John "Jack" Townshend
1927 - 2012
John "Jack" Townshend, 85, of Fairbanks, passed away Aug. 13, 2012, at home surrounded by his loving family.
Jack was born April 24, 1927, in Brandywine, Maryland, the 11th of 12 children.
He is survived by his wife Frieda, who he married on Nov. 22, 1952, in Washington, D.C., as well as his three children, Donna, Don, and Brenda, eight grandchildren, Aurora, David, Grace, Justice, Chelsea, Dirk, Brendon and Michael, and two great-grandchildren, Blake and Gavin.
He began his career at the age of 16 as a rural mail carrier. In June, 1945, after graduating from high school, he was drafted into the U.S. Army. After his honorary discharge, he took over his retiring father's job with the U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey. Seventeen years later, in 1963, he was appointed Chief of the USC&GS College Magnetic and Seismological Observatory in Fairbanks. He moved his family to Fairbanks to begin his newly-appointed position.
Over the next 49 years he continued working for the federal government in Fairbanks, with his final position being under the U.S. Geological Survey. In June of 2012 the Department of the Interior awarded Townshend a Meritorious Service Award. He retired in August, a few days before his death. His career was a very important part of his life and he enjoyed every moment of his 69 years of service.
Over those years of service, Townshend designed, developed and oversaw construction of various scientific programs for federal government agencies, universities, and foreign governments. In June 1996, one of Townshend's visions became reality when the new College International Geophysical Observatory was completed and dedicated.
For 10 years leading up to that day, Townshend nurtured the idea of creating such a facility and oversaw its eventual development. In 2009, the University of Alaska renamed the observatory "The Jack Townshend College International Geophysical Observatory" in honor of "the observatory's visionary and developer."
The University of Alaska also honored Townshend in 1995, with an honorary Doctor of Science Degree for "his distinguished and unwavering service to the scientific community and the University, and for his optimistic devotion to the Fairbanks community."
In June 1999, the University also honored Townshend by dedicating a new permanent landmark on the university campus. "Townshend Point" recognizing his "unshakable support of the school, science, and public service." Jack was proud of the fact that all three of his children graduated from UAF.
Townshend spent many years as an active member of the Fairbanks Kiwanis Club. He also served on the Alaska State Board of Education and on the Board of Directors of the National Association of State Boards of Education in Washington, DC (1978-82).
He was very proud of being a member of the Explorers Club, an organization devoted to recognizing pioneers in scientific fields, and served on its Board of Directors from 1990-1996. He was honored when he received an invitation to speak at the 1994 International Explorers Conference in Oslo, Norway, on "Some Thoughts for Achieving Personal Growth and Guidelines for a Meaningful Life."
Townshend's life was centered about his family, his friends and his career. Growing up with 11 brothers and sisters had taught him the value of close family ties. He was a very devoted father and husband who made spending time with his family a priority, organizing many family reunions to bring together all of his children and grandchildren. He also spent much of his time visiting family relatives around his hometown of Brandywine, Md., where he loved to play the card game Pitch into the wee hours of the night with his relatives and friends.
One of the great passions that Jack shared with many people over the course of his life was a love for running. He began running in his 50s, after a doctor told him that he was at risk of heart disease. Unsatisfied with jogging casually after work, Jack pushed himself to begin running a variety of races including marathons, in which he frequently placed first in his age group. He also became involved with Running Club North and helped to organize the Equinox Marathon and the Midnight Sun Run in Fairbanks.
The strong lungs that helped Jack as a runner also made him a great singer, a talent that he shared with people weekly singing karaoke at the Pump House as well as occasionally at weddings and special occasions. One of his signature songs was "You Are So Beautiful to Me," which he sang frequently to his wife, Frieda.
Jack had a way of making each person that he encountered feel beautiful, as if they were the most special person in the world. He was always interested in what each person that he encountered cared about, thought, and was excited about.
He expressed his love for people in many ways, through acts of kindness and generosity, through a willingness to listen, and through sharing his boundless enthusiasm for life. He was a selfless man, who would very rarely spend a dime on himself, but was generous beyond belief. He would easily give the shirt off his back to anyone in need, and was always ready to treat someone to lunch or dinner. He will be missed by many, but never forgotten!
Jack Townshend was a magnificent man. He was unique, bigger than life and one of a kind. He left his footprints on many peoples' hearts.
Jack's celebration of life will be held at 11 a.m. Monday Aug. 20, 2012, at the Charles Davis Concert Hall at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. This is a change of location from what was printed earlier.
Parking is available in the Taku lot (accessed off Farmers Loop Road) with a shuttle bus to the Davis concert hall. Limited handicapped parking is available in the campus core area.
If you would like to make a contribution in Jack's name, consider the following: Take a homeless person or someone in need to lunch, give a kind word to a stranger, listen to a person's story, live your life to the fullest and continue Jack's philosophy.
Arrangements were entrusted to Chapel of Chimes Funeral Home.
Published by Daily News-Miner from Aug. 17 to Aug. 19, 2012.
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27 Entries
Uncle Jack--We miss you!!!!! Miss seeing your ever smiling face....beautiful voice--always willing to share a song with us....more importantly--you have a big heart...filled with love, joy for all those you meet...I know you are a joy to those in heaven as well...Give my love to blessed to have such a loving family....Aunt Freida, Uncle Freddie, Aunt Thelma, Aunt May...Uncle Tommy...Uncle Jukes...Aunt Jeannette...Bessie...Russell, Phil...Jean, Joe...your son Don...all in heaven with you now. God bless you all...Gone but never forgotten. Your loving Niece, Connie
Connie Townshend Halkovich
August 11, 2021
Uncle Jack, I miss you so much after all these years. You were so special and you always made me feel 'beautiful' & 'special'. Now you are at peace with Aunt Frieda and now Don too. Love you all so very much! Niece Connie....p.s. please tell my dad {Samuel Gilbert Townshend, Jr} and Granddaddy Townshend I love them too!!!!
Connie Townshend Halkovich
December 28, 2020
It’s now 2020 and again I’m reminded of Jack and his forever smiling face.
August 11, 2020
Tänker på denna man ibland som jag har bara ljusa minnen av. Vila i frid ni båda vi träffas en dag
Jan Eng
February 11, 2020
I was just thinking about John. I really enjoyed coming to the house and helping out . My last get together was Frieda's birthday and what a special event it was. I often read the book John gave me Serendipity. Aloha John from the islands, Marypat
Marypat Maloney-Henderson
August 11, 2019
I just happened to be reminiscing with my wife and thinking about our trip to Alaska and meeting Jack. I'm not sure if you heard this story (although he was such a man of character, there are probably many like it). My wife in I were in Fairbanks (we drove from Florida) where I was going to go to UAF. I was also signed up for the Equinox Marathon and saw a training run posted in the paper. It was a beautiful run and I met Jack at the back of the pack. We had an enjoyable run and afterwards he invited me & my wife (and brother too) to the Pump House. When we walked in I was immediately able to point to the stage and say "there's Jack". We couldn't believe that after running about 10 miles this 70+ yr old man was now on stage singing. After being in a camper for about two months this was a great night out. And yes he even talked us all into singing (probably tough on the audience). A couple days later When Jack heard we were heading back to Florida (the costs had gone up and we were pretty tight), he found our campsite and urged me to continue with college and engineering. He explained to me how science was such a part of his life and how each class I took would be a tool that I put in my toolbox. He even generously gave us some gas money (I eventually sent a check to pay him back. The check was never cashed). At a time when we were at a crossroads in our life, God sent Jack to intervene. That was the summer of 1999. Over 20 years later, I have an Electrical Engineering Degree, Masters degree, am a professional Engineer (PE license), an author, and am still married to my wife Dianne. Had we not met Jack that summer, I don't know if these highlights would have been achieved. There is one thing however, that even jack couldn't help me with. According too my six year old son, I'm still not a very good singer! Jack will always be missed, but his spirit will live on as myself and similar individuals try to follow his example and pay it forward.
Alex & Dianne Graffeo
September 13, 2014
Many of us here at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah consider Jack one of our dearest friends. We had the privilege of knowing him through his service as executor of the Marcus Bach estate. For many years Jack served as a member of the Board of our Friends of the Library organization. What a profound impact he has had on so many!

Jack & Frieda regularly attended our board meetings where he shared his positive philosophy, radiated his boundless love, and brought joy to each of us as he sang, “You are so beautiful to me …” During one Utah trip he sang with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir during their weekly practice session. His vibrant voice and radiant smile filled all of us with delight.

Jack & Frieda, we miss you and love you. Thank you for blessing our lives so deeply.
Julene Butler
October 1, 2012
Jack will be missed by so many, his character and positive energy was contagious. His was a life to celebrate. What a gift to have known him and his family. My thoughts are with you all, Brenda and Frieda I look forward to getting back to town and having some time to sit and visit with you. Until then. Hugs to you all.
Kathy Carie
August 28, 2012
Jack to me was a very easy going but inquisitive person. Kept me on my toes the short time we shared, patient to nurse. Take Care.
Debbie Fox
August 25, 2012
oh jack you treated everyone like an old friend, i loved listening to you sing at kareoke gave richard a lot of inspiration when he was working on the gazebo for kiwanis. your wife and family will be in my prayers, GOD bless you all. :)
Jeanne Long
August 24, 2012
Brenda - thoughts and prayers with you and your family.
Beverly Ross
August 24, 2012
RIP Jack! Did you know EVERYBODY? You always greeted me as an old friend. I was especially blessed when we ran into you in the L.A. airport after 6 weeks overseas! You took us as your guests to the Board Room, and that was very much appreciated! I was always tempted to holler across the airport "Hi, Jack". You will be MISSED!
Dan Wells
August 23, 2012
RIP Jack. Did you 'know' EVERYBODY? You always treated me like an old friend, and it was such a joy to run into you in the L.A. airport when we returned from 6 weeks overseas. Your kindness to take us to the board room was a real blessing! I was very tempted to holler "Hi Jack" when I saw you! God BLESS!! DWIII
August 23, 2012
Dear Frieda, Donna, Don and Brenda: we just learned of the loss of Jack, a loss as the obituary says, not just to your immediate family but to the community of Fairbanks and beyond. In Jack's case, all of the usual praises are not only accurate, but really fail to adequately describe his unique character. As a teacher, especially during the difficult times in the '70's, I appreciated so much his strong support both as a parent and a school board member. His cheerful optimism and kindness were as welcome as they were sadly rare in public figures during those days. In the years after you all graduated, whenever I saw Jack he was full of excitement as he told me of your accomplishments and he was, of course, unfailingly interested in what I was doing, as well. I wish I had been able to be at the memorial; had I been, I would have shared my first encounter with Jack, which was at a public meeting on the school budget in Hering, probably in 1971 or 72, when I was an untenured teacher at Ryan. I spoke in support (my first public speech in Fbx) speaking of the importance of public education to American democracy. I was immediately challenged by a very scary Joe Vogler who corrected me, saying that if I were a social studies teacher I should be FIRED since America is a republic NOT a democracy. When I sat down, Jack leaned forward and told me not to worry, that he would have said the same thing I had. I loved him from that moment. Our thoughts and prayers are with you all. Fondly, Susan
Susan Stitham
August 22, 2012
August 21, 2012
For my Beloved Uncle Jack--who was a prince of a man....always upbeat, positive, and interested in what was going on in my life and the lives of other family members....we will miss you...but, will keep you in our hearts forever!!!! Love, Connie Legh
connie townshend
August 21, 2012
Jack was so Happy to have the picture I took of him at Kareoke he had it put on the cover of his cassette. Red suit and contagious SMILE!
Janice Witter
August 20, 2012
Jack was always ready with positive energy and a good word. I'll miss him.
Dan Endres
August 20, 2012
My condolences to Freida and the rest of the family. My husband worked for Jack in the 70's.
Marianne Deadmon
August 19, 2012
Jack my family and I will miss your visits to our home. We had so much fun with our pitch games and the Irish Coffee we would always have before bed time

August 19, 2012
I'll miss you, Mr. Jack. You've always been a dear friend to Dionna and I, and over the past few years, to my son and daughter. I wasn't there, but my wife said my son heard you sing the National Anthem at the Midnight Sun Run this year and literally ran up to you after you were finished to give you a big hug. I'll miss your wisdom, your generosity and your songs. I have your CD's and my family will listen to them often. Take care, we will always love you.
Darrell Clark
August 18, 2012
I have his music, I have his writings, I will keep his words close to me. I will always remember the crackers with a teaspoon of coffee and a little shake of pepper. Jack will always be around. Thanks for being in my life.
Mary Maloney-Henderson
August 18, 2012
Jim & Arleen Vorderbruggen Mn. Jack was one of the first to welcome us at his beloved Diner. That broke the ice and we have made several great friends there over the years due to Jack's wonderful friendship. He always referred to my wife and I as great ambassadors for Fairbanks. We will truly miss him when we visit next year.
August 18, 2012
Jack was amazing. Jack was an enigma. He will forever be remembered for his hugs no matter who. Kindness was his forte. We will miss you.
Susan and Lee Pankratz
August 18, 2012
Condolances to the family of "Earthquake Jack" from OLD friends of the 70's.
Harvey & Margaret Martin
August 17, 2012
You will be missed Jack. I ever so loved seeing you and your wife at karaoke. I haven't been out in a long time because of the smoke. You always encouraged me. I remember I would just shake in fear singing and you guys would tell me how beautiful it was. Thanks for that. I will miss you so. Hugs Frieda
Bonnie B
August 17, 2012
My condolences to Jacks wife Freida and family. I worked for Jack at the old observatory and moved on from there to NASA. He supported my career change and was always a friendly person. We had our issues but these were minimized by his concern for people. He was a great addition to Alaska.
John Annexstad
August 17, 2012
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