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Father of Pac-wide softball tournament dies at 77

By DAVE ORNAUER | STARS AND STRIPES Published: November 21, 2019

Bennie L. Jackson, a retired Army soldier and MWR employee for decades at Yongsan Garrison in Seoul who helped build the Pacific-wide interservice tournament into an institution, died on Nov. 7 in Los Angeles after a long illness. He was 77.

Jackson, originally from Perry, Ga., spent more than 50 years in Korea as both a soldier and civilian employee. Initially an admin clerk, Jackson retired in 1980 as a sergeant first class, then took a job with Army Morale, Welfare and Recreation on Yongsan as a fitness specialist. He retired in 2017 and moved to Southern California to be with family.

In 1991, Jackson took over the Pacific-wide tournament, which had been founded more than two decades earlier as the San Miguel Invitational at Naval Communications Station Philippines. The Pac-wide, as it became known, grew exponentially in the late 1990s and early 2000s, at one time hosting as many as 48 teams at the Lombardo Field FourPlex.

“There has to be something for the elite athlete,” Jackson said in 1992, when the military services began scaling back funding for post-level sports and emphasizing core programs such as fitness, intramurals and youth sports.

Jackson, with the support of his longtime supervisor and Yongsan MWR director Paul Robinson, kept the Pac-wide running as a platform for military ballplayers to tune their games for possible selection to their respective service softball tryout camps and the annual All-Armed Forces tournaments.

It was a training ground for some who ended up becoming tournament directors themselves, such as Robert Waddle, a retired Air Force chief master sergeant who has lived and worked in Korea for 28 years and ran the most recent Pac-wide, which was held at Osan Air Base.

“He was a true mentor,” Waddle said. “I spent many hours sitting next to him … soaking up knowledge and learning what it takes to run successful sports activities.”

In lieu of flowers, contributions can be made in Jackson’s honor to support the Veterans Administration’s greater Los Angeles health care system, Jackson’s family said in an email.

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