John Raymond “Jack” Giesecke of St. Johns passed away peacefully on August 21, 2019, at age 80. He was born April 26, 1939, in Chicago, IL, to Raymond and Marie (Keese) Giesecke and grew up as the oldest of three children at Sunny Knoll, the family home in Bartlett, IL. As a child, he was active in their church, Boy Scouts, baseball and played the tuba. He developed a life-long devotion to the Chicago Cubs as a young boy, spending many happy days listening to games on his radio.
He graduated from Elgin High School and DePauw University, where he was a member of Delta Chi fraternity and a Communications major. He later attended Michigan State University for graduate work and became a die-hard Spartan fan. It was through his student and future brother-in-law, Dick Northrup, that he met his wife, Marta Jean Swanson. They were married on April 27, 1968, and had a wonderfully happy marriage, celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary shortly before her death on June 21, 2018.
They began married life in East Lansing and eventually settled in St. Johns, where they lived for 42 years. Jack and Marta enjoyed collecting antiques for their older Victorian home and loved to entertain family and friends there. Jack took great pride in their home and would happily relate its history to anyone who was interested.
Jack’s early career was a business he developed renting televisions and bicycles to students at several Big Ten universities. As the rental business grew, he wrote a letter to his parents expressing optimism that “this could turn into full-time employment for me.” That it did, and more. He grew his fledgling company into The Stereo Shoppe, selling high-end audio/video equipment at five locations across Michigan. He loved making deals and had great fun negotiating with customers to find a fair price. He thoroughly enjoyed writing the well-known commercials that included The Stereo Shoppe Man and Wiley Moose and had many wonderful times over 40+ years with his Stereo Shoppe guys.
Jack loved his community and was a faithful supporter at Sea Lions meets, band concerts, softball games, tennis matches, football concession stands, and a myriad of other activities their three kids participated in over the years. He enjoyed a busy home with lots of friends and always made everyone feel welcome and part of the family, especially their children’s friends. He and Marta delighted in opening their home for swim team dinners, Lions Band events, slumber parties, their annual Christmas Open House, family celebrations, home tours, and Stereo Shoppe parties. The family was active in the First Congregational Church of St. Johns for many years, where Jack served on several boards and committees and made many dear friends. He was also a long-time board member of the R.J. Scheffel Memorial Toy Project in Lansing and was instrumental in setting the organization’s future course.
Jack’s very favorite place was the family cottage his grandparents built in the 1920s at Big Sand Lake Club in Wisconsin. There he grew up loving to fish off the big dock, carry on family traditions, and enjoy the quiet life of the Northwoods. He made lifelong friends at the Club and passed his love of Big Sand on to his children and grandchildren who are the fifth generation to enjoy this wonderful place.
A special part of Jack’s life was collecting Lionel trains - a hobby that began when he received his first train set as a child. For many years he traveled to model train shows in Pennsylvania and Michigan, enjoying the “hunt” for new pieces and spending time with his special train-collecting buddies from around the country. Jack eventually converted two rooms in their home to display his collection of pre- and post-War era Lionel trains and accessories on floor-to-ceiling shelves. He always had great fun setting up a huge layout in their living room to “play trains” with his kids and grandkids.
Avid Spartan fans, Jack and Marta held season tickets for MSU football and basketball for more than 40 years and enjoyed cheering on the Spartans at home, as well as following them to Tournament games. They liked to travel, try new restaurants, pile the family into the station wagon for Sunday drives, sit on the back porch, and organize friends for a fun night out. He loved good German food, a cold beer, bakeries, and especially pie.
Most of all, Jack will be remembered for his wonderful sense of humor and joking nature, love of family, integrity, fairness, and a work ethic often unmatched. He always seemed to find a way to make things happen by “looking at the options” with the firm belief that “all is possible.” In recent years, as Parkinson’s sapped his health, he handled the transition with his usual determination and good humor.
Surviving are his children, Jennifer (Jim) Beagle of St. Johns, MI; Michael (Laura) Giesecke of Scottsdale, AZ; and Betsy (Brandon) Chaffee of Granville, OH. Also surviving are his much loved grandchildren, Andy, Sam, Nicholas, Regan, Parker, McKenna, Evan, Matthew and Henry; sister, Nancy (Stu) Greene of Auburn, ME; sister, Sally (Bill) Giese of Hudson, WI; several dear cousins; in-laws, Jeff and Kathy Jackson of Grand Ledge, MI; and many loving nieces, nephews, and special family friends. In addition to his wife, Marta, he was predeceased by his parents, Marta’s parents, Stanley and Doris Swanson, and in-laws, Dick and Mary Jane Northrup.
Jack's family wishes to thank The Willows at East Lansing and Sparrow Hospice Services for caring for him with kindness, dignity, and respect. A special thank you to Hospice nurse, Karen Small.
The family will receive friends on Friday, September 6, from 4-7 p.m. at Keck-Coleman Funeral Home in St.Johns. A memorial service will be held on Saturday, September 7, at 11 a.m. at Redeemer United Methodist Church of St. Johns, 200 E. State St., with visitation beginning at 10 a.m. Private interment will take place at Mt. Rest Cemetery. Memorials may be made to the R.J. Scheffel Memorial Toy Project, P.O. Box 23181, Lansing, MI,48909. Online condolences may be made at www.keckcolemanfh.com.
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