John H. “Jack” Garlitz passed peacefully March 12, 2019 at the Montana Veterans’ Home in Columbia Falls.
Jack was born July 3, 1940 in Anaconda, Montana, the son of Alta Ruth Myers and Samuel Wells Garlitz. He is survived by his wife of 55 years, Phyllis Garlitz, daughter Maj. Cindy J. Dean (USAR) currently residing in Washington, D.C., grandson, Alec W. Howell of Whitefish, son-in-law Stuart Howell of Columbia Falls and his Aunt Vera Good, who just celebrated her 100th birthday. He was also blessed with niece Erika Kirst and family as well as nephew Dr. James Garlitz and family, along with numerous relatives.
Jack was preceded in death by his daughter, Candace M. Howell, grandson Devon Jon Howell and his brother James C. Garlitz.
Jack graduated from Whitefish High School with the Class of 1959, entering the U.S. Army in November of 1959 serving in Okinawa, where he made lifelong friends. He was honorably discharged the fall of 1962. He worked for C&H Sugar in San Francisco for a brief period after his military service, returning to Whitefish at his earliest opportunity.
His employment with the Great Northern Railway-Burlington Northern-Burlington Northern Santa Fe contributed to his life in many ways. Jack originally went to work as a “Gandy Dancer” laying down railroad track in 1954. Having discovered that he was only 14 at the time, he was sent home and invited to come back once he turned 16. He followed his family’s tradition of grandfather, father and uncle who all worked for the railroad; retiring from BNSF the fall of 2002.
He met his wife, Phyllis, at Gordy’s Drive In and they married in February 1964. He worked their first summer and fall on work trains, as crews scrambled to repair the massive structural damage to tracks, bridges, tunnels and roads as the result of the flood of ’64. He experienced numerous train derailments; the most serious in March of 1966 when two passenger trains collided killing both engineers and injuring several others. Jack was working the “Baggage Job” he not only sorted the luggage of the train passengers he also handled sacks of U.S. Mail. Normally his boxcar was located farther back from the engines. Due to weather and passenger train delays, the train, which was headed west, was made up differently, resulting in his baggage boxcar set directly behind the engines. He felt the “air dump,” and he knew this meant disaster. He jumped into the sacks of mail and escaped serious injury. It was said that had his boxcar not been there to absorb some of the momentum, there would have been many more injuries.
His railroad job allowed his family moved to Spokane, Washington. Jack could work and attend Spokane Community College, finishing his BA in General Studies at Eastern Washington University. Soon after his graduation his daughter, Cindy, was born. Reaching a crossroad — whether to continue towards his four year degree, which would mean quitting the railroad, or return to his beloved Whitefish — daughter Candace was ready for first grade so it was decided to return home.
Haskill Basin was a favorite place for him and his buddies to ride their bikes and fish in Haskill or Walker Creeks. Through Devine Intervention he and Phyllis purchased acreage in Haskill Basin and built a log home that the family lived in for 47 years. He loved raising his daughters in such a beautiful spot complete with waterfall and a fish pond stocked with Brook and Rainbow trout.
Jack and Phyllis pursued their love of travel; enjoying most of the USA and Canada — from the San Juan Islands to El Paso, Texas, Alaska to Ft. Benning, Georgia, with a stop at the Grand Canyon. Daughter Cindy joined the U.S. Army in 2008. She was stationed at Walter Reed Medical Center in Washington, D.C. This presented opportunities to visit some of the east. Favorite international destinations included Mexico, Costa Rico and most recently South Africa.
Jack enjoyed a lifetime of fishing and hunting adventures. He and friends made many horse backpacking trips into Salmon Forks and the Bob Marshall Wilderness. He introduced his daughters, their friends and other young family members to adventures in “the Bob.” Jack and Phyllis made a 75-mile loop from Benchmark to Pretty Prairie and always felt it was one of the best trips they ever made. Hiking in Glacier Park with friends resulted in special memories. Jack also enjoyed canoeing with special friend Ron Millard. They canoed the Bowron River Circuit; the Missouri and Miras Rivers, the Smith River was an annual trip for many years. His ultimate hunting highlight was his African Safari in 2010.
Jack loved his community; treasured growing up with friends and all the “adventures” they had. He, his brother Jim and lots cousins also found a bit of mischief. Growing up in the 50s and 60s allowed a bit more wiggle room than they might find in today’s world. He was a founding member of the Back Country Horseman, early member of Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, and served on their “Committee” for over 10 years. He was a fund raiser extraordinaire. A lifelong member of the United Transportation Union, he was also active in the American Legion, Loyal Order of the Moose and recently a volunteer at the Whitefish Historical Society.
After his last hospitalization, he knew things were going to get more difficult. In talking with Phyllis, she asked him if it was scary to think about dying and without hesitation he said, “Oh no! I am excited to see what’s on the other side!” Here’s hoping he’s riding his favorite spotted mule, along with his daughter Candace and grandson Devon and they are headed to the Chinese Wall. Jack always felt that God blessed him in life and that his good fortune would continue on to his next adventure.
Anyone wishing to donate in Jack’s honor please consider the Montana Veterans Home or the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation.
Cremation has taken place. Jack loved a great gathering. A Celebration of Jack’s Life will be held in June. Jack enjoyed telling stories, so if a little “embellishment” made them more entertaining, well all the better. It is hoped that Jack’s friends share some of their best “Jack” stories at his gathering. Austin Funeral and Cremation Services in Whitefish is caring for Jack’s family.
Each of us has an Up North. It’s a time and place far from the here and now. It’s a map on the wall, a dream in the making, a tugging at one’s soul.
For those who feel the tug, who make the dream happen, who put the map in the packsack and go, the world is never quite the same again.
We have been Up North. And part of us always will be.