John J. “Jack” Stapleton, 89, of Beverly, died Sept. 22 surrounded by family in the home where he and his wife, Marge, lived for 50 years.
A Mass of Resurrection for Stapleton was held on Sept. 28 at St. Barnabas Roman Catholic Church followed by interment at Holy Sepulture Cemetery.
Stapleton is survived by his wife of 62 years; his children, Kevin (Leslie) Stapleton, Ann (Jim) Voves, Mary (Dr. James) Christensen and Elizabeth (Charlie) DiCaro; and his grandchildren, Graham, Hugh, Emily, Jack, Charlie, Beatrice, Packy, Claudia and Francesca.
Described by friends and family as a “life-long teacher,” Stapleton, the youngest of seven children, grew up in modest circumstances at 68th Street and Oakley Avenue on the South Side of Chicago. He graduated from St. Rita Elementary School, attended Leo High School and graduated from Lindblom High School, where he later taught classes for several years.
Stapleton began working early in life, selling newspapers door to door at age 7, then working at American Can Company a few years later and as a soda jerk during high school. In college, he was a CTA el conductor.
Shortly after graduating from high school in 1949, Stapleton enlisted in the U.S. Air Force, where during a four-year stint he attained the rank of staff sergeant and served during the Korean War as a radio electronic countermeasures operator stationed on Okinawa Island, Japan.
In a 2017 interview following his participation in an Honor Flight to Washington, D.C.—where Stapleton and other U.S. military veterans spent a full day visiting memorials for the Air Force, World War II and the Korean War and also toured the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum—Stapleton recalled a harrowing mission during his service.
“An aircraft engine caught fire, and the commander instructed our crew to prepare to bail out,” he said. “The bomb bay doors opened, but fortunately, the fire was extinguished. While those were scary times, ours was more mental anguish; the ground guys, they really had it rough.”
Following military service, Stapleton earned a bachelor’s degree in education at Chicago Teacher’s College and spent a career in the food manufacturing industry. Stapleton served for seven years as a sales representative for General Foods while holding down a part-time night job selling men’s suits at Montgomery Ward’s.
Then, he joined Morton Salt Company, where during a 35-year career he began as a sales representative, became a district sales manager and then distribution manager.
After retiring in 1999, Stapleton enjoyed serving as a volunteer facilitator at St. Xavier University’s Renaissance Academy, a non-credit program that offers retirees an opportunity to savor higher education in a group format.
A voracious and eclectic reader, Stapleton took delight in delivering lectures for the Renaissance Academy on early-American history, the “War Between the States” and World War II. He also loved opera, as well as folk music and even Lady Gaga.
He relished solving crossword puzzles in pen, not pencil.
Stapleton would often drive his daughters and their friends to Mother McAuley Liberal Arts High School in the morning and torture them with a requisite history quiz of his own making.
Stapleton and his wife, the former Margaret Trail, were married at St. Barnabas Church on Dec. 28, 1957.
Recalling their more than six decades together, Marge Stapleton said it was a perfect relationship.
“Not only did we love each other,” she said, “we liked each other, too. He was and always will be my best friend.”
In her eulogy for her father, Voves, the couple’s oldest daughter, said Stapleton will be missed.
“There was only one thing that prevented my dad from staying on this earth one more second longer,” Voves said. “It wasn’t my mom, my siblings, a nurse, doctor, caretaker or even me (not for lack of trying). It was God.”