John K. Shannon, Sr., known as Jack by his family and friends, died Friday, July 23, 2010, at Lincoln Village Convalescent Center. He was 89. Jack was a World War II veteran, prolific inventor and serial entrepreneur.
Born April 6, 1921, in Duluth, Wisconsin, the eldest of five children, he grew up in Stoughton and later Richland Center, Wisconsin, where he was captain of the high school football team and sang in high school musicals. His father owned an auto electric business, distributing automotive batteries. Even when he was in high school, he learned how to repair and rebuild lead-acid batteries.
With the attack on Pearl Harbor, he volunteered for the Navy, but later transferred to the Marine Corps. He flew reconnaissance missions over China off aircraft carriers in the South Pacific. In 1944, he married Audrey Elizabeth Onstad, his high school sweetheart, in Santa Barbara, California. In 1946, he was discharged from the Corps with a Captain's rank.
Returning to Wisconsin, he moved to Kenosha, where he founded Great Lakes Battery Company. This was the first of four companies he started, three of which he successfully sold, and all three companies continue in existence to the present day, though sometimes under different names. All of his businesses capitalized on his inventions. He was granted his first patent at the age of 23, and over his life, he secured over forty patents, nearly all having to do with lead-acid battery construction, manufacturing, and connectivity. His guiding motto came from Thomas Edison, "There's a way to do it better, find it."
Shannon was a 33° Mason, Scottish Rite. He served many years on the Emmanuel Lutheran Church council. From 1978 to 1990, he was a Trustee of the Village of North Bay, Wisconsin.
He is survived by his loving wife of 66 years Audrey Elizabeth (nee Onstad) Shannon; sons John Jr. (Jan Serr) of Milwaukee, and Thomas Duncan of New York (Caty Monnier); brother James Shannon, and sisters Olive Schmit, Jane Gottschalk, and Patricia Blanchard; grandchildren Sarah Marie of Milwaukee, Katherine Ann of Minneapolis, and Louis, Nick, and Jack, all of New York City. He was preceded in death by a son, James Mark Shannon.
A lifelong artist, several of his watercolors are in the collection of the National Naval Aviation Museum, Pensacola, Florida. In addition to the visual arts, he enjoyed music of all types, but especially Gilbert & Sullivan musicals, as well as other theater events. For this reason, in lieu of flowers, the family suggests memorial gifts to the Racine United Arts Fund, P.O. Box 173, Racine, WI 53401-0173.
The family wishes to thank the medical staff at All Saints Hospital, as well as those at Bay Pointe Assisted Living and Lincoln Village, for their well-run facilities, thoughtful care, and cheerful service.
Funeral services will be announced at a later date.
MARESH-MEREDITH & ACKLAM FUNERAL HOME
803 Main St., Racine (262) 634-7888