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John Howard Chapman

Billings, Mont.

On the morning of March 23, 2019, John Howard Chapman, known as Jack, died at the age of 86 at St. John's Transitional Care in Billings, Mont.
He was born in Milwaukee, Wis., on July 20, 1932, to John Howard Chapman Sr. and Mary Eleanor (Sink) Chapman, and grew up in Waukesha, Wis. He obtained his bachelor's degree in business in 1957 and Ph.D. in economics in 1965 from the University of Colorado in Boulder. After a brief stint as assistant professor of economics at the University of West Virginia, he joined Coe College in Cedar Rapids as chair of the economics program and associate professor of economics in 1967, rising to full professorship in 1976, a position he held until 1979. In that same year, he founded The Chapman Company, a registered investment advisory business, which he operated out of the Dow Building until his retirement in 1995.
Jack was a dedicated volunteer and activist throughout his life. His advocacy efforts on behalf of the Cedar Rapids community changed the face of the city forever. In the 1970s, he, along with other members of a grass-roots movement, led efforts to oppose the Iowa State Highway Commission's plans to route Interstate 380 through an area which would have destroyed what is now known as the Second and Third Avenue Historic District, including the Louis Sullivan-designed St. Paul's United Methodist Church. His astute economic research, powers of persuasion and winning manner played a key role in defeating the planned route.
He also served as commissioner and chairman of the Cedar Rapids Airport Commission from 1977 to 1980, as a director of the Cedar Rapids Symphony Orchestra Association from 1971 to 1977, as director of the Public Health Nursing Association from 1971 to 1977, and as precinct committeeman from 1968 to 1972.
Jack was a beloved professor at Coe College. He was voted outstanding professor by the students in 1971, was one of two Coe professors rated as "excellent" in 1971's "The Underground Guide to the College of Your Choice," and was listed in "Outstanding Educators of America" in 1973. The economics program at Coe grew from four students when he joined to dozens by the time he left. He famously insisted on teaching introductory courses himself throughout his tenure, converting many an unsuspecting student to the joys of majoring in economics. His love of young people also led to his co-founding of the French American Camp, an innovative exchange program that ran for several years in the 1970s. Local Cedar Rapids junior high and high school students lived with French kids at a summer camp in the French Alps.
Though his mother was a renowned piano teacher and his father a cherished church organist and composer, Jack was a stubbornly self-taught upright bass jazz musician. Despite never having learned to read music, he counted among his experiences in the 1950s subbing for the Dave Brubeck Quartet and the Marian McPartland Trio, and playing frequently with Dave Grusin. After a 30-year hiatus, he took up performing again in Cedar Rapids with Frank Osmanski, Dan Knight and the Joe Abodeely Trio, and he also toured in Russia with Daugherty, Davis and McPartland on a cultural exchange program.
For him, however, the irrefutable highlight of his music career was meeting the love of his life and wife and partner of 62 years, Dawn, while playing a gig in a dormitory at the University of Colorado.
Jack's other lifelong passion was cars. At the age of 15, and to a crowd of thousands, he won Waukesha, Wisconsin's, first-ever Soap Box Derby. Boys were allowed to spend $6 exclusive of wheels and paint on the cars and his inventive and cheap! steering design so surprised officials at the subsequent Akron nationals that he was nearly disqualified. The racer is in the collection of the Waukesha County Historical Society and Museum. As an adult, Jack worked on, rebuilt, collected and raced cars. His two great car loves were a navy 1948 Packard sedan and his last, a 2015 Prius.
Jack and Dawn loved the American West and retired to Cody, Wyo., in 1997, eventually moving to Billings, Mont., in 2006. Jack continued to play professional jazz gigs in Billings and Red Lodge, Mont. His volunteer service included board memberships with the Yellowstone Jazz Festival, the Park County, Wyo., Library Foundation and the Cody, Wyo., Economic Development Council.
Jack served in the National Guard as a high school student, and joined the U.S. Navy at age 17, ending his service in 1951.
In addition to his wife, he is survived by three daughters, Stephanie Chapman of Golden Valley, Minn., Kirsten Chapman of Medina, Minn., and Cynthia Chapman (John Kaufmann) of New York City and East Hampton; a sister, Kathleen Hughes (Marvin) of McHenry, Ill.; as well as two stepgrandchildren, Amanda Kaufmann of Chevy Chase, Md., and Stephanie Kaufmann of Philadelphia, Pa.
Found in his wallet after his death was a yellowed, frayed clipping with the following poem by Ralph Waldo Emerson:
"To laugh often and love much,
To win the respect of intelligent persons and the affection of children;
To earn the approval of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends;
To appreciate beauty;
To find the best in others;
To give of one's self without the slightest thought of return;
To have accomplished a task whether by a healthy child, a rescued soul, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition;
To have played and laughed with enthusiasm and sung with exultation;
To know that even one life has breathed easier because you have lived;
This is to have succeeded."
He did.
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