Encinitas, CA – John T. Short (Jack) died on October 8, 2017 at age 90 just as he wished – suddenly and without pain – having lived a rich life full of love, family, and community service.
He was preceded in death by his high school sweetheart and adored wife Norma Hansen Short, parents Carl West Dobbe Short and Clara Leana Domros Short, and four siblings: Gladys (MacDonald), Alice (Kibbie), Al and Bill.
He is survived by his son John T. Short, Jr. (Clara) and his sons Travis (Rhodes) and Tyler (fiancée Andrea), and by his daughter Lissa Poincenot (Lionel) and her children Jeremy (fiancée Ellen), Julie and Eric.
Jack was born in Detroit, Michigan in 1926. He worked in the family’s restaurant where patrons played floating blackjack games and he developed a lifelong fascination with gaming. Rather than join any of the neighborhood gangs, he spent time in the library, a sanctuary that offered endless hours of learning and stimulation. He worked as a soda jerk, spending most of his earnings to bring ice cream home to his mom each night after his dad died when he was just 11 years old. He sold photos on the Boblo boat that ran excursion ferries from Detroit to Boblo Island. Performing as a magician he developed sleight-of-hand skills that he used in the US Army during World War II, entertaining troops and teaching them how a card mechanic or dice operator could cheat them. Later, Jack delighted his children, grandchildren and their friends by doing magic tricks at the dinner table.
He graduated from George Williams College in Chicago, where he studied group dynamics and worked as a community organizer. He considered becoming a theologian or a YMCA director, instead becoming a Sales Executive in the fields of publishing, real estate, bookstore ownership, and educational media. The ultimate salesman, he loved to tell the story of how as a young man he worked in a men’s clothing store. Each morning, the salesmen would pick out the worst-looking ties and put a few dollars in the pot, with the winnings going to the guy who could sell the tie. Jack usually won.
He was elected to the Grosse Pointe Board of Education, serving as Vice President and Treasurer. In 1968 he voted to approve a request for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to speak at Grosse Pointe HS, a controversial action leading to threats against him and his family. He was Chairman of the Board of Management of the Hannan YMCA
He served on the Grosse Pointe Library Board, beginning sixty years of volunteer service to libraries in America, including many leadership roles such as National President of the American Library Trustee Association. He spoke on library issues around the world, and published several books on library governance. He was one of five appointed by the United States Senate to plan the first White House Conference on Libraries and Technology.
Jack was interested in gambling as a social phenomenon, and was a casual gambler’s advocate. He created the National Gambling Literacy Organization to encourage recreational gamblers to become informed about how to approach gambling for maximum enjoyment, using the public library and bookstores as sources of valid literature. His book Roulette for the Casual Gambler was designed to give players as many advantages as possible. He was a regular at Valley View Casino, sharing his insights with management.
He loved games, puzzles, puns and stories, such as the dog applauding in the front row of the theater that he and Bill Bellows have shared since their friendship began in 1951.
The most important day of his life was his first day of high school in 1941, when he saw “a beautiful pair of legs going up the stairs” and immediately asked Norma Hansen to the school dance, not knowing if there was one coming up but willing to take that chance. From that moment until the day he died, she was the love of his life. They married in 1951, and they shared an intense love that continued even after she died in 1998. She was a constant presence in his thoughts, and he took seriously his responsibility to pass along her memory, love and values to their grandchildren, refusing to “leave the scene” until the youngest was grown. Travis remembers how Grandad loved telling stories about courting Grandmom, falling in love, and his thoughts about her even after she passed.
In 1970 the family moved to Simsbury, Connecticut, and after the kids were in college he and Norma moved to Avon. Tyler recalls walking with Grandad from the house to the pond to feed the geese, and the life-sized Santa doll that sat in the living room chair every Christmas.
After Norma’s passing he eventually sold the house in Avon, spending time with both his Connecticut and California families before ultimately moving to California. John remembers how he bought Jack a cell phone so he could stay in touch on the drive from Connecticut to California as he visited family and friends including his college roommate along the way. He did stay in touch…until the battery ran out of power in Chicago and he refused to recharge the battery.
After several years of living with Lissa’s family, Jack lived independently at Encinitas Terrace. He appreciated the sunshine, drives along the Pacific Coast, and lunches with Lissa after his many appointments at the VA. Rather than grumble about the pains of aging, he’d embrace the positives, saying, “Every day with my daughter is a wonderful day!” Jeremy was inspired by Grandad to become a life-long learner with a growth mindset, acquiring his fascination with people and things, and asking questions to learn more. Julie appreciated his way of making each grandchild feel uniquely important, by calling her his “favorite granddaughter” and Eric his “favorite youngest California grandson,” and following their interests by sending related newspaper clippings. Christmas Eve was always a special time with a traditional Danish dinner, and Eric especially enjoyed finding the best places to drive Grandad to enjoy the holiday lights.
Nothing was more important to Jack than family, and he constantly made sure everyone knew how much he loved and was proud of each family member.
Everyone he encountered heard stories about his children and grandchildren, perhaps slightly embellished, always filled with pride. He would often reflect on each grandchild in turn, and be delighted by how “with it” they all are. He took comfort during his final years knowing that “As the years close in, the happiness and success of the “children” allows me to reach that final hour with calmness and closing my eyes for the last time as The Lord says, “Well done.”
When Jack’s grandson Jeremy suddenly became legally blind at age 19, he discovered he has a rare genetic mutation called Leber’s Hereditary Optic Neuropathy (LHON) and that other family members are at risk of similarly becoming legally blind. He took particular pride in Jeremy’s success as a professional inspirational speaker and World Blind Golf Champion, and focused his considerable sales and PR skills to raising awareness of LHON with each person he met, brainstorming with Lissa how to develop the LHON community and ensure there’s a treatment before others in the family become blind. He requested that no flowers be offered in tribute to his passing, and instead that donations be made in his memory to the LHON Project Fund at the UMDF [8085 Saltsburg Road, Suite 201, Pittsburgh, PA 15239] or at https://www.classy.org/campaign/project-fund-lhon/c131338
A private, graveside service with military honors will take place at Miramar National Cemetery, where he and Norma will be rejoined.
Life has an end. Love does not.
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