Bryan Jackson, who drowned in Lake Michigan, left ‘an indelible mark,’ celebrated at South Side memorial service


Athletic trainer and father of two Brian Jackson, who drowned in Lake Michigan earlier this month, only had two siblings. But at a boisterous memorial service Saturday, friends across Chicago athletic communities said Jackson left behind fraternal bonds wherever he ran, swam and trained.

Jackson’s body was discovered at Promontory Point in Hyde Park on Sept. 9. He was 38.

“I have a hard time being sad when I know God has one of the strong,” Bryan’s brother Jonathan Jackson said at the memorial, which took place in the Grand Crossing neighborhood on the South Side. “When you see me, you see Bryan, and you miss the parts of him you didn’t know about.”

Jackson, affectionately known as B Jack, was a master trainer for the Nike and Jordan brands. He played college football and trained thousands of athletes, including high school classmate and Philadelphia Phillies pitcher Malik Binns, and his own cousin, Steve Taylor Jr., who plays professional basketball overseas.

Jackson was last seen on a boat with three other passengers about a mile inland of 31st Street Harbor on September 5. Passengers on the boat told the mother of his children, Pilsen-based activist Tanya Lozano Washington, that Jackson and a woman jumped off the boat around 7:20 a.m., the Tribune previously reported. Jackson did not reemerge.

He is survived by two children, Apollonia, 10, and Bryan Jr., 6.

Jackson grew up in the Roseland community on the Far South Side and attended Whitney Young High School. Whitney Young principal Rickey Harris spoke at the memorial service, calling Jackson “an exceptional alum.”

“Bryan’s journey through our halls left an indelible mark,” Harris said.

Sarah Virani, center, attends a memorial service for her boyfriend, Bryan Jackson, at New Life Covenant Southeast, Sept. 30, 2023, in Chicago.

Jonathan Jackson described his brother as highly spiritual, suggesting that religion played a role in Bryan Jackson’s athletic drive.

Between high-energy hymns led by Jonathan Jackson, a gospel choir and a three-piece band, Saturday’s memorial became a sharing of lessons Jackson had instilled inside and outside of the gym.

“I didn’t know that the weight room wouldn’t just be a place to get strong,” said Chase Adams, a close friend of Jackson. “It was therapy. It was church.”

Photographs walking through Jackson’s life opened the service, including several shots of Jackson swimming, diving and boating. Tanya Lozano Washington, Apollonia and Bryan Jr.’s mother, told the Tribune earlier this month that Jackson has always been a strong swimmer.

Bryan Jackson

Jackson’s friends and family held a prayer vigil September 10. Some also gathered for a balloon release in Jackson’s honor the night before his memorial service Saturday.

David Carson, a Nike global coach and former basketball player who worked with Jackson, was among those who used their time to pay tribute to Jackson’s family, pledging to continue supporting his children. “Mom, you raised a king,” he told Jackson’s mother, Elayne. “We are so grateful.”

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Jackson’s family and friends have raised more than $36,000 toward the care of his children.

Apollonia and Bryan Jr. paused with Lozano Washington on their way out of the service to hug several rows of extended family. Bryan Jr. clutched a green plastic dinosaur as he listened to memories of his father.

A portion of one of the gyms where Jackson trained will be renamed B Jack Way in his honor.

In a service where Jackson’s relatives called for joy and celebration as often as they cried at the podium, Jackson’s sister, Brianna, asked community members to honor Jackson’s memory by looking out for one another.

“If we keep pushing each other to come together … if we call to check on each other and end up on the phone for hours … if we keep the village going for Junie and Api … the love never dies,” Brianna said.

As an electric piano played her offstage, she addressed a last promise to Jackson: “I will come act a fool with you in heaven when it’s my time.”


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