Life Story / Obituary
Jon Stephen Pack, beloved husband, father, grandfather, brother, and friend went home to his Lord and Savior on June 7, 2023 following a prolonged battle with recently diagnosed ALS.
Jon is survived by his wife, Karen (Molmen) of 48 years; his children, Bryan (Erin) Pack, Kari (Nick) Mark, Jonathan (Victoria) Pack, and Brittany (Zebulon) Tonkavich; ten grandchildren (Ian, Austin, Jack, Harrison, Anna, Julia, Samuel, Natalie, Trevor, and Sarah); siblings, Larry (Debbie) Pack and Beth Pack; numerous nieces, nephews, and great nieces and nephews; and his beloved dog, Blue. He was preceded in departure by his parents, Lawrence and Frances (Leise) Pack; his wife’s Uncle Ford; several dear friends; and many beloved dogs, including Bo the Wonder-Dog.
Jon was born in Beckley, West Virginia, the youngest of three. The family moved to Detroit when he was two years old. The son of an industrial arts teacher and World War II veteran who served under Patton, and an English and music teacher who was the first woman in her family to attend college, his remarkable life was a gleaming reflection of the marriage of practical, reasoned know-how and creative passion for woodwork, music, service, and life itself. He grew up within a diverse environment, sculpted by trips back to the Pack family’s Beckley home and Grandpa Pack’s general store, and to the Leise’s Marshalltown, Iowa farm with lessons from his lifelong hero, Gramps. A product of Motown at its pinnacle, he and his brother shared a passion for muscle cars, great music, and hard work. He attended Interlochen Arts Academy for a year of high school and graduated from South Redford High School (Thurston) in 1968, where both his parents taught, and where he played varsity football and swam on a state-championship team.
Jon was recruited by the great William D. Revelli himself and sat first chair euphonium in his lauded University of Michigan Band. He played in the last of Dr. Revelli’s bands (arguably regarded as his best) and continued to apply Revelli’s motto, “Non Tam Pares, Quam Superiores” (“not as good as, better than”) his entire life. Transitioning from a major in music, he switched briefly to pre-law and wrote a play, which won him the coveted Hopwood Award for creative writing – joining the likes of Arthur Miller, who presented him with the same, as one of the “highest given college creative writing awards in the country”, and a scholarship to the University of Edinburgh.
However, during the summer between his junior and senior years of college, he worked as a carpenter, performing elaborate finish work in a new East Bay home in Williamsburg, owned by the first vineyard owner in Northern Michigan. It was on one of his trips to the lumber yard that he “was devastated at first sight” by the love of his life, Karen Lisbeth Molmen. The two married the next summer on July 27, 1974 and established their home in Traverse City, Michigan before relocating to the country near Kingsley prior to the birth of their first child 1978.
Jon quickly established Infinite Hardwoods as an elite custom cabinetry company. He became a master craftsman, creating beautiful furniture that will survive well beyond those living today. Jon and Karen raised four children on initially an artist’s salary, teaching priceless life lessons. His kids worked with him in his home shop and were taught the passionate pursuit of perfection and that, “You have to sand before you finish.” Being able to work from home – despite routinely 12-hour days in the shop – also allowed his children to grow up with the profound influence and presence of their father in every aspect of their lives – a rare blessing that they cherish. He later transitioned his career to become an independent communications consultant, founding IAT (“It’s About Time”) and subsequently evolving into Integritas – a premiere company for hospitality properties and businesses, known mainly throughout Northern Michigan and the Midwest.
Jon became an avid outdoorsman, due much to the influence of one of his greatest mentors, Karen’s Uncle Ford, who taught him one of his greatest passions – fly-fishing. He became an expert, and it could be honestly said that he didn’t go “fishing,” but “catching.” He built his own Au Sable River boat, and from it, taught all four of his kids – and even his wife – to cherish the sanctuary of “Saint Manistee”. Once again, passion met practicality in God’s open-air classroom, as “Watch your back-cast,” and “Put the stern where you want the boat to go,” became aptly applied metaphors for success in life.
He learned to fly and bought a Cessna 182, in time to commute from Traverse City to Detroit while designing a large medical office complex. He later “traded the plane in” for a 1979 Southwind motorhome, beginning a storied epoch of the family’s life. Trips to grandparents’ homes down south moved from the realm of “drives,” to “adventures” — or perhaps quests, often to the consternation of the missus — and to the entertainment of their children. But he innovated the concept of adorning the RV exterior in favor of his Maize & Blue alma mater, and became a regular fixture in tailgate party parking lots in Ann Arbor.
Jon was a Michigan Man to the core, and all who knew him, knew he bled blue. He never gave up his love (and hate) of Michigan football and had the utmost appreciation of the academics and depth of the “greatest University in the world.” He raised his children in True Blue traditions, sharing bits of wisdom (“Don’t step on the M,” and “Don’t eat the soup in the UGLI”), its excellence, and the spectacle of autumn Saturdays in Ann Arbor, observed from season tickets to the Big House. One of his greatest sources of pride was that all four of his kids attended (he kept their acceptance letters framed in his office) and graduated (his daughters twice) from Michigan. Bryan, Kari, and Jonathan (who met his wife, Victoria, in the Band) proudly marched in his footsteps in the Michigan Band, and Brittany, a percussionist, played in the University Band. Ever an ambassador of the Maize & Blue, he never missed the opportunity to inspire prospective Wolverines by taking or sending them to a Michigan game or performance. A favor for him was oft rewarded with anonymous “non-refundable” tickets in Ann Arbor.
Dad was a dog-lover, or perhaps it could be more aptly said, dogs were Jon-lovers. He seemed to speak their language, and he had an especially soft spot for Golden Retrievers, including six-and-a-half of his own. Bo and his successor, Blue — were known as his “favorite sons,” titles earned by their love and infinite devotion. His grandchildren also became familiar with Grandad’s gardening mastery, from spectacular blooms to his much anticipated popcorn. His passions for music and writing followed him his entire life and had profound influence on his children’s — and even some of their friends’ — aspirations and hobbies. He frequently shared his own music with the neighbors and arguably, the county, through the system he carefully assembled and curated to rival the sound of many concert halls, in the home sanctuary of his pole barn. From pop and opera divas, Motown and movie classics, and Mormon Tabernacle Choir to world symphonies, he wanted to hear music while mowing the lawn, even in the furthest corners of the yard.
He was an ardent Patriot, a devoted defender of the U.S. Constitution and its founding principles. A consummate supporter of “the Troops” and veterans (both by prayer or action), he informed and reminded all around him of the price paid for the freedoms we enjoy, through God’s provision and the sacrifice of those who came before us.
A fan of Dickens, it could be truly said that no other person made Christmas as big or bright, loved giving better than receiving, and made “charity and mankind his business” more than Dad. The season was always ignited by skilled “exterior illumination” in the adorning of the house (and anything else taller than 3”) with thousands of twinkle lights and garlands, such that landing aircraft might be confused were it not for the 12-foot wide “Merry Christmas” sign joyfully illuminating the front yard. His annual letter, sent to family and all business clients and associates, was a profound pondering and creative outlet, awaited by all. The annual “Dickens Night” was a much-anticipated pre-Christmas event to those who attended, uniting his shared love of fine food, drink, conversation, and family. And there was no other Christmas morning like that of the Pack household, the fireplace and hearts ablaze in the century old farmhouse, he named Windover.
Jon was a family man and its patriarch, a true romantic, and a man of great intention, whose daily living was steeped in familial heritage and ancestral sentiment. He treasured time with each of his children, but most loved when the family was all together, regardless of setting. He was known to carry on conversations long after dinner, while Mom poured coffee for everyone before gently suggesting that they “sit soft” to keep talking. There was no question that he was tickled by and unwaveringly proud of his children and grandchildren, whom he loved with great zeal, thought, and self-sacrifice. Most of all, he passionately loved his wife, who cared for him tenderly, patiently, and faithfully every year of their marriage, even to the very end. His last words to her were, “You are my saint,” and “ I love you.”
Most importantly, Jon had an eternal perspective and was a deeply spiritual man of great faith, inspired more by the beauty and evidence of the living and loving God in nature and music than the words of a sermon. Long late-night conversations on philosophy and faith with his kids were particularly treasured. Partially inspired by the faith of his wife and children, by the movie “Risen,” “The Chosen” series (http://new.thechosen.tv), and a greater yearning to know God, he re-read and studied the New Testament and much of the Old Testament in the year prior to his departure, re-kindling and igniting a deeper relationship with Jesus Christ.
Jon left us from Windover, both sadly and joyfully surrounded by family, laughter, great music, and the Presence of his Lord and Savior. As we mourn and celebrate his life and legacy, we are relieved that he is now home, suffering ceased, strength renewed, life eternal.
A Celebration of Life will start at 3pm, Saturday, July 8th, at his home at 3421 Clous Rd., Kingsley, Michigan 49649. A food reception will follow until 5pm.
In lieu of condolences, please share a story or two about Jon. In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations be made to the University of Michigan ALS/Neurology Research Program, Tunnels to Towers, or the Father Fred Foundation.
“No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height or depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:37-39