Remembering Jack Harris

Kathy and Her Dad
Kathy and Her Dad

A good man died today. John N. “Jack” Harris was my father-in-law. Passing away at age 99, just four months shy of his 100th birthday, he left behind a legacy of triumph over adversity and accomplishment in whatever he set out to do. A true family patriarch in every sense of the word, his five children survive him. One of his daughters, Kathy, has been my wife for almost 46 years.

Jack was born in White Pine, Michigan, a small western Upper Peninsula town near the Porcupine Mountains. He was suddenly thrust into adult responsibilities at age 14, when he found his father dead in a farm field. He overcame the rigors of early life in the rural U.P. as he grew.

For a season, he left his beloved U.P. behind to find work in Lansing, MI and Wausau, WI, where he met and married his wife, Dorothy “Doree” Winetzki. He lost the love of his life in 2009.

Jack and Doree Harris
Jack and Doree Harris

Jack completed his studies at Michigan Tech University (then called Michigan College of Mining and Technology) in only three years. After graduating with a degree in metallurgy, he left college to join the U.S. Army, serving during World War II in the Aleutians. He rose to the rank of Master Sergeant during the war.

Later in life, Jack returned to the U.P. and settled in Freda, a tiny mining town in Michigan’s Copper Country. Using his training in metallurgy, he managed operations at the Freda Mill, which processed ore from the nearby Champion #4 copper mine in Painesdale. He eventually moved to White Pine, MI where he served as mill superintendent at White Pine Copper. He retired in 1986 and settled in Ontonagon, MI, where he lived the rest of his life.

Jack had a keen interest in the lives of the men who worked for him. During his working years in White Pine, he read three local newspapers: The Houghton Daily Mining Gazette, the Ironwood Daily Globe, and the Ontonagon Herald. He looked for coverage of family events, births and deaths, sports wins and losses, and other highlights in the lives of those he knew in the small towns of Michigan’s western Upper Peninsula. During his prime, he also read the Chicago Tribune, Wall Street Journal, Milwaukee Journal, and various news and business magazines.

Packer Backer
Packer Backer

A lifelong Green Bay Packers football fan, Jack attended many home games at Lambeau Field and even traveled to away games during the 1960s and ’70s. He adored Vince Lombardi and the championship teams he coached. One of Jack’s prized possessions was the signed portrait of Ray Nitschke that Kathy and I once gave him.

Michigan Tech hockey was also one of Jack’s interests. With his local friends, he drove the hazardous Copper Country roads in wintertime to attend MTU home games at Dee Stadium.

Another of Jack’s passions was hunting. Every year he looked forward to deer season, when he joined other executives for his annual trip to a deer camp in Channing, MI. Rumor has it, however, that more cards were played, male companionship enjoyed, and fine beverages consumed, than was venison procured. He also enjoyed rabbit hunting, and passed this pursuit on to his oldest son, Mike.

Jack was also an avid gardener who loved working the earth. After he retired, for several years he maintained three different gardens: one at his cottage on Lake Superior; one at his home in Ontonagon, and even one at his youngest son John’s house, also in Ontonagon. His wife Doree tended the raspberry bushes, which produced the delicious red berries she liked to serve over vanilla ice cream during our visits.

Jack at the Cottage
Jack at the Cottage

An engineer at heart, Jack also created scientifically-formulated batches of compost to fertilize his garden. He installed a special composter at the cottage, where he produced his compost product. He added ashes from the fireplace, chicken manure from local farms, leaves and grass clippings from the yard, and kitchen scraps to his blend of ingredients, keeping careful records of his batches in a small notebook. He even calculated the pH of the finished product.

Grandpa, This Is Your Life
Grandpa, This Is Your Life

Jack, you’re in a better place now. You will always be remembered by friends, your loving family, and all who knew you.

Family Obituary

John N. (Jack) Harris, age 99, passed away on Thursday, April 6, 2017 at Aspirus Ontonagon Long Term Care.

He was born on August 15, 1917 in White Pine, MI, the eldest son of William and Julia (LeMoine) Harris. He grew up nearby in Green, graduating from Ontonagon High School. In the summer of 1943 Jack married Dorothy Winetzki who preceded him in death in 2009. They had met on a blind date, were happily married for 66 years, and blessed with five wonderful children.

Jack graduated from Michigan College of Mines, now Michigan Technological University as a Metallurgical Engineer.

He served in the U.S. Army as a Master Sergeant during WWII and was stationed in the Alaskan Aleutian Islands for three years.

Jack was employed most of his adult life at White Pine Copper Company as Superintendent of the Mill Department.

Jack is survived by five children: Michael (Sherry Lynn) Harris of Madison, IN; Patrick (Elaine) Harris of Lake, MI; Kathryn (Phillip) Block of Port Washington, WI; Mary Ann (Dennis) Dougherty of Sault Ste Marie, MI; and John L. Harris of Ontonagon, MI.

He is also survived by seven grandchildren; Christopher, Stephanie, Rebecca, Dale, Julie, Ann and John, and ten great grandchildren. He is survived by both of his siblings; Edward Harris of Traverse City, MI, and Peggy Younk of Ontonagon, MI.

Also surviving him are his Aunt Germaine LeMoine of Ontonagon, MI; several nieces and nephews; and many wonderful friends.

Jack enjoyed nature, in particular stream fishing, hunting and gardening. He enjoyed watching ‘good ole Lake Superior’ both her wild waves and her calm stillness. He was an avid fan and attendee of Green Bay Packer football games and MTU Huskies hockey games. He was a hard-working, dedicated man with a strong faith. Jack’s wit made conversations with him both fun and thoughtful – a favorite being: “Plan your work, Work your plan”.

Funeral services will be held Monday, May 1st at Holy Family Catholic Church with Fr. Michael Jacobus officiating.

Visitation will begin at 9:30 A.M. with a mass following at 11 A.M.

The Cane Funeral Home of Ontonagon is assisting the family with arrangements. In lieu of flowers, we ask that donations be made to Ontonagon County Cancer Association in his name or any charity of your choice.


Beautiful reflections, Phil. Our sympathy to you all.
— Cheryl Karst

Beautiful reflections of a life well lived. Our sympathies to you & Kathy & family.
— Ceil Radick

A very nice written summary of Kathy’s dad’s life. My sympathies go out to you, Kathy and his loved ones.
— Sue Larson

Could not be more sorry about this great loss. May God bless you Kathy and Phil as you work through this difficult time.
— Jenn Voss

Phil and Kathy I am so sorry for your loss. That was wonderful eulogy that you put together for Jack. Sounds like he was a wonderful husband, father, father in law, and grandpa.
— Cathy Alcorn

Thank you for writing that! My Grandpa was pretty awesome!
— Anne Dougherty

So sorry to hear that.  He led a long and successful life. Hugs and prayers for all.
— Peggy Losey

My sympathies, condolences. prayers and love to Kathy and you.
— Sue Tolin

Sorry for your and Kathy’s loss.
— Rick Aikins

I’m sorry for your loss. That was a nice tribute to him.
— Deanna Nguyen

Sorry for your loss.
— Laurie Bendickson

I am sending a big Thank You to my many friends and relatives for all my Birthday wishes as well as for your Condolences for my Father. He was a good Husband and Father, Grand-Dad, Great Grand-Dad, an avid Packer- Backer and MI Tech hockey fan as well as a man of strong faith. Leaving Earth after 99.5 years is OK, Dad. Engineers are precise, remember?
— Kathy Block

Other Remembrances

Richard Yehl

Richard is a photo friend of mine, who participated in an October, 2013 Western U.P. photo trip I led. One of our stops was the Harris cottage, for sunset and beach photos. Richard recalls:

Sorry to hear of your loss Kathy and Phil. I’m leaving tomorrow after church to pay respects to my favorite uncle who lived in Jackson, Michigan. So sorry I didn’t get to meet Jack Harris when we were up that way. A couple more WWII vets the world is saying good by to. Safe travel and fond family time together. The photo was taken from in front of Jack’s cottage.

Richard also sent this photo, which he took on the shores of Lake Superior in front of the cottage.

Moments After Sundown
Moments After Sundown

A Final Goodbye

June 8, 2017

On warm, humid June day threatening rain, the family and a few friends gathered at Holy Family Cemetery in Ontonagon to say their final goodbye to Jack’s earthly remains. This moment was fixed into our memories, as a man we all knew and loved was interred in his final resting place.

Grave Site
Grave Site

A moment before it was lowered into the grave, family members tossed their yellow roses onto the top of the casket, in a final symbolic gesture to a departed family patriarch. Rest in peace, Jack.