Life Story / Obituary
A huge smile, funny story and a good time followed Jack Klerk where ever he went. He was a husband, brother, uncle and great friend. He enjoyed countless adventures, created new boats from old ones, and entertained with his wonderful sense of humor. Jack’s legacy is a lesson about living life to the fullest.
In the year 1954, Marlon Brando and Elvis Presley were household names. Car engines were getting bigger and more powerful and a gallon of gasoline was a lean 29 cents. Following the discovery of a vaccine against Polio, the first mass vaccination of children began and Brown vs. the Board of Education made segregation in US Public Schools unconstitutional. During these optimistic times, on April 4th John Althaus or Jack as he was always known was born to Dr. William J. and E. Anne (Althaus) Klerk Sr. in Kalamazoo, Michigan, joining the family as the youngest of four boys. He grew up on Waite Avenue with the Winchell gang. Jack attended the Kalamazoo schools proudly graduating from Loy Norrix High School. He went on to attend Albion College where he earned a biology degree.
Following college a job teaching middle school science took him to Alana Christian School in St. Croix, US Virgin Islands. It was here that Jack met the love of his life, Jennifer Dutton. They married on the island on March 18th, 1983. Eventually, Jack and Jenny returned to Kalamazoo where Jack completed his financial planning certification and worked as a financial planner for Roney & Company for ten years. Retiring from the brokerage firm, Jack would return to his teaching roots as a trainer for Duncan Aviation before his full retirement in the mid 2000s.
At an early age, Jack developed a love of music. Starting out playing the piano Jack's talent tickling the ivories would follow him through his whole life. He sang in the choir at the First United Methodist Church. In his teen years he played the keyboard in a band called the Bricklayers Union, and in college he would play the piano for the song festivals. Jack would on occasion delight his mother with a rousing rendition of Alley Cat.
Jack's true passions were sailing, boats and just being on the water. He spent many years competitively swimming during his youthful summers at the country club, and he was a highly decorated athlete for his high school swim team as well. He learned to sail on a Moth, but spent most of his life racing 210s and J24s. He had a love for wooden Chris Crafts and was an award winning master at restoring old boats. One of his favorite restoration projects was a boat he named, The Hank. For the last several years Jack and Jenny have spent their summers on a Chris Craft Commander 42 in South Haven. His home was nestled on the Portage River in Three Rivers, and he was always delighted when the nieces and nephews would visit. He turned into a big kid playing and splashing in the river with them. Jack was just happiest when he was swimming the warm waters of the Caribbean or floating on his boat taking in that one good weekend a summer on Lake Michigan in South Haven.
Jack loved animals. Well, he loved his animals. His first cat was a big tuxedo cat named Spike. Currently, a big orange tom cat named Bob and black kitty named Oprah allowed Jack to take care of them. However, his heart always belonged to his best friend, Boulder. He was a Newfoundland Water Dog, and he was the most gentle dog and was Jack's faithful companion. Boulder was missed daily after he passed away. Jack also loved fish, conchs and crabs, but mostly catching and eating them, not keeping them as pets.
Jack was a very funny guy. He could be opinionated and frequently stubborn, strong Klerk traits shared by many in the family. He was always ready to have a good time and was usually found with a rum & coke in hand. During quiet relaxing times he could be found reading, sitting on the boat and always enjoying the sun, choosing to be outside and on the water whenever he could. He had always hoped he and Jenny would retire back in St. Croix where he might finally get to perfect his conch fritter recipe.
Sadly, Jack passed away on May 30, 2016, Memorial Day, after several years of health complications. His infectious laugh, sense of humor and huge smile will be sincerely missed by all who knew him.
Jack was preceded in death by his parents,Dr. William and Anne Klerk, his kitty, Spike and his beloved dog, Boulder, and good friend Gerard Patalidis. He is survived by his wife of 33 of years Jenny, his brothers Bill of Kalamazoo, Jim “The Count” of Florida, Larry (Sue) of North Carolina, his kitties Bob & Oprah, his St. Criox friends & adopted family: John Macy (Jeanette), Captain Big Beard his backgammon buddy at Buck Island and the Patalidis Family: Judy, Annette (Tom), Jean, Mike, Renee, Ashton & Ava, his nieces Christine “Critter & Grandma's Angel” Broberg, Sarah, Kelly & Betsy Klerk, Lisa & Summer Garza and Chelsea Bennett, great-nieces Kelly Lehrer, Allison Broberg, Isabella & Aurora Garza, Saylar, Lilly & Harper Klerk and great-great nieces Natalie & Parker Lehrer as well as some nephews (Jonathan, Brandon, Nicholas & Harrison Klerk, Jason & Jonathan Garza, Scott Broberg, Andrew, Oliver & Connor Klerk, Cameron Lehrer, Drake, Aiden & Corbin Garza, Dawson Pettigrew and one called Tommy) and the Dutton clan: Richie (Dyneene), Chris, Betsy, Bradley (Gail) and his love Melanie and all the nieces and nephews.
A visitation will be held from 1:00–3:00 pm with a prayer service at 2:00 on Friday, June 3, 2016 at Life Story Funeral Homes, Portage 5975 Lovers Lane. A Celebration of Life will be held on Sunday, June 5th at the Northside Municipal Marina in South Haven from 1:00–4:00 pm. Please visit www.lifestorynet.com to leave a memory and sign his guest book. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made in Jack’s name to the St. Joseph County Animal Shelter.