Jack Jensen

This is an obituary submitted by the family of Jack Jensen, who died unexpectedly on Wednesday.

Jack Jensen, 58, of 472 Lansingville Rd., died unexpectedly of a heart attack on October 15. He was a loving father and husband, a master builder, a steadfast friend, and a tireless advocate for social justice and the natural world.

Jack was born and educated in suburban Chicago. He enrolled at Cornell in 1974 and never moved away from Tompkins County. By the age of 23, he had a degree in engineering with a minor in English, and was also certified as a Master Carpenter. He was President of Equity Builders, a worker-owned, worker-managed cooperative that took on several notable projects, including the restoration of the Buck Mansion on Peruville Road. He worked for Better Housing for Tompkins County, Ithaca  Neighborhood Housing Services, and the Neighborhood Reinvestment Corporation, where he became a nationally recognized trainer for affordable housing groups. He also owned and operated two private contracting firms for 28 years.

Jack Jensen
Jack Jensen

In 2006, Jack founded Community Building Works!, an award-winning not-for-profit organization that recruits and trains volunteers to build green, affordable housing locally and internationally. At the time of his death, Jack was supervising the construction of Farm Pond Circle, a reforestation community that demonstrates his philosophy of “oxygen-based development.”

Jack lived large. He was a member of several championship Cornell rugby teams, and as a political columnist for the Ithaca Times in the 1980s, he was sued for libel by a political hack he had insulted in print. He is the author of several fine novels, including Meteor and The Mason’s Helper. He loved and mourned a long list of cats, dogs, and horses on the property he called Catfish Farm, where he raised his two daughters and acted as a surrogate father to many other kids. In 2011, he moved into a large home there that he designed and built alone.

Jack is survived by his wife, Mica French Jensen; two adult daughters, Jamie and Jordan Jensen; four stepsons, James, Wesley, Joshua, and William Sanders; three nephews, Jeff, Tim, and Matt Stoub; and a brother and sister, Jerry Jensen and Sandy Stoub. He leaves a legacy of fairness, fine craftsmanship, and fun. Jack’s friends will remember his acts of kindness to strangers, his disgust with the status quo, his devotion to children, and his conviction that some things are worth fighting for.

A celebration in Jack’s honor will take place at Catfish Farm beginning at 1pm on Saturday, October 25. The family asks that in lieu of flowers or gifts, friends send memorial donations to Community Building Works! at Catfish Farm, 472 Lansingville Road, Ithaca, NY, or by visiting communitybuildingworks.org.

Jeff Stein is the founder and former editor of the Ithaca Voice.