Jack Leslie Steinmetz, a WWII veteran aged 99 years, passed away at Methodist Hospital on July 10.
Jack was born to Leslie G. and Elsie Mae Steinmetz on July 3, 1924, in Minneapolis, where he lived with his parents and sister, Gloria Steinmetz Gauper. When he was 12 years old, his mother drowned while out rowing with the family, an event he would remember for the rest of his life. He and his sister were sent to separate caretakers, but remained close until her death.
Jack was drafted while a senior at Patrick Henry High School in Minneapolis, where he had become a licensed ham radio operator. After graduation, he spent his 18th birthday in boot camp. On D-Day 1944, he was on a troop ship off Omaha Beach, waiting to be off-loaded as a replacement rifleman. As told to his daughter Ann, upon wading to shore, he and his buddies could see that something terrible had happened. A jeep came driving down the beach with someone shouting “Steinmetz.” He responded and was ordered to get in the back. His records had been searched, and it was found he knew Morse code. A replacement was needed for a code translator who had been killed. He was reassigned to help translate the secret code messages sent to the lieutenant in charge of placing artillery ahead of the advancing U.S. troops. “Being a ham operator probably saved my life,” he said, since he rode at the back of the troop line. Although, he said, he still had to dig latrines for the officers. Jack would put that radio license to use, saving other lives in 1964 after the Alaska earthquake, when ham operators helped provide a source of communication to the rest of the world.
Like many vets after the war, Jack returned home, used the G.I. Bill to acquire a trade at Dunwoody Institute (now Dunwoody College of Technology), then bought a piece of land to build a home and raise a family. He was proud that he and his first wife, Mildred (nee Gilman), little by little were able to build a house without a mortgage, first in Glen Lake, which was displaced by I-494 construction, then in Eden Prairie, where he would live for more than 60 years until his death.
On his birthday in 1979, Jack met Barb Paulsen, who became the love of his life. They married the next year and spent almost 43 years together until separated by age-related health issues. They still talked, and he sang to her every day. They shared a passion for music. Jack played clarinet, and Barb sometimes sang or emceed for the Eden Prairie Community Band, Letter Carriers’ Band and Minnesota State Band. Jack was a lifetime member of VFW Post #425 in Hopkins, and served as post commander. He was accompanied on an Honor Flight to Washington, D. C. by his daughter, Marge.
Jack retired as a union pressman, proud to be a member and officer of Pressman Local #20. He volunteered at the State Fair for many years, demonstrating letterpress printing at the Living History Exhibit with his good friend, John Drew. Jack was an avid fan of all Eden Prairie High School sports and all professional Minnesota sports teams. Everyone knew Jack as a beekeeper. He readily gave away jars of honey and his homegrown vegetables for years. He was a lifelong learner and avid reader to the end.
Memorials in Jack’s name can be made to VFW Post #425 in Hopkins or the Minnesota Newspaper Museum (614 7th Street E, Northfield MN 55057) . Condolences can be sent c/o Barb Steinmetz, 750 Mississippi River Road S, Apt. 327, St. Paul, MN 55116.
Internment will be at Fort Snelling National Cemetery on Aug. 16 at 12:30 p.m.
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