January 12, 2023
Jack Esler was born April 10, 1938, to Lillian & Ira Esler (a Menomonee Indian) in Birnamwood, Wisconsin. He was the first born and had a sister Patsy that was two years younger. They lived on a farm about 9 miles from Bowler, Wisconsin, where they raised cattle on 160 acres without much money. Even though he was allergic to cattle he did everything necessary from working on farm equipment to harvesting hay, grain, and corn. He graduated in 1956 from Bowler High School. He attended Branson University in Superior Wisconsin, 1961, was in the Air Force ROTC, received degrees in Physics and Chemistry with a minor in Math. He was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant, then became a captain in the Air Force pilot training program two months after graduation. Pilot training was in Big Springs, Texas. He spent four years instructing at Selma Alabama at Craig Air Force Base. He flew the T33 and T37, he spent one year pilot training and four years instructing. He volunteered for Vietnam, but they would not let him out of his pilot training. "If I had waited two more days I would have had to go to Vietnam, Anthony 'Tony' Shine got my jet, and he was killed in Vietnam. They couldn't find him for a long time. He was missing for two years. His daughters went back to Vietnam and did some research and found his helmet with his name in it 'Shine.'" Jack spoke of this often and it always touched his heart.
He got out of the Air Force in 1966 and went to work for Delta Airlines as a pilot for 25 years, retired at age 53 in 1991.
Jack married Marjorie Maahs in 1960 in Wausau, Wisconsin. He was still going to college, and she was teaching at Mattoon High School. They had three daughters: Kim, Carrie and Kelly. Marjorie passed away in New Braunfels, Texas, in 2002 from pancreatic cancer. They had been married for 42 years.
He and his family lived in Woodville, Texas, Caroline, Wisconsin, and Wasilla, Alaska. Jack moved to Alaska and started to buy and sell properties around 1995. He also spent time in Arkansas.
Jack went back to Wasilla, Alaska, where he met Gwen Cline. They were married in Vegas in 2003. They spent their summers in Alaska and winters in Thompson Falls, eventually moving to Montana full-time. Gwen passed away at their home in June of 2021.
Jack owned and loved to fly his M7 Maule 5 float plane (on skis or wheels) in Alaska. He spent much of his time hunting moose and caribou, and spending time at the cabin on Red Shirt Lake. He was always happy to be giving family and friends "trips" to the cabin. Later, he and Gwen would spend the summers in Hoonah, Alaska, fishing, shrimping, clamming, and hunting blacktail deer. He especially enjoyed catching white King Salmon in front of the house in Hoonah from their boat. He soon learned that fresh black cod was his favorite fish to eat after catching it near the house in Hoonah. Eventually they bought property in Thompson Falls, Montana, where he and Gwen built their dream home on the Clark Fork River. They enjoyed numerous hours spent on the deck visiting and watching all of the Montana wildlife for over 18 years.
Jack passed away at his home in Thompson Falls on November 30, 2022. He was preceded in death by his parents, Lilly and Ira; his sister Patsy; his wife Margorie; wife Gwen; and his stepson Jeff.
He is survived by his three daughters and their families: Kim (Connor & Anika), Carrie (Rick- Josh, Savannah, Reese), Kelly (Tyler, Kendall); and Gwen's sons and their families: Scott Cline (Deanna-Jennifer, Jamie, Jessica, Ashley and Heather), Jeff Cline (deceased) (Moneak-Rachael, Colton), Steven Cline (Pam-Braxton, Allison).
Jack leaves behind numerous family and friends. Special to him were his longtime friend, Brian and his wife Roxanne from Woodville, Texas, they spent a lot of time hunting & fishing together, as well as friends Buddy and Judy Griffin, Archie Repitto, Curtis Stevens, Bob Worrell and Gary Cooper.
There will be a memorial on May 20, 2023, at the Clark Fork Valley Elks Club in Thompson Falls with full Military Honors. Jack wishes were to be cremated and his ashes spread over Mount Silcox via airplane.