by Robert Berczuk
February 10, 2005
Dreams Take Local Couple To The Top
Determination and the desire to take chances can help one achieve great success in life no matter how humble their beginnings.
That has been the case of a South Dayton couple who went from their hometown farms to the White House lawn and several places in between while meeting dozens of political, sports and business leaders.
John and Audrey Jachym grew up in rural South Dayton during the Great Depression. Their rise has included part ownership of a major league baseball team, state dinners with senators and foreign dignitaries and working on President Ronald Reagan's 1980 presidential campaign.
While their achievements have been far-reaching, they credit the people closest to them with helping them realize what's most important in life.
"The purpose of life is to make it a better world in some manner, either significant or minor," Jachym said.
Today's youth - especially those who want to leave the area and be successful, but think their opportunities to do so are limited - shouldn't be afraid to dream, he said.
Opportunities still exist for those who are willing to persevere until they find what they want, he said.
"You must keep your ideals and dreams and you must work very, very hard at it," Jachym said. "Character is the thing that endures."
While it may be difficult to leave one's family and the security of one's home, children and young adults should take advantage of the opportunities presented to them, Mrs. Jachym said.
"If there's nothing for them here and they have an opportunity, I would encourage them to leave," she said.
That kind of encouragement allowed the Jachyms to live lives and meet people they only read about as children.
Jachym was born in Ohio in 1918, and his family moved to South Dayton when he was a boy. He was an only child and his parents operated a dairy farm.
Bored with his $10 a week job at a local drug store, Jachym decided he wanted to experience what a big city had to offer, so he chose to make the 400 mile journey to the Big Apple.
Jachym's adventurous nature took him to New York City when he was only 17. He credits his parents with providing the encouragement he needed to leave the security of his home in the heart of the Great Depression.
"They didn't just acquiesce, they encouraged me to do this," he said.
Although Jachym's brief stint in New York City - where he worked for an area newspaper and Lord & Taylor Department store - wasn't as successful as he would have liked it, it was a sign of things to come.
"It satisfied my curiosity because as a normal youngster you're very curious and secondly I think it helped solidify my desire for greater exposure - to go somewhere else instead of living on the farm," Jachym said.
"I never prayed for success. I prayed for an opportunity," he said.
Mrs. Jachym, who was born in 1924, also learned life should not be limited to her surroundings in the rural Cattaraugus County village.
"My parents always taught us to better ourselves," she said.
"One of the ways to do that is to take advantage of opportunities, no matter how peculiar the situation," Jachym said.
Jachym was working for the Jefferson City, Mo. newspaper in 1941 when he was asked to interview St. Louis Cardinals' owner Branch Rickey Sr. Rickey had been offered the Republican nomination for governor, but turned it down. The election of 1940 was the only one won by a Republican from 1933-1973.
"I wanted to ask him about the political implications, but he started talking baseball," Jachym said.
The two discussed their mutual love of baseball and Rickey offered Jachym a job as a scout. Jachym turned him down, saying he wanted to pursue a journalism career, but his willingness to accept a challenge caught up with him a few months later.
Jachym moved back to this area and was working at the Dunkirk Evening-Observer when one of Rickey's employees tracked him down and again offered him a scouting job.
Jachym was allowed to keep his morning job at the newspaper and scouted for Rickey in the afternoon.
While his employment for Rickey was brief, Jachym said he learned several invaluable lessons from one of baseball's pioneers - including the importance of character, integrity and loyalty.
"Mr. Rickey told me 'If you don't have loyalty, you don't have anything,' and I've never forgotten that," he said.
His affiliation with baseball would grow following a stint in the U.S. Marines from 1941-1945.
He owned the Jamestown Falcons from 1946-1948 and worked for the Detroit Tigers for several years before borrowing some money from a friend to buy 40 percent of the Washington Senators in December 1949 for about $500,000.
Jachym sold his portion of the team six months later, but the people he met through baseball allowed him to make key connections in the business world, he said.
The link between business and sport has helped Jachym achieve great success, but it also was the source for one his first failings.
In 1938, Jachym was a junior at the University of Missouri. That fall, Jachym and two friends decided to run an illegal football pool. His friends provided the game sheets and collected the money while Jachym's job was to pick eight college football games each week.
"I said there were some financial possibilities and it was an adventure and I liked that," Jachym said.
The trio won every game the first three weeks, earning each about $25. By the fourth week Jachym and his friends' confidence reached a point where they had spent the money before the games were finished.
A close game the fourth week, on which the three would have lost a lot of money, finished in a tie, saving Jachym from the wrath of the winning bettors, the college's dean and worst of all - his mother.
"I don't think I've ever experienced a fear like that," he said. "But because of this almost disaster, I got very financially conservative."
Jachym used a conservative financial approach in his successful 28-year career in business. The lessons he learned from his parents and Rickey were guides during his career, he said.
"Just to make money is easy - you can be unscrupulous," he said.
Instead, one should be open and honest, as well as give the best effort possible, he said. A constant effort shows people you care about your performance while allowing one to make mistakes along the way.
"Your whole career is really based on your performance," Jachym said. "You're not an actor where the last one was a flop, but you go down the line."
Jachym's consistent performance and excellent reputation has garnered the attention of several presidents.
President Richard Nixon invited Jachym to an economic advisors meeting in the early 1970s. He was one of a handful of U.S. businessmen invited to discuss the country's economy.
He also served as President Reagan's director of business and industry during the 1980 campaign. He was responsible for approving the content of any speeches Reagan made on business related topics.
After the election he was offered a chance to be an ambassador, but declined in order to pursue other interests.
"I said the only place I'd be ambassador was somewhere there was good golf, like Australia," Jachym said. "I didn't want to be limited - I wanted to do everything," he said.
So Jachym and his wife turned their attention to golf. Despite not taking up the game until age 43, Jachym's interest in golf and the Professional Golf Association led him to a quick ascent in the PGA hierarchy.
He became a member of the PGA advisory board in 1965. At the time some of the board's members were Bing Crosby, Bob Hope, Perry Como and several congressmen, he said.
He is now chairman of the advisory board, a position he also held for two-year stints in 1973-74 and 1983-84.
Mrs. Jachym is active in the Ladies Professional Golf Association, serving the past 11 years on the board of directors for the Women's Western Golf Association, which provides scholarships to young female golfers.
Through golf, the Jachyms have met many famous people, including Dennis Thatcher, the husband of former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.
Mrs. Jachym and Thatcher were seated at the same table at an Orlando, Fla., country club party in 1987. The two hit it off and decided to have breakfast with Jachym the next day.
While the Jachyms have been connected with many famous people during their lives, there have been some humbling experiences as well.
Jachym credits growing up in a small town as the key to his ability to be respected by world leaders yet humble with everyday people.
"I know people in all walks of life," he said. "I like people and I think growing up on a farm was very good for me. Living in that environment taught me to be humble and taught me to respect people."
"Also you have to be able to laugh at yourself."
In the summer of 1939, only a few months after his short-lived career as a bookie ended, Jachym was humbled by a Jamestown native who achieved some fame herself - Lucille Ball.
Jachym and a friend went to Buffalo to see Miss Ball and fellow actress Maureen O'Hara. The mother of Jachym's friend knew Miss Ball and they were invited backstage.
When Miss Ball went to light a cigarette, Jachym tried to display his worldly, college charm and light the cigarette for her.
"She said, 'It's OK kid, I can light my own.'" Jachym said.
In the past 50 years, the Jachyms have been photographed with many world leaders at various events. But at a 1944 embassy dinner in Washington, D.C., the couple mistakenly thought they were the focus of one of the photographers.
As they walked through the reception line, a photographer readied to take a picture. Thinking the photo was going to be of them, the Jachyms quickly tried to prepare themselves. Just before the photographer snapped the picture Jachym looked over his shoulder to see Secretary of State Edward R. Stettinius Jr. and his wife - the photographer's actual subjects.
The Jachyms have come a long way from their rural South Dayton roots. But they didn't do it alone and they have always been grateful to the people who helped them along the way.
"I can't enumerate all the people who have been helpful to me in some manner," Jachym said.
Jachym said his wife's support has been one of the keys to his success.
"Whatever success I had was because of her," he said.
Mrs. Jachym said she always supported her husband and looked forward to any new adventure they tried. In turn Jachym was able to fulfill a promise he made to his wife when they first got married.
"I remember John telling me that if we were married, I would have a very wonderful, interesting complete life and that we have - we have done so many things that other people don't have the opportunity to do," Mrs. Jachym said. "It was much more than I would have ever expected."
A lot of what the Jachyms have achieved can be credited to desire and a willingness to take a chance - combined with their convictions that success is not measured by tangible items, but by intangible gratitude.
"Everything you do shouldn't be done so you're going to get something in return," he said. "If you start doing things because you're going to be rewarded, you're missing the most important facet of success."
And success is something the Jachyms know plenty about - you can bet the farm on it, as long as it's not on a college football game.