John M. "Jack" Acheson
September 18, 1946 -- November 15, 2023.
John M. Acheson died peacefully in his sleep at 4:25am November 15, 2023. Jack has been an Ogden resident since 2007.
Jack was born in Seattle into a family comprised of his parents, Dick and Eleanor, and his four year elder brother Jim. The family spent the first five years of Jack's life moving through a series of towns and states as Dick pursued a variety of entrepreneurial enterprises, including his own butcher shop in Pike's Place Market. In 1952, the family moved to Kodiak, Alaska where Dick operated a butcher shop for his elder brother Bob. That summer Jack won the 5 year old division of the community footrace. This victory was a hint of Jack's life long competitive spirit in sports.
The following summer Dick got a job working in a gold mine near Iditarod but in the Kushokim River drainage. Here Jack was the youngest of his brother and two cousins. One fine spring morning, Jim led Jack on a hike on snowshoes, making good time on the frozen snow they began to realize that it was time to return to camp. But the strong May sun had turned to spring slop.
Six year Jack was crying in desperation but finally realized no one was coming to rescue them. Being the youngest in the group of four forged Jack's character for struggles in later life.
In 1953 the family moved to a house on the Truckee River, ten miles east of Reno. Dick owned the butcher shop in Black's Market. Attending school at Huffaker Jack and his brother soon started skiing in the Reno Junior Ski Program every winter Saturday.
Always a competitor, in the third grade, Jack was in a bike race but slid into a steel fence post at the finish. His jaw was severely broken and had to be wired shut for six weeks. Somehow he survived on milk shakes through a straw. It must have benefited his endurance under difficulty but it left him with lifelong dental problems.
After enduring the challenges of the meat business, Dick returned to the North working in his brother Jack's (Jack's namesake) placer gold mine in the Yukon Territory of Canada. The following summer the whole family moved to this mine where his mother cooked for a crew of a dozen miners as well as giving home school lessons to Jack. Again the brother had great freedom to roam in the bush and seek adventures in the 24 hour daylight of the far North.
More stability came to the family in 1956 as Jack's parents both got professional jobs in Reno and bought a house there. Eleanor became a Washoe County music educator and Dick became the Assistant Highway Equipment Superintendent eventually becoming the Highway Equipment Superintendent for Nevada Department of Transportation.
In 1957 Jack discovered the Reno Recreation Junior Tennis Program and spent a major part of his time developing tennis skills. Winning in his age divisions locally, he was able to attend quite a few national tournaments as a junior. Jack was the first Nevadan to win the Nevada State Open in twenty-five years. In 1964 graduated Wooster High School . That summer Jim and Jack organized the Sparks Nevada Junior Tennis Program. Jim was nominally the director but it was Jack who had the skill knowledge and love for the game to run a great tennis school. Jack continued directing the Sparks program for two more years. In 1964 Jack won a tennis scholarship to Occidental College in Los Angeles. Once in Southern California, the tennis proved more appealing than academics and he was pursuing mainly tennis.
In 1970 Jack flew to England hoping to play in the qualifying matches for Wimbledon. Later he played tournaments throughout Europe. Knowing about a tournament circuit in India, he made the three week bus trek across Asia to finally (after some delay at the border for the India Pakistan war of 1971) to play in tennis tournaments across India. After returning from India Jack continued teaching and playing tournaments.
In the winter of 1972 Jack started teaching skiing at Brighton Ski School in Big Cottonwood Canyon in the Wasatch. Although Jack took some breaks from Brighton for other endeavors, he was at Brighton most of the years from 1972 until 2003. In 1974 Jack heard a rumor of a summer job on a tie gang for Union Pacific Railroad so he showed up at a railroad siding near Caliente Nevada. A main impetus to seek this job was hopes of addressing his long standing dental issues. Another summer was spent on a tree planting crew in the Southern Rockies. Summer employment is always a big issue for ski instructors.
Despite growing up and playing on hard courts, Jack ultimately developed a great passion for clay as the ideal tennis surface. Though there are very few clay courts in the West, Jack did work in that venue to whatever extent he could arrange it. In 1987 or 88 he was able to finance a trip to France to play in clay court tennis tournaments there. This was a highlight for him as he was able to win tournaments against players twenty years younger. He always recalled the joy and hospitality of this French experience. In 1990 Jack participated in building a private clay court in Castle Valley near Moab.
In 1984-85 Jack worked for Rite of Passage out of Minden Nevada. This was and continues to be a program for empowering youth. At that time Jack worked with the kids setting up athletic fields at a desert camp. During the winter he was able help establish a skiing program for these inner city kids to experience skiing at Kirkwood Ski Resort near Lake Tahoe.
In the fall of 1999, Jack left his tennis program at Alta Canyon to pursue a clay court opportunity at Oakhill Country Club in Fitchburg Mass. He ran this program until 2002. In this period he had purchased a house in Morgan and in 2003 began teaching skiing at Canyons until 2007. Partly he lived in Park City but also also commuted from Morgan to Canyons at least one season.
In 2007 Jack purchased the 1896 house at 24th and Jefferson in Ogden. This large house had been converted to 6 units in the 1950's. Even though retired, maintaining and reconditioning these rental units turned out to be virtually a full time job during Jack's retirement years.
Beginning about 2015 Jack began to develop prototypes for a backwards pedaling bicycle. In 2016 the first prototype was mobile. Jack had a great passion for this concept as it allowed for an erect stance with much greater emphasis on buttock development as opposed to the lower position targeting mainly the quads of a traditional bike.
Jack will be much missed by the many people whose lives he touched.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Ogden Bike Collective 936 E. 28th Street, Ogden , Utah
Oh how our lives come full circle.
Jack was always so good to everyone in our little tennis group at Wingfield Park. He touched many of us with his quiet wit and remarkable athletic talent. In today's world, with great coaches and facilities, I imagine Jack would have been a world class player... but his spirit might have been too much for the tight structure required in today's athletic world. It does sound like he enjoyed his athletic path from Reno to teaching, working, and inventing. I never did regard Jack as a trailblazer, but it appears he has led his life like a pioneer. After reading the article about Jack's bike and his riding everywhere, I was reminded of my numerous bike rides to Wingfield Park. Every M-F during summer vacation I rode from Vassar and Wells to the courts.
I was lucky enough to have worked with Jack in the early 2000s for 4 summers at a country club in a small town (Fitchburg) in Massachusetts. I was just a young 20 year old that had a young family to take care of. I was working a full time job while teaching tennis. My tennis skills wasn’t all that great as I was just a beginner. During the summers, Jack taught me a lot, not just about tennis but also about life. Although I worked directly for Jack, he made me felt like we were partners, not like a boss to employee. We had the same work ethic and didn’t mind getting down and dirty. Even though we didn’t really know how to resurface the 7 har-tru tennis courts, Jack bought a book on how to do it and we got the contract to do it ourselves. We even got a contract to resurface private residence courts! We took any opportunity we can to make money. Jack was such a handy man too. We would do all the maintenance of the tennis facility, fixing up the fencing, installing makeshift watering system to make sure that the courts were watered and maintained. They were the best playing courts around!
Besides teaching me how to resurface the courts, Jack also taught me how to restring racquets for clients and how to teach tennis. Jack taught me the one handed backhand (I was an 2 hander) after admiring Jacks one hander. Some would even say that my 1 hander looks just as good as Roger Federer (maybe a close 2nd ).
The 4 fond years that we spent the summer together, I learned a lot from Jack. Till this day, I’m still playing tennis, teaching and coaching tennis to clients of all ages, and stringing tennis racquets for clients. My passion and love for tennis all started with those summers spent together teaching and playing tennis on the har tru courts. Everytime I play tennis on the har-tru courts, I’ll always remember Jack. Everytime someone compliment my 1 handed backhand, I would think of Jack and explained to them how this one pro from Utah came for the summer and worked on it all summer to make it look so good.
Jack lived simply and although our communication was sporadic through the years, he was always on my mind. Even when Jack leaves this earth, he will always be on my mind because I know that I will continue to play tennis until I can’t walk anymore and every sweet one handed backhand winner that I hit I know that I would have made him proud.
Jack came into my life in 2007 when he acquired the old mansion on the corner of Jefferson and 24th that had been converted into apartments. I worked at the library and Jack was a habitual visitor. His lurching gait, loud voice, and assertive manner was perhaps off-putting for some of the staff so I would be called upon to deal with him.
What I recognized immediately was a kindred spirit. Not fitting into the Utah norm was the main thing Jack and I shared. We made a fine pair of refugees from the utopian 1960-70s washed up on an alien shore. I've lived in Utah since 1982 and in all that time I've never had a friend here who understood me better.
My wife, Suzanne Hogan, had her own professional encounters at the library with Jack and for the most part enjoyed his company, though he was a challenging presence. He was always alert and aware of all the social norms he was violating by his mere presence. His soigne attitude was something I deeply admired. To all outward appearances, Jack might seem some kind of bum or lost soul. Au contraire, underneath that rough exterior was a true gentleman with stories to share of a globe-trotting life you could only dream of.
It was always a memorable visit when Jack would bike across town to visit. He would announce his presence by giving a pull to the dinner bell mounted on our bike shed, then gleefully bike through our backyard orchard. He called us “landed gentry,” gently mocking our bourgeoise pretensions and responsibilities.
We loved Jack’s extemporaneous appearances, showing up unannounced, never overstaying his welcome. Reciprocating visits was fun and easy. After Suzanne and I retired there were many occasions when our paths crossed at the library, the nexus of our three lives.
Sometimes I would cross paths with Jack while biking across town, then we would bend our ways together. Being retired and biking backstreets with Jack made me feel like a kid again. Biking along with Jack at an easy rambling pace was fun and almost certainly to be an educational encounter. There was very little in American society and culture than he didn't already know of or have an opinion about.
I'm sure it wasn't easy for Jack to ask me to chauffeur him to the U. of Utah for his cataract operations because he was so adamantly independent. On those long drives back and forth to Salt Lake City is when I got to know a lot more about Jack's family, his parents, his uncles, and their adventures in Alaska, Seattle, and Nevada.
It was my daughter Mieka who came up with the name of Cataract Jack. He didn't seem to mind.