John Ratkovic

Jack Ratkovic’s career as a coach and organizer began when he became a lifeguard at Armour Square Park in Bridgeport, teaching countless numbers of men, women and children the joys of swimming. He is also remembered for performing a dramatic high dive into a burning pool of water. He worked in the athletic department of the Catholic Youth Organization, coached a women’s softball team in the early days of women’s athletics, refereed basketball games in industrial leagues, and played a major role in organizing Little and Pony Leagues at Marquette Park. He even managed a semi-pro basketball team for the Ford Motor Company during World War II. From the late ‘60s to 1980, Jack Ratkovic was the supervisor at Kelly Park. While at Kelly, he supervised all the after school activities there, and at Kelly High School for twelve years. Ratkovic believed that playing sports was a way to help troubled young people stay off the streets, and he is credited with turning more than a few troubled lives around. He was also instrumental in getting lights installed at Kelly Park for the men’s softball league, one of the very best in Chicago at that time. After twenty years with the Park District, Jack retired to Padre Island, Texas. Retirement, however, did not stop his organizing activities. He helped establish the Texas Silver Hair Legislature, a governmental body dedicated to issues important to senior citizens. He was a guiding force in lowering insurance premiums for persons living along the Texas coast. His efforts paid off when he was elected to three consecutive terms in the Texas State Legislature. When Jack Ratkovic passed away on February 7, 1995, the Texas legislature adjourned at noon, and the flag over the Texas State Capitol flew at half staff in his honor.