Deacon John S. “Jack” Leadbetter
MARQUETTE, MI – Deacon John S. (Jack) Leadbetter, 80, a man of deep and abiding faith, died unexpectedly at home Monday, January 11, 2021. At the time of his death he tested positive for Covid-19.
Born in Benton Harbor, MI, to John W. and Virginia (Doster) Leadbetter, Jack’s early childhood was spent in South Bend, IN. His family moved to Marquette where Jack graduated from John D. Pierce High School. There he played basketball and tennis, sang in the chorus, had the lead in his senior class play, and served as a class officer. After graduation he began college at Notre Dame University where he graduated with a BS in Electrical Engineering in 1964.
Jack’s professional life began with Pillsbury; later he worked for Cleveland Cliffs which brought him back to the UP. Jack started Safeguard of Marquette, a fire protection company, and he also owned small businesses in the city. Most recently he described himself as semi-retired, although he owned and worked at Leadbetter Electric.
Surviving several serious childhood surgeries, as well as, the loss of his siblings to cancer, gave Jack an appreciation for living life to the fullest, and it inspired him to do his part to improve his community. His desire for service lead to his participation in many civic organizations and due to his decades of involvement, Jack was recognized with many honors and awards.
He was a member of the Marquette County Commission serving two 2-year terms (1973-1976), as well as, the Marquette City Commission (1984-1986 and 1993-1999.) During his tenure, he served as Mayor Pro tem (1993-1994) and three terms as Mayor (1994-1995, 1997-1999.)
As a nearly 50 year member of the Marquette Golf Club, Jack served for many years on the board and as President. Most recently he was awarded the Marquette Golf Club Lifetime Honorary Membership Award. He loved to get out with other senior men once a week and play in the Senior Scramble.
For many years Jack was a representative on several local and state substance abuse boards serving the recovering community. A long-time member of AA, Jack celebrated 48 years of sobriety earlier in January.
Because his Catholic faith was a guiding principle in his life, Jack was called to study to become a permanent deacon. He was profoundly proud to be ordained to the Permanent Diaconate on June 5, 2009, at St. Peter Cathedral by Alexander K. Sample, Bishop of the Diocese of Marquette.
Jack’s ministry included the St. Francis Connection Center at Sawyer and St. Peter Cathedral where he was assigned July 1, 2013, and assisted at weekly masses until his death.
Appointed the Director of Permanent Diaconate on April 14, 2014, through August 1, 2017, Jack helped restart a formation program for deacon candidates.
For twenty years Jack was committed to Eucharistic Adoration at 2 am, a time he said he knew he wouldn’t have any other plans. He also was a member of the Social Justice Committee at St. Peter Cathedral and he was committed to attending daily mass.
It goes without saying that next to his faith, the most important values Jack held were his marriage to Donna and his family. He was incredibly proud of the academic, athletic, musical, and professional achievements of his children and grandchildren. He particularly enjoyed listening to Sheila sing at Mass. Jack was never happier than sitting in the stands at basketball games watching his grandchildren compete. This past summer his children honored him with an 80th birthday party where a video was made of Jack relating stories of his life.
Jack lived a full and rich life. He loved all things Notre Dame, attending his first football game at age 4. Most years he continued to attend one or two games. Reading and listening to jazz in his gazebo (he fondly called “Camp Sterling”) enriched his summer days and made for a good place to nap. Grilling and smoking in his cooking shelter for gatherings gave him great satisfaction. Jack loved political debate, whether about local or national issues, and he had friends always ready to bait him. At 6’5″, Jack always stood out in a crowd.
Travel became a major part of Jack’s life the past two decades. He and Donna visited Eastern Europe; another trip took them to Italy, the highlight being mass with Pope Francis at St. Peter’s Square. Each summer a driving trip exploring the United States and its National Parks was on their agenda. He was in awe at the beauty and diversity of this country.
An avid Green Bay Packers fan, Jack enjoyed most sports, especially college football and basketball. He could be found researching which games were on at what time and planning his day around them. In the spring he looked forward to the Masters Golf Tournament.
A compassionate man and a good friend, Jack always had time to listen to people and to understand any differences they might have. He was level-headed in solving problems; however he was also known for his wonderful sense of humor whose quips were frequent. Jack was a well-respected and admired man who had a servant’s heart. Most people describe him as a good man.
Jack always said he was grateful to live in Marquette, a city he loved. When the Island road opened each spring, he and Donna would take a daily ride around Presque Isle until the drive closed in the fall. Often they would stop at the Breakwall, Sunset Point, or across from the pavilion and admire the lake and its power and beauty. It was rare not to comment on how happy they were living in the Queen City.
Survivors include his beloved wife of over 20 years, Donna Keskimaki; his children, Ann (Rob) Greenhouse, Francie (Todd) Myrick, Craig (Tamara) Leadbetter, and Sheila (Marius) Grazulis; grandchildren, Mary (Larney) Shultz, Emily (John) Neilson, John, Katie, and Sarah Greenhouse, Shane, Tyler (Brooke), and TJ (fiance, Maria Roell) Myrick, Samantha, Drew, and Morgan Leadbetter, and Daina, AJ, Vejas, and Marius Grazulis. Jack was thrilled when in the past 15 months four great-grandchildren were born, Nora and Annabelle Shultz, Isla Myrick, and Maxwell Greenhouse.
Also surviving him are his brothers-in-law, Daniel (Pam) Keskimaki and Donald (Kathy) Keskimaki along with their familes; a favorite cousin, Sterling “Duke” Doster, close friends Pat and Steve Lynott, Bob and Barb Plough, Jack Kublin, David and Mary Anne Hoover, Deb, Ken and Michelle Buchanan, and Mary Luttinen, as well as several cousins.
Jack was preceded in death by his parents, Jack and Virginia; siblings, Cathy Schrader, Craig and Barbie Leadbetter; his mother-in-law, Evelyn Keskimaki, several cousins and uncles, and Susan, the mother of his children.
The Leadbetter family will greet relatives and friends on Monday, January 25th, from 11 a.m. until 1 p.m., in St. Peter Cathedral, where a Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated in the church at 1 p.m. with the Most Rev. John Doerfler, Bishop of Marquette presiding and Deacon Louis Londo assisting. Rev. Msgr. Michael Steber will be the homilist and in attendance will be other priests and deacons from the Diocese of Marquette. Burial will take place immediately following the Mass in the Holy Cross Cemetery.
Deacon Leadbetter’s Funeral Mass will be live streamed at: https://my.gather.app /remember/john-s-jack- leadbetter
A Memorial Mass will be held in late summer when more members of Jack’s extended family and friends will be able to gather.
Those wishing to make an expression of sympathy are kindly asked to consider St. Peter Cathedral, 311 W. Baraga Ave., Marquette, MI 49855 in Deacon Leadbetter’s memory.
Canale-Tonella Funeral Home and Cremation Services is assisting the Leadbetter family where memories of Jack may be shared at canalefuneral.com.