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John Cleary

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John "Jack" Cleary 1916-2011 John "Jack" Cleary, a longtime resident of Bennington and Woodford Mountain died on January 24, 2011 after a long life and short illness. He was born in 1916 in Lyndonville, the son of William Kerwin Cleary and Grace Stillwell Cleary. He would have turned ninety-five on February 5th. William Kerwin Cleary, whose father had immigrated to Canada from Wexford, Ireland, was a machinist and a 34 year-old widower with two sons when he married Grace Stillwell, a twenty year old waitress from Bradford, in July, 1914. Known locally for her beautiful singing voice, Grace Stillwell Cleary died on New Year's morning 1920, after five back-to-back operations for appendicitis and resulting complications, at least one which was performed on the Cleary Kitchen table. Young Jack was raised by Stillwell relatives in Bradford and also in Maine, where he often rode to school on a horse. He took a job at age 16 driving a truck for a St. Johnsbury-based bootlegger. He later joined his father and his two step brothers in Waltham, Mass., before moving to Chicago with his father in 1934. He spent five years in Chicago, becoming a White Sox fan and driving a beer truck for a local brewer. He often told the story about the time when he was delivering beer to a tavern when a gunman who had just robbed the place came running out and jammed a revolver to his head "You never saw me, did you?" he shouted "No, sir," Jack replied. He also worked as a guard at the planetarium at the Chicago World's Fair, which is where in 1934 he met Helen Polcyn, a Chicago native whose parents had immigrated from Poland and who would become his wife. Mr. Cleary returned to Vermont in 1939 "dressed in city clothes and looking for farm work" as he put it. He worked for a time on a farm in the Goss Hollow section of St. Johnsbury, and then moved with his new wife to Springfield, where -- having first signed up with the Marines but then given a classification 2-B draft deferment for war work he spent the World War II years as a machinist in the machine tool industry. The four oldest of the six Cleary children were born in Springfield, where Mr. Cleary worked at the Jones & Lamson Machine Company from November 6, 1939 until April 16, 1948, ending his years as foreman. The Cleary's then moved to Bennington, where Jack became a foreman at the Bijur Company. They first lived at 919 Gage St., then for many years on Woodford Mountain, and most recently on Union St.. His last job before retirement was managing the Bijur subsidiary in Ennis, Ireland, where he enjoyed playing golf on the windy and often rainy Irish courses. An outdoorsman who enjoyed hunting and fishing, Mr. Cleary was a good shot who brought home many deer, and was a skilled mechanic who had a reputation as a tinker who could repair almost anything. He also enjoyed bowling, snowmobiling, square dancing and playing golf. He was a long-time member of the Mount Anthony Country Club, as well as the local Elks, Lions and Moose Clubs. For many years after his retirement he did considerable volunteer work, particularly at the hospital He is survived by his wife of 71 years, Helen Polcyn Cleary, and by their six children, John Cleary of Williston, Robert Cleary of Calais, Jacqueline Marro of Old Bennington, Jean Nonna of Pleasantville, N.Y., Grace Collins of Bennington, and Helen Greene of Eagle Bridge, N.Y., and their spouses. He's also survived by thirteen grandchildren and eleven great grandchildren. FUNERAL NOTICE: The funeral will be held from the Mahar and Son Funeral Home on Friday January 28, 2011 at 11 a.m. with a prayer and then from Sacred Heart Saint Francis de Sales Church at 11:30 a.m. where the Mass of Christian Burial will be offered. The burial will take place in the family lot in Park Lawn Cemetery. Friends may call at the Mahar and Son Funeral Home on Friday from 9:30 until 11 a.m. If friends desire contributions in memory of John "Jack" Cleary may be made to Sacred Heart Saint Francis de Sales Church through the office of the Mahar and Son Funeral Home 628 Main St. Bennington, VT 05201.

Published in Bennington Banner on Jan. 26, 2011
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