Life Story / Obituary
Honest and fair, reserved yet resolute, John "Jack" Carter lived a life rich in family and friends. Jack was generally a quiet guy with an easy, light-hearted demeanor who could strike up a conversation with most anyone. His engineering mind loved searching for creative solutions to challenges. He firmly believed in standing up for what is fair and for one's beliefs. Jack provided for his loved ones with unwavering devotion. A wonderful husband and father, Jack's legacy will long live in the hearts of those he loved.
Born in Highland Park, Illinois on May 28, 1927, Jack was raised in Glenn, Michigan, where his badass Irish immigrant mother Catherine and his father Charles were farmers. Jack's early years centered around helping with the farm. The family raised chickens and hogs and grew cabbage, asparagus and corn. Much of Jack’s time was spent with his older brother, Francis aka "Frannie". He and Frannie shared an unheated upstairs bedroom in the two-story farmhouse, where they began winter days breaking the ice off the washbowl. Like many young farm kids in his generation, Jack left school in the 8th grade to help on the farm. Though the days were long and the work was difficult, being a farmhand came naturally for Jack, and the skills and work ethic he acquired served as a firm foundation upon which he built the rest of his life.
Jack also built and drove dirt track race cars with his older brother, Frannie. They raced at Kalamazoo Speedway and the Allegan County Fair. Whether spending time with his cousins in South Haven and Benton Harbor, or with his cousins from Chicago when they visited the farm over the summers, Jack relished his family time.
Jack proudly served in the U.S. Air Force during the Korean War. During his service he earned his GED and met his beloved, Mary Elaine Costello. Stationed at Westover Air Force Base near Springfield, Massachusetts, one fateful evening Jack stopped at one of the local dance halls to meet his buddies. As he returned to his car, he couldn't help but notice Mary, who was standing nearby with her girlfriends. Instantly smitten, when the girls left, Jack and his buddies proceeded to follow them to a pizza parlor, where they ended up putting tables together as a group. After staying until closing time, Jack went out to help Mary down the steps to her friend’s car. They continued chatting even as her friends kept beeping the car horn to break them up, and soon their night came to an end. The next night, Jack snuck into Westover's non-commissioned officers club, where Mary served as USO hostess. They shared a memorable dance, and at the evening's end, Jack drove Mary home.
For the next few years Jack and Mary regularly corresponded via mail, sharing their days, hopes and dreams, and a growing affinity for one another. In July of 1954, Jack proposed to Mary at the Bloody Bucket Bar in South Haven, near where Jack grew up. On November 6, 1954 they were married in Springfield, MA at Our Lady of Hope Church, officially beginning their 63-year adventure.
After honeymooning in New Orleans, Louisiana, the happy couple moved to his family's farm on Blue Star Highway in Glenn, Michigan. In this little house, they began a family of their own with the arrival of sons Tim and Chris. In 1964 they moved to a larger home nearby, where their daughters, JoAnn and Kathy, soon joined the family. While Mary dedicated herself to raising their family, Jack provided for them by his continued work as a farmer and his career at the L. Perrigo company in Allegan. Having both grown up during the Depression, Jack and Mary both possessed excellent work ethics and resourcefulness that afforded their children a secure and happy home.
Jack took no 'guff' from anyone. A man of his word, he did what he said and said what he did, and he expected all others around him to do the same. Though typically easy-going, Jack would never forget if someone treated him unfairly and would go far out of his way to avoid dealing with them ever again. As traffic manager for Perrigo he was dedicated to doing his job well, ensuring that the company's products were delivered on-time and that raw materials flowed in smoothly.
A wonderful team, Jack and Mary not only modeled the importance of hard work, but they also created a sense of balance with fun-filled and restorative family vacations. Every summer, they packed up and hit the road. Over the years, they traveled to 46 states and Canada in their travel trailer and later in their motorhome, taking in the nation's rich history at various museums and historical sites and enjoying the splendor of the national parks. In their retirement years, they became happy snowbirds, wintering in the sunshine of Arizona, Texas, and Florida.
In his leisure time, Jack enjoyed square dancing with his bride, after which they might enjoy the occasional nightcap of Boone's Farm and 7-Up. He also took pride in his work to restore a 1953 F100 Ford pickup.
When the kids were young, Jack enjoyed towing them on sleds through the snow behind his Toyota Land Cruiser. They typically ended up covered in so much snow that they were basically walking snowmen. Jack took great pride in supporting his children in all their endeavors, attending their sporting events and filling the air with his cheers. He especially enjoyed the satisfaction of sparking Tim's life-long interest in technology when he gave him a crystal radio kit. Tim has fond memories of building the kit with him, stringing a long-wire antenna out the window on the farm, and listening to radio stations from Detroit and Chicago. Saturday mornings were about sharing breakfast with Kathy at Grandma's house. The bumpy back road ride in the old Ford pick-up was always rewarded with an enormous country breakfast and Grandma's good company.
In addition to gifting his children with a fine example of a marriage rooted in love and mutuality, Jack also modeled the importance of an active faith life. Though he never spoke much about his beliefs, he embodied the principles of his faith in his actions. He faithfully attended Catholic mass every week and would seek out churches during his long-distance trucking trips. His gifts did not include a great singing voice. "Amazing Grace" always inspired his tears, and he sang anyway to "encourage those that could to sing and drown him out." Jack also afforded his children the room to explore and determine their own political beliefs. There were no discussions of race or politics in his household. Though it became clear as the children grew to adulthood that he did have opinions in these areas, he never overtly expressed them.
Jack was well known, without exaggeration, as a highly gifted mechanical designer and builder. For example, he skillfully built go-karts out of scrap he found around the garage; later, he made a ramp to support Mary, who was eventually wheelchair-bound, to allow easier entry into the motorhome. Not only could he mentally work math equations faster than a calculator, he also possessed an innate sense of direction. Never requiring the aid of a GPS, he could dead-reckon his way around most anywhere. He had an unparalleled memory of roads and could cite any roadway he had ever driven, including details such as truck weigh station locations and the heights of overpasses.
Even in his later years, after he had to reluctantly surrender his car keys, he was still a keen problem solver. A few days after doing so, and with a mischievous look on his face, he jingled a set of keys and proudly said, "You don't have a copy of these keys!" He had walked down the street and paid cash for the neighbor's used minivan.
May we find comfort in the absence of Jack's steadfast presence with our fond memories of his many Dad-isms, such as "I cut it off twice and it's still too short", “If it was a dog it would have bit ‘cha", “Colder than a well digger's foot" and "a dollar two-ninety-eight" and in the honor of carrying his legacy forward. With each turn we take on the dance floor with our beloved, camping adventure we embark upon, difficulty we meet with confidence, or unwavering stand we take for the truth, we celebrate the gift of Jack's life. We keep his spirit alive by inspiring others as he inspired us.
John “Jack” Carter, age 93 of Kalamazoo, died January 2, 2021. He grew up on the family farm in Glenn, MI where they raised cabbage and hogs. He served in the U.S. Air Force during the Korean War as a radio operator. It was during his time in the service that he met his future wife, Mary Elaine Costello, while stationed in Massachusetts. They were married in Springfield, MA in November of 1954, returning to Michigan and establishing a farm in Glenn. To support the growing family, he took a truck driving job with L. Perrigo in Allegan. They moved to Allegan in 1969, and Jack was eventually promoted to manage the Perrigo truck fleet. Every summer, Jack took his family on cross country trips where they toured 46 states. After ten years, he returned to his roots as an independent owner-operator until his retirement in the early 1990’s. The now empty nesters continued the family tradition of cross-country vacation travel in their retirement until health concerns made this impossible. He was preceded in death by his wife of 63 years, Mary, in 2017. Surviving are his 4 children: Tim Carter (Lori Mattheiss), Chris (Sheryl) Carter, JoAnn (Ed) Dunning and Kathleen Carter (Kat Tragos); 4 grandchildren: Matt Carter, and Catherine Ann, Lauren Grace and Declan Jack Dunning; nieces Dennie (Roland Morales) and Susan Costello; and nephews Frank (Sharon) Carter and Steven (Mary Beth) Costello. Please visit Jack’s personal webpage at www.BetzlerLifeStory.com where you may read his Life Story, archive a favorite memory or photo, and sign his online guestbook. Due to the pandemic, a memorial service will be held at a future date to be determined. Burial took place on Thursday January 7, 2021, at Riverside Cemetery, Kalamazoo. In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made in his name to the Wounded Warrior Project. Betzler Life Story Funeral Home, 6080 Stadium Dr., Kalamazoo, 269-375-2900