John J. “Jack” Sopel Jr.

John J. “Jack” Sopel Jr.

March 13, 1927 — March 22, 2018

John J. “Jack” Sopel Jr., 91, passed away March 22, 2018, at his home in Meadowlakes, Texas. Jack was born on March 13, 1927, in Newmarket, New Hampshire, to John and Florence Brackett Sopel. When he was nine, the family moved to Manchester, and he attended the Manchester Public Schools, graduating from Central High School with the class of 1945.

He immediately joined the U.S. Navy, where he proudly served aboard the destroyer USS Radford DD443 in the Pacific Theater during World War II. After his naval service, he returned to Manchester and attended the New Hampshire Vocational Technical College, where he studied automotive technology and welding. While employed at Jenny Gas Station on Elm Street, he met Frances “Frankie” Duval. After a five-year courtship, they were married on Sept. 6, 1952, at St. Georges Catholic Church.

He was owner-operator of two well-known Manchester full-service filling stations, Sopel’s Gulf and Sopel’s Shell, on opposite corners of Elm Street. He was active in the Jaycees and chaired the 1964 Manchester Winter Carnival, which at the time was the second-largest winter carnival in the United States. In 1968, he joined the industrial arts departments at Manchester West High School. He subsequently taught at the Manchester Skill Center and Manchester Central High School, teaching automotive and small-engine repair and proved to be a gifted educator.

Jack, however, was probably best known for his contributions to the Manchester sports scene. While his boys were little, he began coaching baseball with North Little League, and one of his stars, Mike LaValliere, went on to play professional baseball. Jack was also a promoter of American Legion Baseball, serving as athletic director at Post 79. He was a pioneering girls softball coach, starting the program at West High School in 1974. He soon built that program into a dynasty, winning four state softball titles and being the runner-up twice between 1979 and 1990. Jack, with his signature crew-cut, patrolled the sidelines for two decades as a well-respected varsity assistant, freshman and junior varsity football coach at both West and Central. Among the many players whose lives he touched is Chip Kelly, the current head football coach of UCLA. He also was a cross country and track coach at West.

After retiring from Central High School, Jack and Frankie moved to Texas, where he remained active, golfing 5-6 times a week and proudly being able to “shoot his age.”

Jack is survived by his beloved wife of 65 years, Frankie; children, Dr. Gregory Sopel and wife, Gloria, of Meadowlakes, Texas, attorney Timothy Sopel and wife Dr. Cindy Grisham of Benton, Arkansas, and inventor and entrepreneur Matthew Sopel and wife Shauna of Friendswood, Texas; a sister, Natalie Kukla of Auburn, Alabama; two brothers, James Sopel of Rangeley, Maine, and Michael Sopel of Tuscola, Illinois; eight grandchildren, James, Micah, Michael, Robert, Kayla, Erika, Jack, and Rushton, and two great-grandchildren, Emmalyn and Grace; as well as 26 nieces and nephews.

He is preceded in death by his parents, one brother William Sopel, and his granddaughter Ashley Sopel.

A funeral Mass will be held at 10 a.m. Friday, April 6, at St. Paul the Apostle Catholic Church in Horseshoe Bay, Texas, with interment at Central Texas State Veterans Cemetery, in Killeen, Texas.

Online condolences may be made at clementswilcoxfuneralhome.com.

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