Jack D. Coombe, 96, is a historian and author of nine books, which vary in subject from the Civil War to an autobiography about his career as a scriptwriter and actor. His father was a comedian and his mother was a dancer, which he says is why he was put on stage at 6 years old. Coombe went on to be a performer in Vaudeville, theater, radio and television. He hosted two cable television shows, including “Talk Around Town,” a Northbrook cable TV talk show. He served in the U.S. Navy from 1940 to 1946, and he served in Pearl Harbor. He was married to his wife, Peg, for about 70 years. He was born in Michigan. He lives at Belmont Village in Glenview.
Q: What inspired you to become an author?
A: I’ve always been interested in writing. As a teenager, even as a boy in school, I use to scribble or outline a story. Then I continued on through and studied and took courses in English and literature.
Q: Why write about World War II and the Civil War specifically?
A: I served in World War II. I’m probably one of the five survivors of Pearl Harbor still kicking. I just loved the Civil War and I loved to study about it and then I decided I’d write about it too.
Q: Is there a memory that sticks out when you look back on your Navy career?
A: Pearl Harbor was a significant time in my military career. I still have the scar where I was wounded in this leg. When they dropped the atomic bomb, I was in the Pacific when they did it. We got there soon after and saw some of the damage that was done. Of course, we couldn’t go too close because there was radio activity all over. What I like about my career is I met so many famous people like President Carter … and of course Marilyn Monroe. Marilyn, she was brilliant. She had a brilliant mind.
Q: How would you overcome writer’s block?
A: My love of the business. Occasionally if I get stuck, I’ll talk to myself. I’ll say to myself ‘how are we gonna get this guy out of this situation. Let’s look at it this way.’ Then I start in and boom, gates open. Information came out. That’s how I managed to get through and write nine books.
Q: What moment in history that you lived through sticks out the most?
A: There’s so many. I think my experiences in the war and when I chummed around with President Carter. We became friends and I would accompany him sometimes when he visited as president. And Marilyn Monroe. She whispered in my ear ‘You’re my kind of guy, Jack.’
Q: What is your secret to living a long life?
A: Always have something to do. My dad always told me don’t ever give up. He said there’s always a way out of a difficult situation and it was true all through my career.
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