John W. “Jack” Coughlin, Jr. 2021 Pat Franklin Courageous Spirit Award
Few volunteers have put in more hours nor logged more miles in pursuit of a clean environment than 78-year-old John W. “Jack” Coughlin, Jr., of Agawam, Massachusetts. An outdoorsman and litter activist since his youth and a community leader during his working years, Jack in retirement went out virtually every day with his “nifty nabber” to clean up the streets, parks and shorelines of Agawam and the larger community. In addition to picking up trash, educating young people about the impact of their actions on the environment and spearheading community projects, including the long-overdue renovation of a popular boat launch on the Connecticut River, Jack pushed relentlessly for legislators to modernize Massachusetts 40-year-old deposit law, including expanding the deposit to cover the miniature liquor bottles known as “nips.” Tragically, Jack was struck by a car while on his daily litter rounds in January 2021, leaving him paralyzed from the neck down. His story sparked an outpouring of appreciation and commemorations, including renaming the 2021 “nips bill” in his honor. In March, despite Jack’s prolonged stay in the hospital and continued COVID-19 restrictions, Jack received the 2021 Pat Franklin Courageous Spirit Award in a virtual tribute presentation featuring CRI’s president and board chair and seven of Jack’s fellow citizens, including city leadership, the Senate and House sponsors of “Jack’s Bill” and representatives of several organizations. In the words of his friend and Agawam mayor William Sapelli, Jack Coughlin had “singlehandedly changed not only the mindset but the landscape of our town.” You can view the video below and you can help Jack’s family bring him home on this GoFundMe page.
Update: Unfortunately, Jack succumbed to his injuries on April 17th, 2021. His death is a great loss to his friends, family, and the environmental community. In his name, thousands of people have signed petitions encouraging a deposit to be placed on nips in Massachusetts. Read more about these efforts here.