James “Jack” Burless Stone passed away peacefully Friday, May 12, 2023. He was born September 30, 1932 in Fitzhugh, Arkansas, the son of Joseph and Agnes (Masters) Stone. At 16, Jack and his brother Gene boarded a Greyhound bus to strike out on their own. They landed in Michigan where Jack would build his life and legacy.
In Michigan, Jack worked at Checker Cab and Kalamazoo Stove Company before joining Allied Paper Company, where he would spend the next 37 years of his career as an elevator repairman. During these early years in Michigan, Jack met the love of his life, Laquita. Despite initially putting her off with his “bad boy” demeanor, Jack eventually won her over with his sense of humor and (allegedly) excellent dance moves. They were married in 1954. Few couples appear at first glance as oddly matched as Jack and Quita, but their distinctly different personalities were in fact the perfect complements. Together they built a remarkable life and a love spanning 68 beautiful years. In 1970, they welcomed their daughter, Chauntel, and fatherhood became the great joy of Jack’s life. He taught Chauntel to work hard, to love what you do and do what you love, and to love your people well. He was the most loving and supportive father a girl could ever hope to have and was one of her very best friends.
When Chauntel married and had her three children, Jack took to being a father-in-law and grandfather with the same enthusiasm and devotion. His grandchildren, Madison, Carson, and Casey, had their biggest fan in the crowd at every sporting event, musical performance, graduation, and celebration. As they grew up, Jack passed along bits and pieces of his curiously wide skill set to each of them - backyard golf lessons, wood working, fishing, gardening, lawn care, and negotiating with mechanics - to ensure they’d be functional adults. His most important lessons were not those explicitly taught, however, but those they learned from his example as a good man and an even better grandpa.
While age is often thought to eventually make isolated curmudgeons of us all, for Jack it did quite the opposite. In his later years he became a well-recognized figure in his neighborhoods in both Michigan and Florida. He stopped for chats with everyone he saw on his daily walks and made countless acquaintances both human and canine. He gardened till the day he passed, and maintained a free vegetable stand in the summers for the neighborhood to enjoy. He was well known as a supplier of candy to children in the area and delighted in the increasingly elaborate schemes of kids looking to trick old Mr. Stone into handing out an extra sweet or two. He continued playing golf in the same league for over 50 years, building friendships and beating men many decades his junior in the process. He also attended weekly coffee breakfasts with other seniors he affectionately referred to as the ‘Liars’ Club’ to swap tales, mostly true but often tall. There was never a person Jack couldn’t strike up a conversation with and he never missed an opportunity to do so. His greatest legacy is the decency and respect with which he treated not just the people he loved, but everyone he came in contact with.
An obituary cannot possibly summarize all of the things Jack did and was. In short though, he was the man you should raise your sons to be. He broke generational cycles and built his own success with nothing but a strong worth ethic, famously stubborn persistence, and infallible optimism. He loved and honored his wife for 68 years and raised an incredible daughter. He lived a full, rich, and extraordinary life. And he had fun doing it.
He is survived by his daughter, Chauntel (Todd) Spratt; his 3 grandchildren, Madison (Scott) Spratt-Stimetz, Carson Spratt, Casey Spratt; his brother, Gene (Florence) Stone; and several nieces and nephews. He has been reunited in death with his beloved Quita, his parents, and several brothers and sisters. Cremation has taken place.
Friends may visit with his family and celebrate his life from 4:00-6:00 pm on Thursday, June 1 at Langeland Family Funeral Homes Burial and Cremation Services, 3926 S 9th St, Kalamazoo, MI 49009, where a memorial service will be held at 6:00pm. A light reception will follow, and a fair amount of Bud Light will be supplied in his honor. Jack and Laquita will be laid to rest together at a later date.
In lieu of flowers, the family asks that you instead emulate Jack in a small way in your own community - mow a neighbor's lawn, buy a table of strangers a round at your local dive, or bring along some treats for four-legged friends on your next walk. Love people and love life like Jack did.
To view Jack’s personalized web page please visit https://www.langelands.com