John Arthur Kirschman was born on March 8, 1925, in Forestburg to John and Rose Kirschman. Better known to us as Jack, he was the first baby to be born in the Forestburg Cottage Hospital. A loving husband, dad, grandpa, great grandpa and friend, Jack passed away peacefully at the Hardisty Care Center on August 1, 2021, at the age of 96.
Jack grew up on the family farm east of Forestburg and started his education in Pleasington School, a one-room school north-east of the farm. He later went to Forestburg for the remainder of his schooling.
After finishing school, he began his working life as a farmhand for his neighbours as well as working for his dad. In 1946 and 47 Jack went with a combining crew to Kansas and the Dakotas. He had many good memories of that trip, one being a time they were on their way home and as it was getting dark, they pulled into a town and found a nice grassy area to make camp for the night. The next morning as they were getting ready to move on a police car drove up and asked them if they knew where they were camping. After answering that they didn’t the police officer told them they were “on the Legislative grounds and to finish what you’re doing and move on soon!” They had good laughs about that over the years.
In 1948 the crops were not too good and then after a hailstorm went through Jack decided he needed to get a different job for the winter. He talked to his friend Gordon Robertson and they both decided they would go to East Coulee and see if they could get a job in the mine there.
They went into the mine and asked if they were hiring. The fellow there asked, “Are you farm boys?” After saying “yes” the fellow at the mine said, “report for work Monday morning.” He did and his one-time winter job ended up being 7 years.
Jack always had in his mind that he wanted to farm full-time for a career, so his plan was to work hard and save money to make his dream happen. Despite working full-time at the mine, he still had weekends and evenings, so he started a small business hauling coal for people. Very quickly he had a lot of clients and was kept very busy.
Even though he was working full-time and moonlighting on the side he still found time to socialize with friends. Jack was very good friends with the Christiansen’s and during one evening that he was meeting them, they had another of their good friends over as well. That friend was Lily Catonio.
As time went along Jack and Lily spent more time together and eventually married in 1952 in Drumheller. Lily had two children, Tony and Marlane and after getting married Jack took them as his own, loved them and helped Lily raise them.
In 1956 Jack and Lily decided it was time to move back to Forestburg. Then, in 1959 on July 4th they had a son, Curtis, and their family was complete.
Jack loved farming and always thought farm life was the best. When he took on a job, he always gave it his all and Jack and Lily, working side by side, built up a very successful farming enterprise over the years.
One neat story Jack told was about the time he and Lily were picking rocks on one of their fields. At one point they sat down to have a little rest before moving on. As they were sitting Jack noticed something moving or seeming to pop out of the field. Both he and Lily watched in amazement as the crop was just starting to break through the ground. He said little plants were just popping up all around them. They looked at each other not quite believing what they were seeing, and sure that no one else would believe them either. Later after talking to the District Agriculturalist, he said they were very lucky to have been there to see what they saw as the conditions were just right – certainly something that very few ever get the chance to see first-hand!
After many years of successful farming Jack and Lily decided it was time to retire and Curtis took over the farm. With time on their hands and many of their friends heading south to Arizona for the winters they decided they too would give it a try. They went for two weeks the first winter, a month the second winter and then bought a place in Palm Gardens in Mesa, Arizona. They continued going south for winters for 18 years.
One day down south Lily couldn’t find her glasses. Jack was always telling her something like “if you put them down in the same place when you take them off you would know where they are.” Having said this, he didn’t think his glasses were feeling just right. After taking them off to look at them he discovered that he had been wearing Lily’s glasses. We’re not certain if he admitted that or simply told his loving wife that he had found them for her!
Over the years Jack and Lily took trips to Hawaii, Mexico and many other parts of Canada and the United States. A very big highlight in Jack’s life was his trip to Nicaragua with the Tools for Peace Brigade. He enjoyed the trip and loved the people he met there and believed that this was the type of trip and experience that anyone would benefit from.
An active community volunteer and builder all his life, some of Jack’s involvements and accomplishments were:
Member of the Forestburg Consolidated School Board
Member of the Forestburg Lions Club for 61 years including serving as President
In 1983 Chairman of the Forestburg History Book Project – Jack was always very interested in the history of Forestburg and especially loved to talk about the early days of settlement and activity in the area
Member of the Forestburg Senior Centre including serving as President
Member of the Advisory Board of the Alberta Wheat Pool
Member of the United Church Board
Member of the Forestburg Seed Cleaning Plant Board for 20 years including serving as Chair.
Jack was always very generous with his time and resources and could always be counted upon when there was a need. During the last 5 years Jack and his friend Bernice Blagden spent a lot of time together greatly enjoying each others company. They spent many hours playing bridge, attending social events and also watching the occasional Blue Jays game. Jack was very thankful for her companionship.
Jack will be lovingly remembered by his daughter Marlane (Manfred), daughters-in-law Joan Catonio and Judy Kirschman, 7 grandchildren – Jessica Kirschman of Okotoks, Jennifer (Chris) Mandela of Okotoks, Lori White of Kelowna, Rick (Hope) White of Calgary, Jill (Trevor) Tobin of Sherwood Park, Tony Catonio of Langley and Mark Catonio of Langley and by 21 great-grandchildren as well as friend Bernice Blagden.
Jack was predeceased by his wife Lily, parents John and Rose Kirschman, brother Bob and sister Irene, sons Curtis Kirschman and Tony Catonia, son-in-law Mike White and his grandson Todd White.
Donations in memory of Jack may be made to the Pleasington Historical Society, the Forestburg Golf Club or the Forestburg & District Community Enhancement Fund.