Master Jacopo di Niccolo of the Shire of Steltonwald passed away on February 12, A.S. LV, while recovering from open heart surgery. He was 72.
Master Jacopo was a familiar figure to the archers of the Society. His prowess as an archer was renowned, as was his making of high-quality arrows. But he was especially beloved for his teaching of archery and his wry sense of humor. Jacopo’s guidance is behind many of the finest archers of Ӕthelmearc, including the first Youth Ludicrous Bowman in the Society, Lady Ghalyla bint Joseph, who is protégé to his wife, Mistress Ysabel Graver.
Along with Mistress Ysabel, Master Jacopo was a driving force in the Canton, now Shire of Steltonwald. He served as Canton Archery Marshal and was regularly on staff for both the Steltonwald event called Archers to the Wald and Ӕthelmearc War Practice, often at troll and on the archery range. He served as Kingdom Archery Scorekeeper, and later as Kingdom Captain-General of Archers, stepping down in A.S. 41.
THLord Aidan Gunn, Seneschal of Steltonwald, announced Master Jacopo’s passing and said “Many in our fair Kingdom knew him. As an archer, teacher, mentor, brother and above all as a friend. He will be greatly missed by us all.” He later reminisced, “Back in 2001, I went to my first big event. It was Blackstone Raids. We were up early and wandering around when we noticed a bunch of people at the archery range. We wandered over and some of the archers started chatting with us while they warmed up for something called a 7 Pearls Tournament, whatever that was…
Over walks Joc. He starts chatting and decides to warm up. His first arrow drilled a pop bottle at 40 yards! That was his only warm up shot. Needless to say, he won for the BMDL. When I congratulated him later, which was a huge step for me because I was rather shy (stop laughing), he was very humble and gracious [saying] “ Even a blind squirrel finds a nut now and then.”
A week or so later, I found out he was Captain of Archers for Steltonwald and held a regular practice. I started attending and over time he went from being my teacher to my friend, and then a second father, helping me along so many rough spots and encouraging me to grow.”
Master Anias Fenne posted on Facebook: “From my very first moments in the SCA, he was one of the kindest, most encouraging, most affable people I’ve known. For 25 years he never stopped encouraging me, pushing me to do more, making me laugh, and being my friend. So many late night conversations over a beer. So many early morning conversations over a coffee. So many laughs on the range. So many funny thank you cards in the mail every time I made a commission for him… The SCA and the rest of the world just got a little dimmer for me, and I know I’m not the only one. I’m really going to miss you.”
Master Denys the Decadent, Companion of the Scarlet Guard, said “My thoughts of Jacopo are two-fold: first, his teaching of archery to others. He took many under his wing and shared his knowledge, assisting, training and teaching. Second, has been the honor of shooting along side him on the archery line in competition. He had wonderful skills and enjoyed the sport. I will miss his smile.”
Master Jacopo was one of the most skilled archers Ӕthelmearc as ever had. He was recognized as a Grandmaster Bowman (scoring a Royal Round average of at least 100) by King Cygnus and Queen Dorinda in A.S. 34, and became a Ludicrous Bowman in A.S. A.S. 49. Ludicrous Bowman is an unofficial rank given to archers with Royal Round scores of 120 or more, because the first time someone scored that high, a friend said “That’s ludicrous!” A very select cadre of archers in the Society have reached this pinnacle of skill. He also held the highest score for longbow in the entire Society in the Gwyntarian Winter Challenge of A.S. 46, at 208 points. He served as Kingdom Archery Champion at least twice, most recently in A.S. 52, and was a member of the Kingdom’s Archery Champions’ team at Pennsic many times, including a stint as team Captain.
Master Ambrosius MacDaibhidh, also a Companion of the Scarlet Guard, recalls “When I think about Jacopo, I think about one word, “consistency.” Consistency as evidenced throughout his life and well documented by the ranks that he attained within the SCA and without.
The Jacopo I knew consistently exhibited sound judgment, reliability, trustworthiness, technical prowess, and the ability to pass along wisdom as a mentor. It is obvious that I’m not the only one who saw these qualities – Jac’s induction into the Order of the Scarlet Guard, his Elevation to the Peerage as a Master of the Pelican, and his Navy rank of Senior Chief Petty Office are all testaments to the fact that others were able to see these consistencies as well.
I remember a humbling demonstration of his technical prowess when he borrowed my bow and struck a certain mark before any of the rest of us could zero in on it. His jocular response was that anyone who claims to be an archer should be able to shoot whatever bow is at hand.
He was willing to teach all who would learn about making arrows and bow strings. I took away some helpful tips on arrow making that encouraged me to spend some hours improving my skills.
Most fondly however, I remember an incident just a couple of years ago when I was struggling in my own role as a mentor. I was at my wit’s end and flat out of ideas. I had talked with a few people whose opinions and judgment I valued and then I finally turned to Joc and said “Senior, I need your counsel. Can we talk.” We metaphorically traded our SCA hats of Peers and equals for our old Navy covers and went outside for a private chat where I leaned in on his consistent judgment, experience, wisdom, and friendship, and took away a renewed hope and a new course of action.
My hope is that all of us who were fortunate enough to spend some time with Jacopo can see that we were touched by some aspect of the consistencies that he developed in his life and are able to lean on those lessons and become more consistent in our own lives.
Master Jacopo’s skill as a fletcher, which was recognized with the Orders of the Sycamore and Fleur d’ Ӕthelmearc, was legendary. Mistress Arianna of Wynthrope recalls, “Each year on the way to visit his daughter, Jacopo would stop in Missouri at the Three Rivers Archery store, which carries cedar arrow shafts. Cedar had become expensive and hard to find over the past decade or so, and this store had a bin full of them. But Jac wasn’t looking for just any shafts – he not only checked each shaft for straightness and soundness, he also brought a small scale which he used to weigh each shaft. He would put groups of shafts of the same weight, or grains, together in batches to create matching sets. He also made sure that the weight, or “spine” of the arrows he made for each person was perfectly matched to the pull weight of their bow. I was stunned when the first set of arrows Jac made for me caused my Royal Round score to increase by 15 points. He made me two more sets after that, and I’m sad that the ones I have now will be the last – though I will miss him for much more than his arrows.”
Baron Edward Harbinger, Society Archery Marshal, said “One of my fondest memories of Jacopo is from a couple of years ago when I was running a Kingdom fundraiser. I had come up with a “peerage” shoot, where there were effigies of the different peers as targets. Peers of the Realm could sponsor a target (put their name on it) and have people shoot at it for a dollar an arrow. They would match the hits, up to $20 max, unless they wanted to shoot at it themselves. If they shot at their own target and hit, it took a dollar off their count, if they missed, they would pay an additional dollar. It was all in good fun and a lot of the peers were having fun encouraging people to shoot at them.
I asked Jacopo if he would sponsor a target and his response was “of course! There are a lot of people who would like to shoot me.” He was wearing a big smile as he said it. Throughout the day he would stop back periodically and ask how the shoot was going. When the scores got close to 20 on his target, he would loose off enough to zero it out so people would keep shooting at him. He did this at least three times during the day. At the end of the day, his target brought in about $80 on its own…..and then he threw in a $20 bill on top of it. Throughout the fundraiser, his was the most shot at target, bar none. That day he impressed me with his generosity and skill. He gave me a lesson in what it is to truly be a peer that you look up to.”
Master Jacopo was inducted into the Order of the Pelican in A.S. 40 by King Malcolm and Queen Tessa for his service to the kingdom, and especially to the archery community.
In A.S. 50, King Timothy and Queen Gabrielle named Jacopo the 39th Jewel of Ӕthelmearc for his long service to the Kingdom. Now-Duke Timothy said “Our kingdom, our Society, has lost a treasure. I’ve known many fine men and women. I’m not sure I’ve met one better than Master Jacopo. I can’t imagine him ever saying a word about himself, he was also as humble a man as I’ve ever met. But he didn’t need to. Heck, no one needed to speak on his behalf. If ever there was a person who exemplified “Deeds, not words”, it was him
But I assure you, everyone in our kingdom who has ever drawn a bow knew this man and would agree with the above sentiments. We will conclude with this. Some years back, we happened to be Prince and Princess during the time the BoD was contemplating a rapier peerage. For a brief while, it appeared that there would be a blanket peerage for all the other martial activities that aren’t heavy combat, archery included amongst them. Hands down, Joc would have been the archer we’d have made one. If such a peerage ever comes to pass, it will be a travesty that Joc isn’t its principal member here in Ӕthelmearc.
Our hearts go out to his family, and all those who share in their grief.”
You can read his obituary here: