Versailles native Jack Magoteaux was feeling lucky when he visited the Dayton Community Blood Center on St. Patrick’s Day 2014. He was just 10 away from 200 lifetime donations – the equivalent of 25 gallons – and with good health and continued dedication, he was optimistic about reaching the milestone by fall of 2015. His prediction came true, but as Jack himself admits, “Many things have changed.”
Jack remained on schedule and made a Saturday, Oct. 31 appointment for his 200th donation. But keeping it would mean traveling to Dayton from his new home in Huntersville, North Carolina.
“I relocated for my job to the Charlotte area on January 30, 2015,” he explained in a message. “But that does not stop me from driving 470 miles back to Ohio to donate blood. Coming home gives me an opportunity to visit family for the weekend and to give blood to help those in need. This is my fourth trip to Ohio and this trip will be so memorable and special being my 200th donation and 25 gallons. It has been a long time coming but finally here. I am so excited!”
Jack was born and raised in Versailles, Darke County’s quaintly French village of 2,660 residents where a last name like Magoteaux is right at home. His wife Karen is from nearby North Star. He was 15 when they met at a Versailles High School basketball game. They married at 18 and will celebrate their 40th anniversary in May.
Jack’s career includes nine years at Midmark in Versailles, and the last 15 as a trainer with MSC Industrial Supply Corp. He traveled around the country to MSC sites, but when the company opened a new headquarters with a training facility in North Carolina, he was asked to move. Karen had retired from teaching 4th grade at Greenville City Schools and their three children were grown, so they decided to sell their Versailles home and go.
Everything about their lives changed – except Jack’s donation schedule. “I was so close to 25 gallons, I wanted to make every donation back home,” Jack said. “This was my home for all these years. I don’t know anybody there, I know everybody here. Giving back to your community is what it’s all about – helping people.”
Jack stayed on course but with a new routine. Every eight weeks he and Karen travel to their son Matthew’s home in Columbus to spend the weekend. He donates in Dayton and they visit their daughter Michelle in Versailles. Their daughter Melanie lives in the Atlanta area.
The miles don’t seem to bother Jack. After all, he spent 12 seasons making round trips to South Bend, Indiana to volunteer as an usher at every Notre Dame home football game. He was hand-picked to work in the end zone tunnel and shuttle coaches and celebrities through the bowels of the stadium.
He can rattle of a who’s-who list of distinguished Notre Dame alumni and guests he has met over the years: “Joe Montana, Tim Brown, Jerome Bettis, Regis Philbin, the real Rudy Ruettiger, Tommy Lasorda and Mike Golic. I met Hank Aaron when he addressed the team – a very nice man.” A favorite bit of Notre Dame trivia is about Knute Rockne’s private bathroom, where the door is always left open.
He finally said goodbye to ushering for the Irish so he could spend more time with his seven grandchildren. Jack and his son Matthew remain big Notre Dame fans.
On Saturday, Oct. 31 he made his 200th lifetime donation at the Dayton CBC. Other than a cake and well wishes from CBC staff, it was a routine donation in every way. “I feel fantastic,” he said. “I just feel great about helping people.”
It was a time to reflect on his first blood donation. “Our daughter needed open heart surgery at seven days old,” he recalled. “They put a band on her artery, and years later it had to come off. I started donating in 1979 and never stopped. It’s taken me 36 years to get to 25 gallons.”
The road does not end with this milestone. “My first goal was five gallons, then 10,” he said. “Then I said I’ll go all the way to 25 gallons. Now at 25, should I be realistic – 30 gallons?” There is no reason to doubt. Especially since every step of the journey will be another homecoming.