John ‘Jack’ Custer

OAK PARK HEIGHTS — John “Jack” Bigelow Custer, 90, of Oak Park Heights, died Thursday Aug. 22, 2013, with his family at his side. He was born March 5, 1923, to the late Charles and Francis Custer in Chicago. Although Jack moved to St. Paul as a teen, he remained a Chicago White Sox fan for life. He graduated in 1940 from Central High School and received a degree in Engineering from the University of Minnesota. He served in the U.S. Army Air Corps as a meteorologist in World War II. He married Mary Jean Greig in 1947 in Saint Paul. Jack raised his family and was active in the community of Lacrosse, Wis., while working as a sales engineer for the Trane Co. He was chosen as LaCrosse Festmaster for Oktoberfest in 1974, returning for many years for the parade, festivities, and fun bestowed on past Festmasters. Passionate about making a difference in the lives of others, Jack influenced countless youth as a YMCA swim coach, and as a mentor with the Big Brothers program. He jumped at the chance to live and work in France and Australia before retiring to Hendersonville, N.C. He was able to devote time to his woodworking passion, a craftsman skill he learned at an early age and honed throughout life. The furniture and turned bowls designed and built by Jack will be cherished for generations. Jack’s love of life and people was infectious. His warm smile and playful nature was contagious. His compassion and interest in others was genuine. An inspiration and mentor to many, he had a knack for making everyone feel good. But you had better guard your ice cream. He knew how to live in, and cherish, the moment. The food was always “the best I ever had.” The view was always “the best I’ve ever seen.” His most commonly repeated phrase? “I’m so lucky.” Often followed with a reference to MJ, the love of his life.  Asked what the best decision of his life was, he said “talking MJ into marrying me.” Jack is preceded in death by his first son, Tom Custer. He is survived by his wife of 66 years, Mary Jean Custer; sons, Gary (Deb) of Nashville, and Steve of Milwaukee; daughter, Laurie Stalling (Ed), of Missoula, Mont.;  four grandchildren (Eric Custer and Mike Custer of Wisconsin, and Shane Stalling and Christy Stalling Guereca of Montana, and five great-grandchildren. A celebration of Jack’s life is 3:30 p.m. Friday at Boutwells Landing, 5600 Norwich Parkway in Oak Park Heights. Family and friends will also gather Saturday afternoon at their Love Lake cabin near Danbury, Wis.