A Death in the Family

Author: Notre Dame Magazine staff

JACK MOONEY was the name people at Notre Dame knew him by. The South Bend resident coached and trained students in the Bengal Bouts charity boxing tournament for more than 50 years, most of that time alongside the legendary Nappy Napolitano. But when “Jack Mooney” passed away in September 2004 at age 92, most in the campus boxing community probably were surprised to learn that his real name was John Sekendy. He had been using his fighting name from his youth, when he boxed in the amateur Golden Gloves tournaments. Sekendy was born in Hungary and moved to South Bend with his parents in 1920 when he was 8. As a child he sold newspapers on the street, most famously to Knute Rockne, who would help him sneak into football games by loosening a board in the fence at old Cartier Field. The legendary coach later allowed him to jog into the new stadium with the football team. Perhaps as payback, Sekendy, in his later years, made it a ritual to visit Rockne’s grave in Highland Cemetery, a few miles west of campus, and trim the grass around the Rock’s headstone at least once a week. Sekendy worked at Studebaker Corporation and boxed on the company team. After the car maker closed in the early 1960s he was employed by AM General, maker of the Humvee military vehicle, until he retired in 1978. Among the thousands of students he helped train for Bengal Bouts was Jeevan “Joe” Subbiah ‘98, who boxed all four years he was a student. In an appreciation published in the South Bend Tribune, Subbiah described his old trainer as being similar to the character Mickey, the crusty trainer in the Rocky movies, but with an “old-school Notre Dame Catholic twist.” He had a great sense of humor and wore a mischievous smile. If it’s true that Knute Rockne’s spirit will always be patrolling the sidelines of Notre Dame Stadium, Subbiah wrote, Jack Mooney “will always have his spirit hanging on the ropes of the boxing ring in the basement of the . . . Joyce Center.”