John "Jack" Costello

A man who measured success by saving people not money

John "Jack" Costello


For 20 years, Jack coached boxing. He loved boxing and was a respected amateur with plans to turn pro. But the Korean War interrupted any plans he might have had. Jack continued toto bbox while in the army as he served in an Army Military Police unit. Shortly after the war, he married the former Anne M. Sands, and any try at a pro fight career was put aside.


Jack turned to training and managing young amateurs. For 14 years, he managed and trained fighters at the Harrowgate Boxing Club at Venango and Jasper streets, and for his last five years, he did the same at the Cambria Boxing Club at Frankford Avenue and Clearfield Street.


He saw boxing as a way to teach a youngster discipline and self-confidence, attributes that will steer most kids away from the youthful pitfalls on

the street.


"He was always keeping kids in the neighborhood out of jail or out of trouble. If they got jammed up, he went out of his way wherever he could," said Chris Costello, one of his sons. "He got along with everybody. He was tough, known as a tough guy. Not as a barroom brawler type, but if you were right, he would back you to the hilt. If he thought you were wrong, he wouldn't hesitate to tell you that."


The phone at Jack Costello's house was always ringing. It was often a call for help - a youngster from the neighborhood, a fellow employee trying to get his or her act together, or an alcoholic from anywhere who was given Jack's name and number to pull out of the wallet when all of life's strings ran out.


"He was a firm believer that you gotta give it away to keep it," said his son. His son said Jack "didn't measure success in dollars, he'd say, 'So I kept a kid outta jail, so who's successful?' "


In 1982, Mayor William Green presented Jack with the City of Brotherly Love Award for his contributions to the community. While walking up Market Street with his family to receive the award at the mayor's office, Jack stopped and introduced his family to a street person, one of a number of vent people Jack came to know during his first 17 years with PE when he worked in the steam heat division.


Jack wanted his kids to know the up-and-down side to everything. It was a ritual in the Costello home that when one of the kids graduated from the eighth grade "it was automatic. You pack your suitcase and you're going to Malvern with Dad," recalled Chris. Every year or so, in August, he added to the Costello family delegation that went on retreat with the Men of Malvern, an organization he affiliated with in 1954. At each retreat, he would have a group picture of his children and him. "He was a very spiritual man," Chris said.


In his later years, Jack was featured in the PE magazine and a film on his community service, and in 1982 Prism did a feature on his work with young boxers. In 1989, he was inducted into the Pennsylvania State Boxing Hall of Fame.


in 1988 Jack, who for years held two or three jobs at a time, had a heart attack. Doctors and family told him to slow down. He agreed, then continued his regular pace.


in 1990 he went into the hospital for a quadruple bypass. If, as they say, even old fighters never lose their punch, the recovered alcoholic never loses his sense of humor.


Just before surgery, Jack asked the doctor standing next to him if he could say a prayer.


"No, it isn't unusual to ask that," said the doctor solemnly, taking the hook.


Jack looked up and said, "Holy Father, please forgive my sons for what they do to this surgeon if I don't come out of this."


He was also proud of his marriage, and last year, on their 35th anniversary, Jack and Anne renewed their vows. Every weekend night he could, he took his wife to dinner and dancing.


But his next love was always boxing. Coaching it, talking it or watching it. When a fight was on television, said his son, he always rooted for the same fighter.


The underdog.​