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Moments in Time: Jack Reese
Jack Reese finds enjoyment each day in being with friends who feel like family. This social nature echoes his long involvement with community, family, teaching, working, entertaining and being a part of whatever came his way. Now retired, he often finds camaraderie at the local watering hole, Baumgartner's, where a beer and a good joke are all Reese needs to feel he's home. If he doesn't show up, they even call looking for him.

Reese was born in Dodgeville, attending kindergarten through 12th grade in the same building. He grew up in a blended family, one of the few in the area at that time, and there were six children. He remembers playing in the summertime, enjoying sports and a lot of football. His father had his own trucking business, hauling things, and from the time Reese was small, he was shoveling coal, loading cattle and driving for him.

The 1951 Dodgeville High School graduate married his high school sweetheart, Alice, in 1954. The couple even served as the homecoming king and queen.

After graduation, his father hoped he would continue to drive truck, but Reese decided instead to attend the University of Wisconsin-Platteville with a few others from his class.

Although he admits to being just an OK student, Reese says he enjoyed himself for his first couple of years, and then voluntarily enlisted in the Army during the Korean War. But half way through basic training, the armistice agreement was signed and he was out of the service by 1955.

He then went back to UW-Platteville and graduated in 1957 with a teaching degree and landed his first job in Harvard, Ill. It wasn't easy to find a job then, and Reese decided he wouldn't take less than $4,000 a year. He settled for $3,800.

He spent three years teaching mathematics in Harvard and says he immediately loved it.

"The kids there were great, and I had a good time," Reese said with a smile. "My mother enjoyed it because she could tell people I was teaching at Harvard."

But his intentions were to always come back to Wisconsin, and eventually, he took a teaching job at Monroe High School in general math and then later moved to teaching geometry. While in Monroe, his teaching career took many roles: He taught driver's ed, served as a counselor for a time, was the assistant principal and then spent his last 13 years as the curriculum coordinator for the district.

"I like change," Reese said. "You don't want to get bogged down."

He enjoyed his final role with the school and served on several school committees. He says he was glad to be a part of completely re-writing the curriculum, improving it for the school system. He says it was the first time for several schools to ever have a written curriculum.

"Teaching hasn't changed that much," Reese said. "It's just what they call it."

In 1991, Reese decided to retire. His wife had passed away two years before, and he said he felt like he had no more push to continue with the school district.

"It was time for me," he said.

However, Reese is someone who needs to keep busy. He says he sat around for three months and decided that simply wasn't for him. He started a new venture through Swiss Colony, where he was a part-time assistant supervisor. He retired from there after 15 years.

Reese was at a casino in Dubuque where he decided to join a dealer class because he wanted to learn to play black jack better. He managed to talk his way into the class that had already run for two weeks and because of his strength with numbers, they took him. In the end, everyone tried out to become a dealer and Reese had no intentions, but he easily passed and then even spent a few years dealing black jack.

Reese also enjoys refinishing furniture and caning chairs. After he and his wife were married, they would often go to auctions for furniture and Reese always noticed several chairs for sale that needed caning. He decided he would teach himself, through his mother-in-law and books, and is still doing it today. He says it was a great hobby that even put his youngest son through college.

"You can't sit around," Reese said with a smile. "You get stiff."

Reese still enjoys time in his workshop and a few years ago he says his son-in-law talked him into building the humane society donation boxes that are around town. Today, he mostly repairs them.

Reese has four children, most of whom are in the area, and spending time with them and visiting with friends is how he occupies most of his days today.

"I have great kids," Reese said. "I never know how I got so lucky with them."

Reese has been active in his community as well, serving on his past church council and as the choir director. He was also involved with the Monroe Theatre Guild when someone talked him into joining "The Fantastics" several years ago.

"I like to see people laugh," he said.

He was in the first production "The Sound of Music," he recalls. And music is something he loves - he sang a quartet in high school and was always around music and even played the saxophone and piano for a time.

He also spent time helping with sets, lights and costumes in the 1990s with MTG. After his wife passed, it was a wonderful outlet to become involved, he says. Even after he was done performing, Reese was very involved with the lighting for the group.

"I did it until I got too old to climb the ladder," he said with a smile, noting that he still attends the shows when he can.

Reese loves to support local teams - he had a brother who played for the Packers and Bears in the 1940s and says he still enjoys watching the Packers, Badgers and Brewers today.

"I like to stay positive," Reese said. "And I don't spend much time around people who don't have a sense of humor."