Jack Benjamin Hitchcock (1929-2021)
Jack Hitchcock was born at home in Christina, MT, on April 21, 1929, to Esther Sheldon Hitchcock and Ralph Henry Hitchcock, the fourth of eight children, and died at home on January 3, 2021, after contracting COVID. Jack was 91 years old. He was a gentle man and a gentleman, and he touched the lives of so many during his nearly a century on earth and will be remembered fondly and missed dearly. He would want you to wear your mask, be safe, and get the vaccination.
Jack’s early life was shaped by the Great Depression, which began shortly after he entered the world. Throughout his life, even at the very end, he was a caregiver and an incredibly hard worker, perhaps due to the hardship of those years, or to his personality. He remembered his family being on “relief” (welfare) when he was six, and the family raising some of their own food which required Jack and his three brothers at the time to do the weeding and watering which was done with water pumped from a well and carried in a bucket to the garden and carefully poured on the growing vegetables. His very first paid job was sweeping one of the school rooms in second grade for 15 cents a week. Despite hard work, especially farm chores and taking care of lots of his younger siblings when they were babies, Jack remembered fun times with his cousins and other kids on and around the Hitchcock ranch near Fairfield, MT, in the 1930s and 1940s.
His mother and father, who had only completed 8th grade, pushed all their kids to complete college. After completing military service, Jack got a Bachelor’s degree in education at Northern Montana College and completed coursework towards a Master’s in Education and a practicum in counseling later at the University of Washington.
As a young teacher in the Renton School District, he also sorted and delivered mail during the summers to make ends meet. Jack was also an actual cowboy, who herded cattle on the Missouri breaks in his mid-twenties. Later, he rode in rodeos, particularly remembering getting bucked off bare-backed broncs and competing with teams in the “wild-cow milking contest.” Cowboy boots, hats, lassos, and a silver inlaid saddle were decorative themes in his Arizona homes in later years. And, he was the parent who was telling the truth about riding to school on the back of a horse in a snowstorm - starting at age 4 with his eldest brother to a one-room country school. (The teacher tolerated him and allowed him to stay but asked his brother to not bring him anymore when Jack was singing gambling songs instead of Mary Had a Little Lamb. However, his elder brother did bring him back.) He loved reminiscing about those times in his life, too.
Jack was truly an adventurer as he left his Montana ranch to hitchhike with his best friend to Los Angeles and San Francisco to seek their fortunes when they were 18. His hidden movie star talent remained hidden, but he learned about electrical wiring and telephones during his time in California. After a brief stint back in Montana back on the ranch, he enlisted in the Air Force and was stationed in Puerto Rico in the early 1950s. Later, as he worked his way through college for an electrical engineer, he used his electrical and telephone knowledge to survey and stake telephone lines in Montana (Jack may have brought telephone lines to many rural households for the first time – his own parents got their first phone around 1964). He also credited his interest in teaching from his years in the Air Force, where he had the opportunity to try it out.
Jack’s claims to fame also included a long list of athletic accomplishments. In addition to bronc riding, he also boxed with his brother (Jack was named after boxer Jack Dempsey, and his brother was named after Gene Tunney – carnival managers used to pay them to box one another to ‘draw a crowd’ for ticket sales in the 1930s), played basketball, baseball and football in high school and college, and even managed a ‘pool hall’ with his boxing brother (and could still play a mean game of billiards in his 80s). He and his daughter completed a 10k together and traveled to Alaska and hiked Mt. Juneau in 1987. However, his biggest regret was playing for several years as a catcher on the ‘farm team’ (semi-pro) for the Brooklyn Dodgers, but never getting to play with Jackie Robinson as Jack was never drafted for major league baseball. (For his adult life, he enjoyed watching televised baseball games with the sound off so he could read the catcher ‘signals’ – to watch who was controlling the game.) He also liked to camp and spent many a summer with his kids on a small piece of undeveloped property on Lummi Island, WA, combing for driftwood, swimming, golfing, and roasting hotdogs and marshmallows.
Jack was always a leader in his community, too, wherever he was, even as a cheer leader in high school. Fortunately, in 1956, he made a good impression on a fellow student at Northern Montana College, who, when she met him, was enthralled with his role as President of the Future Teachers of America campus chapter. After 11 months of dating, Jack and Patricia Ann Milne were married in Malta, MT, one week after he graduated, before setting out on a 63-year life-long adventure as partners and best friends. On his way to the wedding, Jack had a flat tire and while changing it, smashed his thumb. He often joked that his signature was so illegible on the wedding license, he wasn’t sure he was legally married! Pat and Jack did not know then that they were bound to live in three states, multiple cities, visit nine foreign countries and many other states on home exchanges, have three children and two grandchildren, and fall over laughing on more than one occasion. Nor did they know how much Jack would be forever a caregiver and forever community-minded.
Jack touched the lives of many, many middle school students in the Shoreline School District as an English teacher and then school counselor over 30 years, after receiving his education degree in 1957. The adolescent age when life is so hard was an age that he embraced. He started a peer mentoring program called Natural Helpers that became a model for the state and was even given a one-year paid sabbatical to travel as an evangelist around Washington. He believed in the program because he knew that kids needed peers who were like them to support them – whatever their background, interests, identities.
While there, he was vice president of the Shoreline Education Association when a mom in tennis shoes felt that the District could be better run. He doorbelled and campaigned for her, probably one of her first volunteers. She is now one of the most powerful US Senators, Senator Patty Murray of WA. Later in life, Jack appreciated Barack Obama sending him personal letters when he sent in his regular donations. We just let him believe that. He was active on the area boards of the AZ Democratic Party up until a few years ago and served as a precinct committeeman in both WA and AZ and was a long-time poll worker on election day.
Jack lived in the Wedgwood neighborhood of Seattle, WA for 30 years, from 1963-1993 -serving as President of the Wedgwood Community Council, and attending his kids’ and grandkids’ school events, musical performances, and activities in various Seattle schools and venues, as well as supporting Pat in her Musical Kindergarten business. After retirement, he and Pat lived in Sequim, WA for 7 years. He stayed active, elected President of the Clallam County Retired Teachers Association where he helped to lobby the state of Washington to get a cost-of-living adjustment– a huge boost for fixed income retired educators. He remembered his years in Seattle and Sequim fondly, but adventure (and the weather!) drew him and Pat to become snowbirds in Arizona starting in 1997, and for the past 10 years, they stayed permanently first in Surprise, then Sun City West, then in Peoria.
In retirement he had plenty of fun, but also stayed busy as a volunteer, with Head Start in Sequim, WA, and Tucson, AZ, as an ESL tutor, and on the Recreation and Advisory Board in Surprise, AZ, where he helped advocate for the construction of a new library and the stadium and parks complex. He was elected President of the Surprise Friends of the Library nonprofit in 2002 which has raised nearly $700,000 for the library system and books for schools. He also served on the Board of the Surprise Historical Society enjoying historical research and displays.
Jack was a devoted husband to Pat, through many trials and tribulations, home exchanges all over the world, enjoyment of the Southwest, married to her for 63 years, who he cared for through the stages of Parkinson’s, even making her mac-n-cheese the day before he died. Jack’s life was also shaped by his children, including profound losses of his two sons – one at age 5 and one at age 34.
Jack found his meaning in supporting others, despite these losses in his life. Nearly universally he is remembered by friends and family as positive, jovial, and extroverted, kind to everyone, smiling, and open minded. He enjoyed many rounds of golf (even a few holes-in-one!), games of cards, Wii bowling, bingo, joking with his granddaughters, and a good football game. Most of all, he enjoyed people. He loved his wife, daughter, granddaughters, and son-in-law dearly.
Jack is survived by his wife of 63 years, Patricia Milne Hitchcock of Peoria, AZ, and daughter Laura Hitchcock (Jan Glick) (Seattle, WA), granddaughters Olivia Glick (Washington, DC) and Talia Glick (Seattle, WA). He is also survived by cousin Billie Ann Hitchcock Higgins (Federal Way, WA), brothers Ray (Seattle) and Dennis (Char Houdenchild) (Prescott, AZ, and Bandon, OR), sister Jeannette George (Ajijic,Mexico), sister Verna (Havre, MT), brother-in-law Bob Milne (Billings, MT), numerous nieces and nephews, spouses, and their children, as well as Kayla Loughlin (Newcastle, WA), and Margaret Hitchcock (widow of Gene Hitchcock) (Tulsa, OK). He was preceded in death by sons Brian Jon Hitchcock and Dean Robert Hitchcock, brothers Glen, Phillip, and Gene Hitchcock, and his parents Esther and Ralph Hitchcock.
Jack would want you all to know to keep your chins up and look ahead. Better times are coming, and we can make them so. No memorial service is planned at this time. Please sign the online memory book for Jack if you would like to share a memory of your time with him.
In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the following charities in Jack’s honor:
Friends of Surprise Library
16089 N Bullard Ave
Surprise AZ 85374-7417
Join the UNICEF USA and MSNBC's "The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell" in an ambitious campaign called K.I.N.D.: Kids in Need of Desks to provide desks to eager young learners.
Veterans of Foreign Wars, https://www.vfw.org/
VFW National Headquarters
406 W. 34th Street
Kansas City, Missouri 64111
VFW Washington Office
200 Maryland Ave., N.E.
Washington, D.C. 20002
To send flowers to the family or plant a tree in memory of Jack Benjamin Hitchcock, please visit our floral store.