Back in 2008 detective Jack Mook was introduced to a pair of youngsters named Josh and Jessee Lyle. During that period, the boys began to attend training sessions at the Steel City Boxing Gym, where Jack served as a coach. However, when the police officer found out about their living conditions a few years later, he made a big decision.
Jack is from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and grew up in the “North Side” of the city as a youngster. But before he joined the local police, he had a spell with the United States Army as a young adult. And while the detective went on to work for the authorities for over two decades, he had a passion outside of that career.
Jack spent his spare time at a number of the city’s boxing facilities, honing his skills with the gloves. Given those efforts, the cop eventually received an offer from some coaches; they wanted him to become a coach himself at the Steel City Boxing Gym.
Jack subsequently took on the role, as he looked to help youngsters who were living in poverty get into the sport. And that’s how he met the siblings Jessee and Josh, who had been moving between foster homes for a lengthy period. But when the pair eventually stopped going to the facility, their coach stepped up in a major way.
For many of us, starting a family of our own is one of the biggest ambitions we can have in our lives. However, there are some individuals who don’t want to go down that particular path, instead choosing to live alone. Jack could certainly attest to that, as he was a fully fledged bachelor.
Living at home by himself, Jack dedicated a large portion of his life to Pittsburgh’s police force. He worked at the department for more than 20 years, following in the footsteps of his dad. For you see, the detective’s father was a former member of the city’s law enforcement as well.
Away from the job, Jack’s love of boxing continued to shine through as he enjoyed countless sparring sessions in Pittsburgh’s gyms. Then one day two men named Doug Seskey and George “Geo” Heinlein approached him with an intriguing suggestion; and the cop couldn’t say no.
As we previously mentioned, Jack was offered the chance to put his skills to the test and train children at the Steel City Boxing Gym. Speaking to The Northside Chronicle newspaper in May 2018, he explained why the pair wanted him. The coach said, “They believed I knew how to communicate with kids. They saw me as an asset to the gym.”
Jack soon took on the voluntary position at the facility, assisting youngsters who came from impoverished areas. But in 2008 everything changed for the veteran police officer. That year, brothers Josh and Jessee arrived at the gym as they looked to do something outside of their troubled home life.
Jessee and Josh were foster children during that period, and the siblings had been regularly packing their bags for new homes. Yet despite all that upheaval, the latter recognized the importance of attending the boxing gym; indeed, it helped block out all of the negativity in their lives at the time.
“Those two hours a day kept [us] out of a lot of trouble,” Josh told The Northside Chronicle. “I knew I could go there and forget about everything else.” With that in mind, Jack started to train the brothers himself, before realizing that the older boy had plenty of talent in the ring.
Given Josh’s skills with the gloves, Jack revealed a bit more about his potential to the newspaper. The Pittsburgh resident said, “He had a natural talent and he had a movement that would work in the ring. He’s a technician in the ring, intelligent in the ring and sets up his counter punches well.”
Outside of the gym, though, Jack was well aware of Josh and Jessee’s situation. Much like some of the other kids at the facility, they were living in poverty, but he looked to help as best he could. For instance, the detective was more than willing to step up when the pair were struggling for food.
During an interview with the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette publication in November 2018, Jack lifted the lid on that particular period. He explained, “Myself and George Heinlein, we really knew the boys. I knew Joshua as the poor kid from the neighborhood. While I was a policeman, I used to take ‘em out to eat.”
Jack continued, “I took [the boys] to Applebee’s. Josh would say, ‘Is this what they consider a five-star restaurant?’ He would always take something home. He was putting it in his pocket. I was like, ‘Ya don’t gotta do that Josh. They’ll give you boxes.’ He goes, ‘No, people down there will take that off me. I can’t show people that I have that.’”
Jack then touched upon how bad things were for Jessee and Josh at their foster homes. Unfortunately for the two young brothers, they would often go without the bare essentials, leading the latter to develop an admirably steely attitude. But that wasn’t all, though, as we’re about to find out.
“[Josh] was very streetwise,” Jack told the newspaper. “They had no electricity sometimes, no plumbing for months. There was a time when they lived out of a van in the McDonald’s parking lot on Allegheny Avenue.” Yet while the kids’ living situation was far from ideal, they continued to attend the gym regardless.
However, that routine suddenly changed when Josh and Jessee stopped showing up at the Steel City Boxing Gym. Understandably, Jack and his colleagues became quite anxious as time went on, assuming that something bad had happened. He told The Northside Chronicle, “One week turned into two and then three, I got worried. Josh was dedicated. It was concerning.”
So Jack and George started to search the local neighborhoods, hoping to find the siblings. The police officer even took advantage of his position at work, as he also looked at several reports at the station. But despite their best efforts, they couldn’t locate Jessee and Josh.
Then, Jack’s desperate search went on to take an unexpected twist. He told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, “Actually, the parents found me. I meet ‘em up on Benton Avenue. They tell me that the boys are with the aunt and uncle, and I know who they were because of police investigations. Never anything good.”
Jack continued, “They tell me they can’t even see their kids. Apparently Josh and Jessee are cryin’ on the phone when they do make contact. It’s horrible conditions. Just describing a bad scene for me, but I didn’t really take it as truth either. They’re drug addicts. So I told the mother, ‘Call the school and tell them I’m pickin’ Josh up.’”
At that point, Jack kept his word and drove to Josh’s school, eventually meeting up with the youngster. Once he entered the detective’s vehicle, the pair began to talk about what was going on at home. Sadly, things had become much worse during that period and Jessee’s big brother had described the scene.
According to Josh, his new foster family was incredibly abusive, denying him and his brother a bed to rest in. Instead, they forced them to sleep on a floor that was also covered in dog excrement. Jessee said he was also being physically assaulted each day as well, which left his older brother in a horrible position.
Furthermore, while Josh was giving Jack the graphic details, he started to cry himself. Taken aback by what he heard, the boxing coach then tried to offer some calming words, but something else resonated with him. Apparently, one particular “look” continued to stick in his mind as the day progressed.
Jack explained to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, “I told [Josh], ‘I’m gonna help you out, just hang in there.’ And he gave me a look like thank you, but it was despair, like I know you can’t do anything. It was that type of look.” The veteran cop’s thoughts didn’t end there, though, as he pondered what to do next.
“That look, when I dropped [Josh] off and went home,” Jack explained. “That look crushed me. I walked into the house and I’m like, ‘I got a whole house to myself, and this frickin’ kid is livin’ in dog feces with a bunch of drug addicts.’” And given those shocking conditions, the Pittsburgh resident then made a bold claim.
Back in September 2014 Jack spoke with CBS News about what happened to Jessee and Josh, which led to the aforementioned statement. He said, “[The boys] have had it as worse as any other kid that’s ever lived in the city of Pittsburgh, living conditions wise. And [I’d] had enough of it.”
So Jack decided to step up in a major way in 2013. Thanks to his position with the police department, he was able to pull some strings and help Josh and Jessee find a new foster family. But in this instance, he took up the role himself, welcoming the boys into his house.
Naturally, Jack had to make some changes to his routine at home, with more responsibility being placed at his door. From homework to home cooking, his bachelor lifestyle was now a thing of the past. In a video interview with CBS News in December 2015, he explains, “I’m relearning prepositions and declarative statements!”
Jack informs the reporter, “This is right up your alley. I have no idea what this kid’s talking about!” Yet despite these challenges, the coach couldn’t be happier with his situation. He adds, “Yeah, [having the boys here is] awesome. It’s the best thing I ever did in my life.”
Some 12 months after taking Josh and Jessee in, Jack then made another life-changing decision. With the boys settled in at his house, the former military man looked to adopt them at that stage, which led to a day in court in 2014. And following that particular session, the pair’s adoption was finally made official.
Given how unique this story was, Jack and his two adopted sons hit the headlines in America, ahead of an appearance on The Meredith Vieira Show. On that occasion, the trio featured in a segment prior to taking to the stage, explaining what had transpired. After that, the new dad tried to sum up his own feelings.
“[I] never expected to be a father of two children from my boxing gym,” Jack admits in the video segment. “I never expected that. But God has a plan and He blessed me. [Josh and Jessee] saved my life too. They turned me into this humble family man. So, what do I gain out of this? Two best friends.”
In the video, uploaded to YouTube, the show’s host introduces Jack and the two boys, who are sitting on a long couch. To begin with, Vieira asks for their reaction to the adoption itself, with the newly formed family sharing their delight. Then, she questions Josh about what they enjoy doing together now, alongside the boxing.
Josh replies, “We take a lot of trips, we recently had one to Washington, D.C.. We take a lot of those. We love playing hockey, hockey’s another big thing in our house. Basketball we love. A lot of sports, and we like fishing too.” Following this conversation, Jack’s oldest son goes on to reveal one of his biggest ambitions.
As it turns out, Josh had aspirations of attending West Point after high school, which draws a huge round of applause from the audience. After this, Vieira presents the family with some gifts and a $10,000 check from the show. Then, she offers Jack the chance to respond to the heartfelt gesture.
Jack says, “I’m overwhelmed. We’re keeping the story out there so that children can get help throughout not only the country, but this is going around the world right now. So help a young man or a young girl out.” And with this, the emotional segment from November 2014 finally comes to a close.
However, this heartwarming tale still had a couple more twists in store for Jack’s family. For you see, when the story hit the headlines in 2014, a number of ladies contacted CBS News hoping to meet him. In the end, a woman named Mary made the decisive move, as she approached the dad at a bar.
Following that encounter, Jack and Mary went on to get married in the summer of 2015. In turn, he welcomed another three kids into his growing family from his wife’s previous relationship. The detective admits to the news channel in December 2015 video segment, “I thought being single was fun. Because you don’t have no responsibilities.”
Jack adds, “But when you’re single, you don’t realize what you’re missing. I’m glad I let [Mary] break through that barrier and take me away from that life.” As for Josh, he fulfilled his dream of joining the army after high school, but that’s not all. He now has aspirations of going to the Olympics in 2020 to compete in boxing.