Jack Alton, 74, of North Branch, Minn., died Jan. 4, 2023, of complications resulting from declining health. Jack was born William John Alton on May 17, 1948, to Gaylon and Muriel (Kapping) Alton in Eau Claire, Wis. “Jack” would be what most people knew him as, however, except bill collectors, whom he could easily identify when they would call asking for “William.”
Jack’s first seven years were spent on a farm in rural Alma, Wis. His family then moved to Wabasha, Minn., where he graduated from high school. He was involved in many activities such as being a star football tailback, running track and field, acting in drama, and more than occasionally hot rodding in various southeastern Minnesota locales. Academics weren’t really a focus, but he was always proud to have a diploma.
Upon graduation, Jack married Linda Gerken and moved to Frontenac. He and Linda had two children, Scott and Jennifer. He worked as a truck driver for most of his career, driving for companies like Knudsen, Bud Meyer, and later Metro Gravel in Newport. He was also extremely proud of his own car-hauling business, Wm. Alton Transportation.
Jack did take a break from over-the-road trucking when he and Linda bought B. Wells Bar in Frontenac. They ran the bar from 1979 until 1985. Jack had a magnetic personality, and a party usually followed him wherever he stopped. B. Wells was no exception.
The call of the open road got the better of him, and he sold the bar and went trucking again for the next two decades. For a big part of that time, his son, Scott, rode shotgun in the summer as they explored the world together.
Jack moved to St. Paul after he and Linda divorced. He married Pam and they relocated to North Branch, where he could fish and live surrounded by woods again. Health issues eventually ended his cross-country treks, and he partially retired in 2010. He still felt compelled to drive and became Bus Driver Jack for North Branch schools. He enjoyed hauling “live freight,” and many kids recognized him around town.
Jack’s interests were varied. He was rarely idle and could often be found in his shop fixing or repairing something. It was also there that he would build a fire in his stove and watch nature. He was an animal lover and had several cats and dogs over the years. He and Pam spent many happy times RV camping, riding Harley, gardening, and grilling on their deck. One activity he never tired of was taking out his boat or pontoon to fish and relax. Jack certainly lived life his way and was always captain of his ship, in water or not.
At heart Jack was a people person. He was famous to most, and infamous to others, most of whom included law enforcement personnel. When he was able to, he would jump in to help others. He loved having visitors. Friends and family defined him, and he was happiest when surrounded by both.
Jack is preceded in death by his father, mother, and twin sisters who died in infancy. Jack is survived by his wife, Pam; two children, Scott (Nina) Alton of Red Wing and Jenn Alton of Boston, Mass.; brother, Charlie (Karen) Alton of Rochester; stepbrother, Louis (Dorothy) Gluesen of Lake City; two grandchildren, Bern and Silje; two cats, as well as the many friends he enjoyed having in his life.
A celebration of Jack’s life will be held on a warm, sunny day in June when drinks, laughs, and memories will be able to be shared more easily. Until then, celebrate his life with a cold libation, listen to Hank Snow’s version of “I’ve Been Everywhere,” and live life. Jack’ll be around that next turn waiting for you.