Obituary of John R. Mack
John R. Mack, of Madison, passed away peacefully on Wednesday, July 19, 2023 at Sunrise of Madison. He was 85.
John is survived by his beloved wife of 63 years, Mary Mack (née Browne) of Madison, one son, Charles (Chuck) Mack and his wife Melissa of Madison; one daughter, Karen Mack of Japan; one sister Janet Goodwin; and two cherished grandchildren, Kate & Jack.
John was born in Kingston, NY on September 8, 1937 to the late Richard and Ethel Mack, and was raised in Stone Ridge, NY with his sister Janet. After high school, John went on to earn his bachelor’s degree from Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) and multiple master’s degrees in mathematics and thermo-dynamics from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI).
The way John and Mary got together is a classic story. While in college John worked on farms during the summer doing farmwork and fixing machinery. Mary often babysat two children at one of the farms. One evening John gave Mary a ride home and asked her on a date. The rest is history. They were married on September 12, 1959 (even though he wasn’t catholic which was tough for Mary’s 100% Irish father to swallow). They lived in a few different places and eventuallysettled in Ramsey, NJ where they raised their family and lived for 50 years.
John had a notable career as a mechanical engineer with several major American firms such as Curtiss-Wright, John Deere and General Electric. He was instrumental in several civilian and military engineering accomplishments, though he remained very humble throughout his whole life and seldom discussed his work. During his tenure at Curtiss-Wright, John worked directly with Admiral Hyman G. Rickover in the research and development of the country’s first nuclear submarines.
John helped design motors for rail-based transportation such as the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) trains of San Francisco and the monorail at Disneyworld, where he personally met Walt Disney during the project. Later in his career, John worked for John Deere and Mazda in Japan designing rotary powered diesel generators for the military that could be dropped by cargo plane into difficult and inaccessible terrain.
Outside of his career, John had many hobbies. He was always interested in pretty much everything and enjoyed fixing things around the house. He served as the family’s car mechanic, plumber, electrician, carpenter and most importantly was a clever tinkerer. So much so that everyone always knew there were many projects still to be done “someday”.
John was an avid student of Central American history, especially Mayan archeology - just ask anyone who ever had a conversation with him – they would remember fondly that he would talk about Mayan history whether asked or not. He went on interesting trips to Mexico, central and South America, and sometimes dragged his young kids along on these adventurous trips which included hikes through jungle to see Mayan ruins and getting the rented truck (a Land Rover) stuck in mud and half flipped over. Karen and Chuck remember these times fondly and always thought Dad was just a little crazy for taking the young kids on these trips.
John loved music, especially jazz and swing. There was hardly a time when there wasn’t music playing on the stereo in their home in Ramsey. He introduced his kids to music that they’d be unlikely to have heard if it weren’t for him. When Mary got a job at a high-end stereo manufacturer, it was a dream come true for him as he (and his kids) accumulated stereo equipment over time.
John was also an enthusiastic hiker and spent his retirement keeping up the trails for the NJ/NY Trail conference – including designing and building walking bridges. He worked tirelessly as a volunteer and treated it as his second career.
John loved his family deeply and worked hard throughout his entire life to provide for them. He was tremendously proud of his two children and his grandchildren who are lucky to have gotten a few years with him while he was still healthy. He instilled many traditional values and valuable traits in his family that will carry on through the generations. He will be missed and remembered warmly by all his loving family and friends.
The family will be holding a small private graveside service for family on Friday, July 21, 2023 at St. Vincent’s Cemetery in Madison. Arrangements are under the direction of the Madison Memorial Home.
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