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.