Jack Tuller, Self-Described “Brain Tumor Guy,” Says Farewell
Jack Tuller called himself lucky. That’s saying a lot, considering that in 1994, at the age of 32, he was diagnosed with a terminal brain tumor and given about one year to live. Undaunted, Jack fought the ticking time-bomb with spirit, grace, and more than a few extremely funky dance moves. Lo and behold, he defied all odds, going on to experience a quarter-century’s worth of laughter, travel, and loving relationships.
His battle ended on August 30, 2019, when Jack—a lifelong performer—donned a set of Heffner-esque silk pajamas, took a final bow, and exited life’s stage. His final moments were spent in the warm embrace of his wife Jennifer Carino, the love of his life and the rock he held on to for all those years.
The man lived and died on his own terms. As he promised to do (over and over again to family, friends, and even casual acquaintances), he passed away singing along to these lyrics of the 1984 song by the alternative rock band The Alarm:
Going out in a blaze of glory
My hands are held up high
Jack was born on July 15, 1961. He was raised as a latchkey kid in San Mateo, California, but made his life and identity in San Francisco, the city where his banjo-playing grandfather played jazz in the 1920s. Jack and Jennifer lived in nearly every neighborhood in the city. They briefly retreated to homes in Boonville, San Leandro, and the Westlake section of Daly City, where their backyard was the mighty Pacific. But Jack’s heart was always in San Francisco, where without giving it a thought, he would walk from one end of the city to the other. As anybody who has driven with Jack will confirm, he was physically unable to refrain from telling you the best way to navigate through the city.
Jack put himself through college, earning a bachelor’s degree in Multimedia Design from San Francisco State University in 1992. Until Jack came along, SF State didn’t offer a degree in Multimedia Design. He created the major to merge his prescient understanding of where technology and entertainment were heading—and how his talents could be expressed in an emerging field.
Like every other aspect of his life, his career path followed a logic of its own. He was a musician, graphic designer, video producer, marketing consultant, technology sales rep, and residential-leasing agent. Above all else, his stock and trade was an ability to connect with people. Whether on the job or taking his dog for a walk, Jack had the uncanny ability to strike up a casual conversation that magically turned into a meaningful experience—and more than a few times into a lifelong friendship.
Jack had a vast multitude of friends. They were from all walks of life with a heavy emphasis on musicians, artists, writers, filmmakers, and fellow free spirits. His positivity was a force of nature. He took every exchange as an opportunity to shower his friends with compliments and encouragement. Jack was happiest when others were happy and personally fulfilled.
“Jack was a truth-teller, the one who always told me what I needed to hear, even when it wasn’t necessarily what I wanted to hear,” said Matt Iribarne, a short-story writer and long-time friend of Jack’s. “He was the most genuine and big-hearted person, the very definition of a true friend.”
“We are his legacy,” said Jim Hunt, a master stair-builder and sailor, and Jack’s friend for nearly five decades. “That little dweeby son-of-a-bitch brought so many people together. It’s amazing. How does that happen?”
As a young man, Jack performed and recorded as a bass player for the 1980s Bay Area band, City of Industry. He was the manager and music-video producer for local hip-hop musician Chill E.B., playing bass at some performances, including the 1991 Bay Area Music Awards (Bammies) at the Bill Graham Auditorium. Jack also produced and edited videos for Consolidated, the Bay Area radical activist industrial music band.
Throughout his life, Jack remained an avid fan of jazz, blues, reggae, and rock. He saw live performances by many of the all-time greats, including Bobby “Blue” Bland, James Brown, John Lee Hooker, Etta James, and Nina Simone. Among Jack’s many peculiar skills, he was able to worm his way backstage to meet favorite musicians and entertainers. In the last year or so of his life, he met two of his long-time heroes: Ian Anderson, the frontman of Jethro Tull, and Dr. Lonnie Smith, the legendary American jazz Hammond B3 organist.
While traveling with his wife to Cuba in the 1990s, Jack also briefly met Fidel Castro. During that trip, Jack formed a close relationship with Al Lewis, the American actor best known for his television role as Grandpa Munster. Al became like a surrogate father to Jack, who for most of his life, did not know his biological father.
In an outlandish turn of events in 2017, Jack was reunited with his actual father, Jack Ferrell. The reunion was 55 years after the two men were separated when the younger Jack was three months old. The event and the circumstances that led to their separation is captured on video for a forthcoming documentary about Jack’s final years.
Jack’s greatest joy was traveling with his wife, Jennifer. The couple’s destinations included Argentina, Cambodia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Honduras, Malaysia, Mauritius, Mexico, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam. Two years after Jack’s second brain surgery in 2013, the duo visited Madagascar, a journey that fulfilled Jack’s wish to play with lemurs.
Jack’s first dire diagnosis was given just one month after the couple moved in together when Jennifer was 22 years old. She stayed by his side for 26 years, providing the love, deep laughs, feisty guidance, and nurturing support that kept him healthy and happy. His recovery inspired Jennifer to become an acupuncturist and Chinese Medicine practitioner. She maintains a thriving practice in San Francisco.
Jack is survived by his wife Jennifer Carino, his mother and father in-law Adalia and Ralph Carino, his father and step-mother Jack Ferrell and Sharon Franks, sister-and brother-in-law Jocelyn and Anthony Quinamague, nephews Mark, Nathan, and Dylan, cousin O.J. Leonardo as well as 26 plus cousins and legions of friends that will forever see Jack as a dear brother and an inspiration, the kindest of souls whose legacy will live on in all those who knew him.
Jack wanted younger generations to be exposed to jazz and its rich history. In honor of Jack and his love for music, his family and friends partnered with Living Jazz to create the Jack Tuller Memorial Scholarship Fund. The fund will be used to recruit interested children from diverse communities to attend a seven-day long jazz summer camp. Donations in Jack's memory can be made here:
Living Jazz, 1728 San Pablo Ave., Oakland, CA 94612 (510)858-5313
Friends & Family
Looks like something went wrong.
Reload the page and try again.