The research process to fully understand Merrill and his extended family lasted through most of 2011. During this time, the research “team” suffered one sad tragedy of their own. The father of our local Midwest research assistant, Kathy, died suddenly and unexpectedly. The project went on hold as all involved instantly recollected the real pain of losing a truly loved one. Family history researchers spend a fair amount of time retrieving and studying death records; some remain detached from their findings. Not us. Compassionate genealogists empathize with the feelings which their surviving research subjects went through when a close relative passed away. The death of Jack Haley made us all take stock of our lives, and say a few prayers of remembrance for the dearly departed whether they be our own ancestors or those of our research clients.
Obituary: Jack Haley lived what he loved: planes, trains and real estate.
He became a pilot after joining the Air Force in 1958 and continued to fly planes the rest of his life. During the Vietnam War, Haley completed more than 100 combat missions over the Ho Chi Minh Trail and was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross.
He later spent six years flying first families — including Presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald R. Ford, on occasion — vice presidents, Cabinet members, senior military members and elected leaders. He also routinely flew Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and Gen. Omar Bradley. Jack Haley retired from the Air Force in 1978.
Haley began his real estate career while in the service, initially purchasing rental homes and small apartment communities. At the time of his passing, he owned 10,000 apartments in 10 states.
Always fascinated by railroads and an avid model railroader, he owned two railroad companies from 1984 to 1991 which formed an 850-mile stretch of railroad between Chicago and Omaha.
Kathy’s personal tribute:
It has been my privilege to have had my parents into adulthood. My parents witnessed the births of their grandchildren and great grandchildren, gave me pure unconditional love and shaped the woman I am and the mother I am to my children. I have been very blessed.July 2, while walking with my step mother on a beautiful summer morning, my father, suddenly feeling tired, sat down on the neighbors front lawn and quietly and peacefully died, and with the mercy of God, quickly. Despite his age, it was unexpected. I have lost a wonderful friend.Yesterday, we gave our final farewell and salute to Dad. He was buried with full military honors and a patriot guard escort. He was proud to be an Irish American. His friend flew over the cemetery with a fly over, nodding his Aerostar to the ground below three times. It was a beautiful tribute which Dad would have loved. He also loved God and his country. He loved his faith.Dad had ran marathons until he was 70, then he walked. He quit smoking over forty years ago. He had flight physicals, (more rigorous than the standard) and did everything in his power not to die of a heart attack, to live a long, healthy and productive life. But God had other plans. He had a faulty heart valve, a condition of age, nothing he could control. We believed he had years left, years remaining to share with him. Time. How ironic his certificate will list a heart attack as cause of death.Well “the old man” is in heaven now; smiling, maybe singing a favorite Irish song of the same name, and dancing with his own father, both watching the planes soar in the sky. With an old Irish Blessing, may God hold you in the palm of his hand.