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Through Chess, Jack Mangan Taught Kids How To Make Moves In Life

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- A Minneapolis man taught hundreds of kids how to win at the game of life.

He did it by teaching them how to play chess.

Jack Mangan was a volunteer chess coach for more than 20 years.

Jack Mangan
(credit: Mangan family)

"I think it gave them a sense of purpose, a feeling of success," said Mangan's friend, Bill Garner. "It gave them confidence."

Mangan worked with students in Minneapolis Public Schools and teenagers in the Hennepin County Juvenile Detention Center.

He was a man who knew how to show love.

"He was just the embodiment of what is good in life," said his wife, Jean Mangan. "I was so loved and those kids were so mentored."

The couple met in their 30s when they joined a club for people who love the outdoors.

They spent three decades together -- hiking, canoeing, cross-country skiing... sometimes bringing kids from their North Minneapolis community along.

"He said most kids need somebody to affirm them, to help them see the best in themselves," Jean Mangan said. "And most kids need more than just their family."

When Mangan worked as a behavior specialist at Seward Montessorri School in Minneapolis, he started a chess club -- one that would go on to win multiple national competitions and build a collection of trophies.

Garner, a physical education teacher, helped Mangan coach the chess club.

"He really connected with these kids who were looking for some kind of success at school," he said. "Oftentimes, he was seeing them because they were not able to function in their classroom. One of the things he started doing was bringing out a chess board."

Through chess, the students would learn how to think critically about a situation, plan moves.

Eight years ago, Alex Adams joined Mangan as a volunteer at the Hennepin County Juvenile Detention Center.

The two of them introduced chess to teenagers, giving them a new place to take their battles, utilizing new "weapons of choice."

"They need opportunity, they are just as smart and just as capable as anybody," Adams said. "They're just in a place where they got into some trouble and they are going to get out of that trouble."

"That is what Jack believed in," he added.

Jack Mangan died on Sept. 1 at his home.

He was 67 years old.

Donations in his honor can be made to Minneapolis Chess, which funds tournaments for kids.


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