By The Mercury

John William “Jack” Jahnke, 99, of Riley, died Monday at Brewster Place in Topeka.

The family provided some of the following information.

He was born on March 15, 1914, at Leonardville. He was the son of John William and Clara S. (Siebecker) Jahnke.  On June 7, 1939, he was married to Opal Emma Morris at her family home.  She preceded him in death on Aug. 22, 2006.

How does one write the history of a person dedicated to making his life and the lives of others better? If you are one of those that knew him well, you can appreciate his sense of humor that was full of wit and warmth. He was interested in others’ lives, not others’ business. Jack was a “good listener,” which is a label earned, not given.

While in high school, Jack was earning a future in agriculture. He farmed the Carlson Eighty with three head of horses and a one-bottom sulky plow. Learning and working was a habit that was never abandoned as Jack went on to own more acres in the community as the years continued. He was to farm that land for 76 years when he retired to care for his wife Opal. From those humble beginnings Jack continued to work hard and study what created success and what didn’t. He had an uncanny ability to work with the weather to maximize his success and minimize potential bad years. Importantly, Jack knew when to ask for help from those with skills he might not possess. One of his greatest attributes was the ability to teach and mentor others often without even knowing it was happening. He was never concerned with what one “can’t” do and only interested in a best effort and learning from any mistakes. Many was the time he could be heard to say, “Do something, even if it’s wrong.”

Jack also loved to travel even if his attachment to his land meant he occasionally had to be prodded to do so! Jack loved to show his grandchildren his U.S. and World maps with marks of all the trips and journeys he and Opal had made. In traveling, Jack gained an appreciation of the wonders of the world and not just how things are different but also how a fantastical people was made of people, people worthy of knowing even when no obvious common language existed. An open mind was certainly something Jack passed on to his family.

Jack’s love of family was always evident and he delighted in his great grandchildren. He delighted in watching them develop and wondered at their vast abilities and talents, even as small children.

He was especially proud of his grandchildren and helped mold them into the successful and worthwhile citizens they have become. He was always willing to milk cows early or late so that he could make the trip to Topeka to watch ballgames or go to concerts.

In addition to his wife, he was preceded in death by two brothers, Louis and Lloyd Jahnke; and two sisters, Pearl Brandenburg and Anna Cool.

Jack is survived by one daughter, Nancy Dutton of Topeka; three grandchildren, John Dutton (Richele) of Billings, Mont., Mark Dutton (Lori) and Katy Etzel of Topeka; four great-grandchildren, Collin Sitton, Jacklyn Dutton, Gavin Dutton and Camden Dutton; and one sister, Betty Lacy of Los Angeles, Calif.

Funeral services will be at 10:30 a.m. Thursday at the Riley Presbyterian Church in Riley with the Rev. D. Erich Schwartz officiating. Respect calls may be made anytime Wednesday at the Anderes-Pfeifley Funeral Home in Riley.  Burial will be in the Riley Cemetery.

Memorials have been established for the Riley Presbyterian Church Education Fund.  Contributions may be left in care of the Anderes-Pfeifley Funeral Home in Riley.

Condolences may be left for the family at

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