John Jacob Shoal, 90, passed away at his home in Columbia Falls on May 16, 2021.
John was born in Kenmare, North Dakota, on July 21, 1930, to Tilda (Sjaastad) and John Richard Shoal. He was the second of four children, Shirley, John, Donald and Richard. He graduated from Plentywood High School in 1947, and attended Montana State University-Northern, in Havre before enlisting in the Air Force in 1951. He served in the 146th Supply Squadron in Valdosta, Georgia, and Victorville, California. He was honorably discharged as Airman First Class in September 1952, after which he attended Montana State University in Bozeman. He completed his studies at Kansas State University, earning a Bachelor of Science degree in math in 1953.
John had a lifelong love of flying, and he completed his civilian pilot training in 1952. He worked as a smokejumper stationed out of Missoula during the summer of 1955, after which he moved to Hoboken, New Jersey, and then various locations in New York City.
John met Marilyn Lou Armstrong at Kansas State University in the table tennis room in 1962. He worked as a ranger in Glacier National Park from 1964 to 1966, and John and Marilyn were married in Columbia Falls on Jan. 14, 1967. They moved to Seattle after their marriage, where he worked for Boeing as an aerospace engineer and Marilyn was a junior engineer. Their first child, Krista, was born in Seattle in 1968. John and Marilyn returned to Montana in 1969, and their sons Gavin and Aaron were born in Kalispell in 1975 and 1977.
John loved to learn. As a parent, he would challenge his children with math problems at the dinner table or ask them to recite the prime numbers between one and one hundred. At school, parent-teacher conferences had a tendency to veer into the unexpected, as when John attempted to explain Egyptian fractions to a surprised middle-school math teacher.
In his later life, John worked as a surveyor and tax appraiser for Flathead County. He was a co-founder of the Glacier Eagles Soaring Club and enjoyed gliding, flying, and sailing on Flathead Lake. He had an abiding interest in chess and loved playing pool and poker and campfires in the yard. He enjoyed teaching his children and grandchildren how to start a fire with ‘just one match’ and testing the limits of his Datsun B210 on ever more treacherous Forest Service roads. He is remembered as a wise and thoughtful friend and mentor, and a loving husband, father and grandfather.
John is survived by his wife, Marilyn; three children, Krista (Barry) Conger, Gavin (Julia) Shoal, Aaron (Shimako) Shoal; grandchildren, Annabel, Delaney and Griffin Conger and Leif and Sable Shoal; and numerous nieces and nephews.
Columbia Mortuary in Columbia Falls is caring for the Shoal family.
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