Jack Raymond Vandevoorde, 87, of Iron Belt Wisconsin died peacefully surrounded by his children on January 22, 2021, at the Villa Maria Health and Rehabilitation Center in Hurley.
Jack was born on September 5, 1933, to Raymond and Godelieve (Delodder) Vandevoorde and grew up in Iron Belt. Jack was born a fraternal twin and shared a lifelong bond with his twin sister, Jean Vandevoorde Grasso, and later her husband, Frank. Frank, Jeanie, Jack and Donna spent many hours laughing and enjoying each other’s company through the years.
Jack graduated from Iron Belt High School in 1951. Jack met the love of his life Donna Lauzon and they eloped and were married on April 19, 1952, in Carlton Minnesota. Jack and Donna started their life together in Superior Wisconsin, but soon the love of family and the land drew them back to Iron County where they settled and spent 62 years together until Donna’s passing in 2014.
Jack loved his country and proudly served in the U.S. Army from 1954-1956. Jack was stationed in Verdun, France, and performed his basic training at Ft Leonard Wood, Missouri. While in France he visited with his Belgian family both the Vandevoorde’s and the Delodder’s. The time spent in Europe was very meaningful to Jack, and he was immensely proud of his Belgian heritage. In 1955 while in France, he was lauded for valor and received a citation for acting “beyond and above the call of duty” for rescuing and removing 2nd LT C. Townsend from a submerged F86 Saber Jet. At the time he was selected for service, his wife, Donna, and newly born son, Jeff, stayed in the care of his sister and brother-in-law, Clara and Marco Gotta. Jack and Donna were forever grateful for their kindness, and it was one of many stories that were shared with us signifying the strength and kindness of our family heritage.
Jack was a hard worker, and his early years of employment before the service included working for John Sr. and Helmi Brackett’s logging business. He related many stories of his youth driving trucks and working around the loggers at the camp. Jack was also an iron ore miner in both the Montreal and White Pine mines, and he ran his own gas and service station, Van’s Sinclair, in what is now the Montreal post office. He worked in Green Bay for the CNW railroad and Hi-Bob in Ashland Wisconsin. His last and favorite job before retirement was as a working foreman and forester for Iron County. He loved building bridges, marking timber, running lines, working with loggers, and spending time across Iron County with his co-workers and CC crews making the outdoors accessible.
Jack’s life was filled with many passions and interests. His love for the outdoors,
hunting, fishing, trapping, were fostered by his dad, Raymond. Hunting became a lifelong passion that he shared with both his sons, Jeff and Rick. He loved growing up on their small farm in Iron Belt and he related many happy hours of helping and spending time with his dearly loved mom in the family barn and his childhood home. The “Buckhorn 2 “, a hunting camp on Lake O'Brien was built by a group of friends, his brother, Patcha, and other family. The log camp still stands today as a gathering place for 4th generation hunters and is the subject of many stories, and was an important part of Jack’s life. He was also proud of his work and involvement with building the Knight Rod and Gun Club, a clubhouse on the upper bank of Weber lake, where families could gather and enjoy the outdoors including snowmobiling, fishing, and spending time together. Jack later enjoyed hunting at the camp at Norman Creek from 1992 until 2012 with his sons, Jeff and Rick, daughter-in-law, Maggie, granddaughters, Abby and Jessica, and granddaughter, Amy’s husband, Ken Saari
Jack was always willing and able to help with work parties for family and friends. He was happiest sharing and passing along the many things he had learned along the way. Each of his children was the benefactors of his sweat equity. He helped us build garages, four-season porches, roofs, hunting camps, too many work parties to document them all. Jack was a master welder and fabricator; and he enjoyed designing and building “home-made” trailers of every size and shape, a snowmobile, jeep cabs, axes, shovels, truck grills, and bumpers. He enjoyed crafting knives, guns, snowshoes, cabinets, and furniture which he shared. In our small town. If you did not know Jack, you knew of him. We, his kids, were enormously proud and a bit in awe of him. His greatest lessons were family first, be generous with your time, work hard; and when the project was done; have some fun. On one project the group T-shirts read “They work like the Amish but drink like the Irish”, and he wore that T-shirt for years with much pride.
Jack and Donna in their early married life settled in Montreal Wisconsin, and they lived there happily for 21 years raising four children. In the early 1980’s Jack and Donna’s dream of living quietly in the country began. They began putting together a plan to build their home in the foothills of Formolo’s bluff. The work began with the continuous help of many family and lifelong friends including many hours spent at his sawmill with sons, Jeff and Rick, Bill Holst, Bob Zell, and their families alongside our family.
At the end of the project, a beautiful home was hand-built along with out-buildings, fishpond, gardens, sugar shack, and beautiful trails. It was then and continues to be a special place for all of us. Jack and Donna were so proud of the land and home and eternally grateful for all the help they received. There were many celebrations, holidays, and get-togethers with family and friends that reached as far as summer visits from relatives from the hometown of Jack’s parents in Wingene, Belgium.
After his retirement Jack enjoyed spending countless hours in his gardens, perfecting his jam, maple syrup, salami, and venison sausage recipes. He continued his love for the outdoors, hunting and cutting wood. He shot his last buck at age 80, cut wood into his 80’s to heat the family home, and enjoyed walks with all of his trusted dogs which he enjoyed very much throughout the years. His love for reading and learning continued till the end of his days. We will be forever grateful for the parenting that we received from Jack and Donna. They taught us all the important lessons, and we will love and cherish them forever.
Surviving Jack are his four children, Jeff (Debbie) of Kimball, Wisconsin, Rick (Maggie) of Ashland Wisconsin, Michelle (Cathy Larson) Vandevoorde of Vadnais Heights Minnesota, and Lisa Vandevoorde of Circle Pines Minnesota; five grandchildren, Amy (Ken) Saari of Montreal Wisconsin, Sara (Justin) Reid of Hermantown Minnesota, Amanda (Brian) Wilmot of Ladysmith Wisconsin, Jessica (Brad Campbell) of Ashland Wisconsin. Abby (Gavin) Neibauer of Ashland Wisconsin; nine great-grandchildren, Gavin and Paige Reid, Connor Saari, Hailey and Kayla Wilmot, Cole and Mason Campbell, Hadley and Brynlee Neibauer; sisters-in-law, Jean (Lolly) Vandevoorde of Pence Wisconsin and Gladys (Steve) Romanowski, brother-in-law, John King; numerous nieces and nephews; and his rescued 4-legged companion, Sarge.
Jack and Donna loved their grandchildren and great-grandkids, and their visits to the “ranch” were always appreciated. They were immensely proud parents, grandparents, and great grandparents.
Jack was preceded in death by his parents, Raymond and Godelieve; his loving wife of 62 years, Donna in 2014; his infant sister, Joan Vandevoorde; his sisters, Clara and brother-in-law, Marco Gotta and Jean and brother-in-law, Frank Grasso; his brother, Lawrence (Patcha) Vandevoorde; and sisters-in-law, Mary Catherine (Herman) Stone and Shirley (John) King.
After Donna’s passing Jack remained at home with care from his children and special attention given by granddaughter, Amy Saari, friends, Linda Malmberg, Janine Nelson, and Jessica Heiden. Our family remains eternally grateful for all their help with keeping Jack loved, safe, happy, and well cared for.
A special thanks to our good family friend, John Martinsek, who visited Jack often until his move to the Villa Maria. John cooked many lunches of fresh fish, turkey tenderloins, spring rolls, and garden-fresh beans. We enjoyed his visits and are so grateful for John’s friendship with Jack and to each of us.
A special thanks to Joe Francois, Bert Saari, Bob Zell, and Harold Schmude, who faithfully visited Dad during difficult times. We would also like to acknowledge his “Buckhorn” friends who have passed, Joe Levra and cousin, Harold (Holo) Delodder.
Our appreciation, admiration, and thanks to the staff at the Villa Maria Health and Rehabilitation Center in Hurley for their kindness and exemplary care, and John Kutz for his many visits with Jack during the Covid 19 pandemic.
Out of respect for his wishes, cremation has taken place. A celebration of Jack’s life will take place when able due to concerns for the spread of Covid 19. Interment will be in Hillside Cemetery Iron Belt later.
The family has chosen McKevitt-Patrick Funeral Home of Ironwood to honor Jack’s legacy of life. You can leave a condolence or a tribute at mckevittpatrickfuneralhome.com.