the most trivial details are the ones that survive. Jon used an expression that I had never heard before (or since). I asked him about it. I found it humorous and thus it became a running joke—“throw one over the hoop.” It means taking a leak, and I suppose it is a reference to slobs too lazy to put the toilet seat up. “I’m off to throw one over the hoop,” we would tell each other throughout the weekend, particularly after downing a beer or two.