Jack Cantwell celebrated 25 years in business with SkyLimit Marketing this March and will celebrate his 90th birthday this May.

Cantwell is a 1960 graduate of Ithaca College. After graduation, he accepted a position as traffic manager for WLYH-TV 15 in Lebanon County and soon became a creative director. His new role involved writing and producing commercials for local advertisers.

“During my first year, I think I wrote commercials for about 200 different local advertisers who didn’t work with agencies,” Cantwell said. “So that was a great experience for me.”

Jack Cantwell’s first job in Lebanon County was at WLYH-TV 15. “The building atop Mount Gretna still looks the same today,” Cantwell said. (Provided photo)

About a year into his new role, one of his colleagues who worked in the sales department sold a children’s program, but they did not have a program. So, Cantwell created one and acted as a character within the program to host it.

The children’s program, Sky the Elf Presents Felix the Cat, grew in popularity and, in its heyday, was aired on three central Pennsylvania stations daily.

“There was a rumor that I was going to be offered a job to move my program to Philadelphia to our parent station,” Cantwell said. “But I quit before that was a problem or an opportunity because my goal was to take my writing to a big advertising agency. So, that’s exactly what happened.”

The success of the children’s program could partially be attributed to Cantwell’s background as an actor. He has acted on stages with the Lebanon Community Theatre, the St. James Players, and Amherst Players and won awards for the roles he played and the plays and theatrical groups he was a part of.

After leaving WLYH-TV 15, Cantwell, his wife, and their young son moved in temporarily with his parents in Newburgh, New York. The couple later had two daughters.

Jack Cantwell and his wife, Patricia, are pictured seated, and their children, Kevin, Lisa, and Monica, stand behind them. This picture was taken during the couple’s 60th anniversary celebration on April 15, 2021. Patricia passed away on Dec. 6, 2022, after battling dementia for several years. “We had a good life, and our children and seven grandchildren (one deceased) are a source of continuing pride,” Cantwell said. (Provided photo)

“So, they stayed there while I went to New York City and got my résumé out and pounded the pavements,” Cantwell said. “And it only took me about six weeks, and I got a job with BBDO, or Batten, Barton, Durstine, & Osborn advertising agency. They’re a worldwide agency.”

“I was hoping to get a job offer to go to one of their branches. I didn’t want to raise my family in New York City. And that’s how it worked out.”

Cantwell accepted a job offer for BBDO out of their Buffalo, New York, office and worked there for about seven years before the advertising agency transferred him to Boston, Massachusetts.

“And then, I jumped ship and went with another agency after eight years,” Cantwell said. “And I went to an agency called Arnold Communications, which had the McDonald’s account.”

Cantwell became the account supervisor for the McDonald’s account for Massachusetts and part of New England.

“I did a lot of traveling around in that job,” Cantwell said. “And then, I got a job offer from McDonald’s International Sales Promotion Agency because I was working with McDonald’s people. So, that connection led to a job offer.”

The job offer relocated Cantwell and his wife — their children were grown by this time — to Japan. While in Japan, Cantwell helped Simon Marketing open and run a Tokyo office.

“All three of them came over to visit,” Cantwell said of his adult children. “So, they were thrilled with the idea of using an excuse to spend time in Japan.”

The couple’s son was working in Boston, Massachusetts, when they moved to Tokyo, Japan, and about three years later, he moved in with them and became an English teacher in the city. Tokyo, Japan, was where their son met and married his now ex-wife, with whom he had two children.

After several years, Cantwell was transferred from Tokyo, Japan, to run an office in London, England, to a brief stint at their headquarters in Chicago, Illinois, to open and run an office in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

“But we were living out of the country for nine years,” Cantwell said. “And we kind of missed being American.”

Cantwell left Simon Marketing, opened a Mail Boxes Etc. franchise location in Charlotte, North Carolina, and ran the franchise for several years. Mail Boxes Etc. would later become the UPS Store in 2012.

“And then the corporation, Mail Boxes Etc., came after me and offered me the job of vice president of marketing for the entire corporation,” Cantwell said. He sold the franchise and accepted the job offer.

“And I had a bit of a fallout with the chairman of Mail Boxes Etc., so [I] left them after a couple of years,” Cantwell said. He and his wife were brainstorming where to go from there when Cantwell had an idea.

“So I said, ‘Oh, what the heck, let’s go back to Lebanon, and I can open a one-man marketing agency in Lebanon because I have some fine contacts,'” Cantwell said. “And my wife had family here. So, that’s what we did.”

In 1999, the married couple moved to Lebanon County, and Cantwell opened SkyLimit Marketing. When he and his wife returned to the area, Cantwell soon joined the Lebanon Valley Chamber of Commerce in an effort to connect with potential clients.

“And my first client was, I think, Kapp Advertising, The Merchandiser. They hired me to do some strategic marketing retreats for their management team,” Cantwell said. The retreat came to be known as Camp Kapp, and Cantwell helped with the retreat, which was a full day scheduled once per year for about eight years.

“And then, I actually continued to work with them as a client for another dozen years as a writer, writing articles, community-focused articles,” he said. When SkyLimit Marketing was in its fledgling stages, Cantwell focused his efforts on the Reading market.

“I did most of my writing for [The Merchandiser],” he said. “And then, they eventually opened a magazine, Go Local Magazine. And I wrote articles for Go Local Magazine. So, they were a client for about 20 years or so.”

“My biggest paying client … was the Agency of Record for Freeburn & Hamilton, which is now just called Freeburn Law Firm, for about five years,” Cantwell said. “And then, they outgrew me, so to speak. Their budget got too big. So, during the five years I worked with them, their business grew exponentially, and I was proud to be part of that.”

Notable clients in more recent years for SkyLimit Marketing include Christman’s Funeral Home, Community Homes of Lebanon County, and Myerstown Vitality Partnership (MVP). Cantwell currently works as a ghostwriter for a column by the MVP that once appeared in The Merchandiser and now appears on LebTown.

Twenty-five years later, the marketing firm still has active clients, and Cantwell spends a good deal of his time working pro bono, helping local charities with their marketing projects.

“I’m very happy with some of the charitable things I’m doing,” Cantwell said.

He mentioned Tom Gerhart’s Sports Memorabilia Auction to benefit the Ann Gerhart Fund, Compeer of Lebanon County, and the Myerstown-ELCO Rotary Club’s Flags for Heroes initiative. The Rotary Club is partnering with the Myerstown VFW to organize an opening ceremony, during which Cantwell will sing the National Anthem.

Read More: Opening ceremony planned for annual Flags for Heroes event in Myerstown

Cantwell has made a tradition of singing the National Anthem at public events over the last decade or so. He already has four events booked for later this year: the Warrior Run on May 11, the opening ceremony for Flags for Heroes on May 25, a Lancaster Barnstormers game on July 19, and a Reading Phillies game for Myerstown Night on Aug. 16.

“The Reading Phillies already told me that when I sing it, I’ll be 90 years old and be the oldest National Anthem singer in Reading Phillies’ history,” Cantwell said. “So, you don’t want to miss that.”

“I can’t guarantee I’ll still be standing. But I’ll have my walk around the field and be propped up, so don’t worry about it.”

Cantwell, a Red Sox fan, sang the National Anthem in 2016 at the Lancaster Barnstormers. During the event, Cantwell met Butch Hobson, former star and third baseman on the Red Sox and then-Lancaster Barnstormers manager. “And we actually hit it off quite well,” Cantwell said.

Butch Hobson and Jack Cantwell met in 2016. (Provided photo)

As a working professional, Cantwell also taught marketing, advertising, and sales courses at Lebanon Valley College for three years and Elizabethtown College for 15 years. Cantwell is also the author of a book titled Life Expressed in 25 Words or Less.

Cantwell was awarded the Business Person of the Year award and the Lester Leffler Memorial Community Volunteer Service award from the Community of Lebanon Association.

He was also awarded the Beyond the Call award for his charitable work with Central Pennsylvania Supports the Troops from the Lebanon Valley Chamber of Commerce as well as the Lebanon Valley Chamber of Commerce Ambassador of the Year award.

“I handled a McDonald’s account domestically and internationally for a number of years. And I was the recipient of the very first marketing achievement award that McDonald’s ever awarded to an agency,” Cantwell said. He received the award around the 1960s.

McDonald’s was about to start serving breakfast in Boston for the first time. “And their target audience was men 18 to 34 in the same city. And we had some connections at the Gillette Company. They were introducing a brand-new product called the Gillette Good News disposable razor. And the target audience was men 18 to 34. So, we kind of put 2 and 2 together.”

“It was my idea to come into McDonald’s and get a free Good News razor when you bought breakfast. And we tested it. It ran very well in New England. And McDonald’s decided to roll that idea out nationally. And for this special promotion, Gillette produced 23 million Good News disposable razors for the spring promotion. And I won a big award from McDonald’s for that idea.”

When he isn’t working, Cantwell is active with Mary Gate of Heaven Church in Myerstown. He is a lecturer, a cantor, and a member of the choir.

He currently lives with his “buddy,” a calico cat named Maila.

Maila, the calico cat. (Provided photo)

Read More: Pet of the Week: Maila the Cat

Cantwell said he celebrated his birthday early with his cousin, George Cantwell, who is three years his junior, over St. Patrick’s in Florida.

The cousins share extended family members as their parents were two brothers who married two sisters. Each couple had three children and raised them in Brooklyn, New York. The cousins were best men at each other’s weddings six weeks apart, godfathers to each other’s firstborns, and their wives eventually developed dementia and passed away six months apart.

In closing, Cantwell said, “If you’re going to work and follow a career, I think take the money out of the equation. Find something that you have a passion for, and follow your dreams that way. And essentially, I’ve always wanted to do what I do.

“I think my inspiration for what I do came from, I was in the Army and serving in Korea, and I took a correspondence course in psychology. And this made me focus on a career that would be based on understanding what motivates people to do things. And that’s what marketing is all about, is solving somebody’s problem and having the means to do that.”

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Lexi Gonzalez has worked as a reporter with LebTown since 2020. She is a Lancaster native and became acquainted with Lebanon while she earned her bachelor's degree at Lebanon Valley College.


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