Jack Ira Esler
May 11, 2023
Jack Ira Esler was born April 10, 1938, to Lillian and Ira Esler (a Menomonee Native American) in Birnamwood, Wisconsin. He was the first born, and had a sister Patsy that was two years younger.
They lived on a farm about nine 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.
In 1956 Jack graduated from Bowler High School in Wisconsin. He attended Branson University in Superior, Wisconsin in 1961, was in the Air Force ROTC, received degrees in Physics and Chemistry with a minor in Math. Jack 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, and he spent four years instructing in Selma Alabama at Craig Air Force Base. He flew the T33 and T37 and 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. Instead, Anthony 'Tony' Shine got my jet, and he was killed in Vietnam. They couldn't find Tony for a long time, he was missing for two years, so his daughters went back to Vietnam and did some research and found his helmet with his name "Shine" in it. Jack spoke of this often and it always touched his heart. He was honorably discharged from the Air Force in 1966 and went to work for Delta Airlines as a pilot for 25 years. Jack retired from Delta 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. Eventually they bought property in Thompson Falls, Montana, where he and Gwen built their dream home on the Clark Fork River. Over the years, Jack and Gwen enjoyed many hours on the deck of their home visiting and watching all the Montana wildlife passing through their yard.
Jack left this earth on November 30, 2022. He passed peacefully at his home in Thompson Falls. Jack was preceded in death by his parents, Lilly and Ira; his sister Patsy; his wife Margorie; wife Gwen; and his stepson Jeff.
Jack is survived by his three daughters and their families: Kim (Connor and Anika); Carrie (Rick- Josh, Savanna, Reese); Kelly (Tyler, Kendall); and Gwen's two 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 many family and friends, his brother-in-law Adrian Brown, and his longtime friends, Brian and Roxanne Babin from Woodville, Texas. Jack spent a lot of time hunting and fishing together with Ed Manning, Buddy and Judy Griffin, Archie Repetto, Ron and Sarah Braun, Curtis Stevens and Bob Worrell.
Jack requested that a portion of his estate fund yearly scholarships for the graduating seniors of all Sanders County high schools seeking secondary education and his alma mater, Bowler High School in Wisconsin.
There will be a memorial for Jack Esler on Saturday, May 20, 2023, at the Clark Fork Valley Elks Lodge in Thompson Falls at 1 p.m. with full military honors. Jack's wishes were to be cremated and his ashes spread over Mount Silcox via airplane.