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John Joseph "Jack" Sexton

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John "Jack" Joseph Sexton, 77, died peacefully on Oct. 3, 2009, with his sister, Mary Jo Knabe, and his longtime companion, June Okuda, at his side.

Born in 1932 to a large Irish Catholic family, Jack was raised in Minneapolis and came to Alaska in the early 1950s to work on the DEW line. He later returned to Fairbanks to work at his brother Bill's drive in and Tommy's Elbow Room.

It was there, as a bartender, Jack's old-fashioned courtesy and quick wit gained him a loyal following that moved with him to the Nevada Bar, owned with his brother Gus, and finally, in 1971 to the Big I where he remained until his retirement in 2006.

With Jack's talent behind the bar and his friend Hap Ryder's management skills, the Big I soon became a second home to many locals; a place you could safely leave money on the bar, get an honest drink and, if Hap was cooking, enjoy some great food.

Generous with his success, Jack helped a number of locals through tough times with a loan to be repaid "whenever possible." He should be remembered for his exceptional kindness to the old-timers and was frequently seen driving them wherever they needed to go.

Of the hundreds of great gatherings at the Big I, Jack's annual St. Patrick's Day bash was his favorite. The Irish flag was hoisted, the bagpipes played and corned beef and cabbage consumed while the lads from the old country sang Irish songs at the bar. As one of them aptly said; "Jack was a wonderful boyo whose like will not be seen again."

It takes a special person to inspire and maintain five decades of loyalty and affection. Jack managed to do that with his Irish charm, unfailing courtesy and marvelous sense of humor.

An avid golfer and sports fan, Jack sponsored many ball teams throughout the years. He was a generous donor to HIPOW and a devoted brother and uncle to his family. The entire Sexton clan would like you to join them Saturday at Immaculate Conception Catholic Church followed by a gathering at the Big I. And, if we listen carefully, we just might hear Jack and Hap still bickering about something somewhere.

Jack was preceded in death by his parents, Christopher and Margaret Sexton; his brothers and sisters-in-law, Jim and Colleen, Bill and Bev and Gus and Dodie; brother-in-law, Dan Macko; nephews, Pat Burnham and Bill Macko; and close friends, Blazo Bigovich, Deke Burnett and Hap Ryder.

Surviving Jack in Minnesota are sisters, Betty (Don) Burnham and family, Peggy (Dick) Stasson and family, and Rita Macko and family, and family of the late Jim and Colleen Sexton.

He is survived in Alaska by his brother, Mike, his wife, Joanne, and children Matt, Molly and Katie (Mark) Weisenbeck; his sister, Mary Jo and husband John Knabe and sons Dan (Alexis) and family, and Mike; nephews, Mark and family, Chris and Roxann and family and Paul Sexton; nieces, Becky and Bert Bell and family, Kathy and Larry Shier and family, Renee and Doug Avara; Teresa and Tim Ridle and family and Amy Sexton and Blake Smith and family.

Also surviving are his cousin and close friend, Dan Sexton; ex-wife, Marlene "O.W." Bell; "Godson" Zoe' Quist; and his loving companion June Okuda, who always took such tender care of Jack.

In lieu of flowers memorials preferred to HIPOW (Happiness Is Paying Our Way) in Jack's name.

There will be a 2 p.m. funeral Mass at Immaculate Conception Catholic Church on Saturday, Oct. 24.

Published in Daily News-Miner on Oct. 21, 2009
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