Jack Curtis HenryJune 1, 1930 ~ October 11, 2017 (age 87)
Jack Curtis Henry died in hospice care in Bozeman, Montana on Wednesday, October 11, 2017. He was born in the town of Wellsboro in northcentral Pennsylvania on Sunday, June 1, 1930, the son of Roscoe and Leora Henry. Jack had one older sibling, a sister born in 1929 who died in infancy, and so he was the oldest of six surviving siblings. In birth order, his sisters and brother were Lois (born in 1932), Faye (1936), Gary (1939), Joyce (1942), and Margie (1953).
The family lived on a small farm a short distance outside of Wellsboro, where they had some few livestock and large gardens. Born as they were during the Great Depression, the older siblings of the family quickly learned to pitch in and help with everything on the farm and around the home, and so a strong work ethic was instilled in the children from an early age. They also learned the value of hard work from the example of their parents, who had to work at many side jobs off the farm to forge a hardscrabble existence during the Depression. As the oldest of the siblings, Jack not only became the hardest worker of all but also was greatly respected and admired as a role model by his younger brother and sisters.
Jack hired on to his first job outside the home, pumping gasoline at a nearby fuel station, when he was just 11 years old. Years later his employers with that job remembered that even at that young age Jack was an exceptional employee, always finding some worthwhile task to improve the operation even when business was slow – and this without having to be directed to do so. Jack retained his work ethic through his entire life, and was almost universally regarded by those who knew him as the hardest worker they had ever met.
Jack met the love of his life, Roberta Passmore, when they were both in eighth grade, and the couple stayed together for the rest of Jack’s life. Jack and Roberta married on June 11, 1950, in the Cherry Flats Baptist church in the tiny village of Cherry Flats, Pennsylvania, and so they were married for more than 67 years and were together for a total of more than 74 years. To illustrate the devotion the couple had for each other and the longevity of their relationship, a scarf Roberta made for Jack as a Christmas gift in 1943 and into which she stitched his name still exists today. Another example of their devotion and longevity was the wedding ring that was put on Jack’s finger at their wedding in 1950. He never removed the ring from his finger, not for any reason whatsoever, until the day of his death 67 years and four months later.
Jack enlisted in the United States Air Force in 1952, during the Korean War, and together he and Roberta traveled to and lived in a number of different duty stations around the United States, including Biloxi, Mississippi, Albuquerque, New Mexico, Vallejo, California, and others. Jack also was detailed to Guam for a time, an assignment where Roberta was not able to accompany him. Jack and Roberta felt a strong attachment to their home area in northcentral Pennsylvania, and rued the fact that they had to leave because of Jack’s enlistment during the Korean conflict. But in retrospect both agreed that their time during Jack’s service and the travel connected with it greatly broadened their perspectives. In all Jack and Roberta did very well for a couple of kids born in rural Pennsylvania at the bottom of the Great Depression. They rose from very humble, almost impoverished economic beginnings to a comfortable position in the upper middle class, and beyond that traveled much of the world during their lives, especially during their retirement years.
Shortly after his discharge from the Air Force in 1956 Jack began working for the J.C. Penney Company. His first assignment for the company was in York, Pennsylvania, followed by transfers to Rockville, Maryland, Silver Spring, Maryland, Norfolk, Virginia, and lastly to Newark, Delaware. He retired from Penney in 1990, having completed a very successful career in which deservedly he rose through the ranks. More telling about Jack’s personality than his success within the corporation, however, was the high regard he earned from his coworkers. He was liked by all, and was always described by those with whom he worked with words like energetic, kind, generous, hardworking, positive, upbeat. Even now, more than 27 years after Jack’s retirement and up until the time of his death he was still in contact with many of his former coworkers, and the respect and affection they had for him was still plain to see.
Jack and Roberta moved to Paradise Valley Montana when they retired in 1990. They bought a lovely house on the Yellowstone River in view of Emigrant Peak, and through characteristic hard work with their own hands they turned the home into a showplace where they loved to entertain friends and family. A good handyman, Jack completed many, many renovation projects on their Paradise Valley home that enhanced its beauty and livability. The couple spent more than 27 years at their beautiful retirement home in Montana, a longer period of time than they spent living in any other location in entire their lives.
Jack and Roberta’s first son Jeff was born in 1953, and their second son Scott in 1957. Jack was an outstanding father, always putting the welfare of his family ahead of any other consideration. His dedication to hard work made him a good provider, and he spent much time teaching his sons the things he knew and loved himself. The family took many wonderful vacations during the years when the boys were growing up and still living at home, as well as additional trips after the boys had reached adulthood.
Jack loved the outdoors, as often as possible engaging in activities like hiking, canoeing, fishing, camping, horse riding, and more, but his greatest outdoor passion of all was for hunting. He began hunting at a very early age, and was still hunting until just two years prior to his death. Even in his last years, Jack pursued hunting with an enthusiasm suggestive of the excitement of a teenager going on his very first hunting excursion. Jack stayed physically strong and fit throughout his life, largely a result of his hard work and pursuit of outdoor activities, but also a reflection of his positive, can do outlook on life. He climbed Emigrant Peak (almost 11,000’ high) in observation of his 80th birthday, and well into his 80s continued to hike and ride his horses far back into the mountains, often to the very tops of the mountains. In doing so he usually outperformed companions only a small fraction of his age, and those younger companions consistently marveled at Jack’s strength, agility, and stamina, and perhaps most of all at his unrelenting determination.
Jack is survived by his wife of 67-plus years Roberta, by son Jeff of Emigrant, Montana, son Scott and his wife Karil of Elkton, Maryland, and by his granddaughter Mariah Gale Henry of Emigrant, Montana. His surviving siblings are Faye, Gary, Joyce and Margie. Jack is also survived by many nieces and nephews, as well as grandnieces and gran nephews, all of whom he was very fond. He is also remembered by his many fine friends, many of whose friendships date back seven decades and more. As a final testament to the man he was, his passing is grieved by all who knew him.
A celebration of Jack Henry’s life will be held in the Map Room of the Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel in Yellowstone National Park on Saturday, October 21, 2017 between 2:00 and 5:00 P.M. A subsequent celebration of his life will be held in Jack’s home town of Wellsboro, Pennsylvania at a later date. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made in Jack’s name to the Alzheimer’s Association. Arrangements are under the care of Franzen-Davis Funeral Home and Crematory. Online condolences may be shared at www.Franzen-Davis.com