Jack McColl is being recognized for his contributions to the local sporting community as an innovator and entrepreneur. He was born at home in Glen Rock, N.J. in 1925, the son of Ellena McKenzie Heddle McColl and John Rome McColl, Sr. Following graduation from Ridgewood High School in New Jersey, in 1943, where he played baseball and basketball, he joined the 8th Air Force to fight in World War II. Jack flew B-25s in advanced training and later was transferred to B- 17 heavy bombers. He flew missions over Europe for the 303rd bomb group, known as the “Hell’s Angels” where he survived several near death experiences. After the war, he obtained his commercial pilot’s license but opted to study economics at Colgate University instead of pursuing a career in commercial aviation. At Colgate Jack played intercollegiate basketball, was the school’s middleweight boxing champion and skied regularly.
After graduation, Jack eventually settled in Branford with his wife and four children, and established a heating and air conditioning business. His company, McColl-Wade, served the New Haven area for 35 years until it was sold. Jack retired to manage his office buildings. One of his buildings was a solar heating grantee from the Energy Research and Development Administration (ERDA). His company installed the first commercial solar air heating system in New England approved by ERDA.
Jack was one of five founders, part owner, President and C.E.O. of the professional hockey team known as the New Haven Nighthawks which came into existence in 1971. He joins Branford Sports Hall of Fame members Macgregor Kilpatrick (2009) and Karl Marsh (2007) and New Haven’s Greg McCoy as having provided the leadership for the franchise and the League. Jack and his Nighthawk associates brought to New Haven the Red Army Team, which arguably, was the world’s best hockey team at the time; in the Russian team’s debut in America Jack was founder and director of the midget youth hockey program, a director of the New Haven Hockey Fathers’ Association, and a Governor of the American Hockey League. He and his wife Roberta established the New Haven Coliseum Skating Club.
In addition, Jack was a charter member of the Association of Energy Engineers, a director of the Branford Lions’ Club and Chamber of Commerce, New Haven Business Executive Member, Deacon and Treasurer of the First Congregational Church in Branford.
One of his biggest pleasures was camping in the Adirondack Mountains which he continued to do with his children and grandchildren every year up until his passing. Jack described himself as “a happy guy” and his children describe him as “One great Dad.”
Jack McColl is survived by his wife of 52 years, Roberta Walker McColl, of Branford, his children John R. McColl III, Lauren McColl Sullivan, Robin McColl Axtell, all of Branford, and Susan G. McColl of Deep River. He was the grandfather of Stephanie, Lindsay, Emily, Rome, Kelsey, and Elizabeth.
Jack McColl loved Branford and was always willing to play a role in helping others in the community succeed or just enjoy life more. His contributions to athletics cannot be measured through a best time or with points but through the improvement and enrichment of Branford’s sports community which he was so happy to support and contribute to.