Jesse K. Park Jr. rose from obscurity helped by one man, George V. Brown. Little is known of Park’s background or future after World War I. What is known is that he was in the right place at the right time for the Navy Yard hockey team. I doubt if history will ever be able to discern if he genuinely wanted to help the Navy Yard team or was a pawn of George Brown.
Born in 1886, Jesse K. Park Jr’s family moved from New Haven, Connecticut to Newton, Massachusetts by 1910. His skill in high school sports did not capture the imagination of newspapers of the time. Thus, his sudden rise in hockey appears to come from nowhere.
In the pre-war years, little exists of Park’s college or young adult years. A rare mention exists of a family vacation to New Haven, Connecticut in 1908. He clearly went to college, but where was unknown. When the war started, Park commissioned in the National Naval Volunteers. By December 1917, he attained the rank of Lt. J.G. and was in charge of aviation examinations. He screened potential applicants for the US Navy’s new aviation branch.
I can imagine George Brown approaching Park with the offer of a lifetime. As every good salesman knows, fame is everything and free publicity is worth dollars. Park helped several of the Navy hockey team members to become Naval and Marine Corps aviators. In return, he got his free publicity.
After the war, Park seemed to fade away to the ordinary life. Little is known of Park after the war. He ran an automobile dealership at least through the 20s. He married Katherine McGillen in 1923. They didn’t seem to have children. In August 1965, Catherine passed away. Park passed away in February 1975. How they lived, survived, and loved has been lost. Still, his contribution to those that played on the Navy Yard team cannot be overlooked.