Long time businessman John E. ‘Jack’ Roemer, 92, passed away of complications due to dementia on January 26, 2023 with his family by his side.
Jack was born in Cleveland, Ohio to John E. Lentz and Katherine Kilcher Lentz on July 26, 1930. He grew up in the small Minnesota farm town of Dawson with his younger brother Conrad (Joel) and beloved terrier Ginger.
At age 46, in May of 1943, Jack and Joe’s father, John Edward, a small-town attorney, passed away due to injuries received during World War I. In the spring of 1944 Kay met Minnesotan Lloyd Roemer. Kay eventually married Lloyd who operated a small finance company in Missoula, Montana. After spending the summer of ‘44’ with family in Cleveland, the boys rode a train across country and met their mother and Lloyd at the Milwaukee Rail Station on the Clark Fork River in Missoula. They took an apartment on South 4th Street, enrolled the boys in school, and began their new lives in the West.
At age 14, Jack lost his right eye to a marble from a sling shot and he had to learn to live with one eye. Remarkably this ‘handicap’ didn’t stop him from defeating his teenage children at badminton years later, or driving a 38-foot motor home across country. As adults, Jack and Pat became licensed pilots and flew small planes for 25+ years. Unfortunately, the FAA changed the rules in the 1990’s and would not reissue a license to ‘one eyed Jack.”
In the late 1940’s, Jack’s adoptive father, Lloyd Roemer, partnered with the owner of the Bar 93 Ranch near Bass Creek in the Bitterroot to develop a guest ranch catering to fishermen, hunters, and families. Jack and Joe spent two summers working as ranch hands, mowing hay by horse, caring for the livestock, and milking the cows. Jack, who was a couple of years older than his brother, became a wrangler for the outfit. He was a horseman in his own right. He even owned a couple horses when he was in high school. He spoke fondly of his favorite horse, Cherokee. Life and life lessons on the Bar 93 Ranch were special memories. In September, 2022, the brothers returned to Bass Creek to visit the old ranch location, which is no longer called Bar 93 Ranch. They were treated to a tour of the property by the current owner. It was a very special day for Jack and Joe and those of us who were with them. Even today, Jack’s personalized license plate reads ‘RANGLUR’.
Jack attended Missoula County High School graduating in 1949. During high school he worked at a couple local service stations, where he was lucky enough to have some good mentors. His mentors were folks like Jim Hanson, of Hanson’s Finest Oil in Missoula, and Homer Sickels, who operated the Sickels Texaco station at Broadway and Madison. (It’s now the First Security Bank drive-in location.)
Jack attended Montana State University (now the University of Montana) for two years, eventually meeting his future bride, Patricia (Pat) McGinnis of Billings, MT. They were married on October 25th, 1951. Son John Lentz was born in August of 1952 and daughter Kathleen Ann (Katya) in January of 1955.
In 1953, Jack was working at Vince Bakke’s Conoco Service Station downtown at the corner of Main and Pattee Street. That year, owner Vince Bakke decided to go out on his own by opening another service location in the area. Conoco offered Jack the lease to operate the business on Main and Pattee. Pat’s parents, Mac and Molly, loaned them their life savings ($10,000) to get the business started. At the age of 23, Jack and Pat were now small business owners. At the time, Jack was the youngest person to whom Conoco had ever offered a lease. It was the beginning of a long and successful business career for both Jack and Pat. Jack was the front man and gas island jockey while Pat did the bookkeeping.
In the late 1950’s, The Montana Highway Dept moved Highway 10 from Main St to Broadway in downtown Missoula. Conoco purchased a church at 240 E Broadway, on the corner of Washington and Broadway, demolished it and built a brand new 5 bay Conoco service station for Jack. Roemer’s Conoco (now Roemer’s Point S), next door to the Federal Building, has been there ever since. Coincidentally, the First Christian Church, where Jack and Pat were married, is the church that was torn down. So, the family history with this location goes back to 1951. Spring of 2023 will mark the 70th anniversary of the founding of the business!
By the mid-80’s Jack grew his business to three locations in Missoula and one in Coeur d’Alene, ID. Jack served on the Missoula Chamber of Commerce board for several years, becoming Chamber President in 1976. He would say later that his time with the Chamber was very rewarding to him. During this period, Jack served on the board of directors for Western Federal Savings and Loan and was involved in converting the Savings and Loan Association to a traditional bank. (Glacier Bank - First Security Bank).
With his friends in the Chamber Ambassadors group, Jack found kindred spirits. Together the Ambassadors became early Montana “river rats’ plying every major Montana waterway and meeting with Chambers of Commerce leadership and discussing issues and politics of the day. The Chamber Ambassadors also participated in public education efforts regarding legislation to create a Rattlesnake Wilderness Area, and expand wilderness land surrounding the Bob Marshall and other areas. A fine example of business establishment collaborating with environmentalists to enact new legislation for wilderness.
Jack retired in 1986-87 selling 3 stores to Tire Rama and the Broadway store to his son John. He and Pat were free to travel. With their friends Jack and Mary Stevenson, they owned several small planes over the years and traveled together through the US, Mexico and the Yucatan by small plane.
Jack and Pat enjoyed the many friends they made at their cabin on Noxon Reservoir near Trout Creek, MT over the years. Their friends the Marshalls, the Ericksons, the Garrs and the Wolstads had many fun times including an annual campaign and election around the campfire. The winner would be Mayor of the North Shore for the year. Silly Pageantry and nonsense were the order of the evening, where perhaps some spirits were involved. Over the years, Jack always enjoyed a cup of coffee and conversation with his good friends and members of the Coffee Club.
Jack’s first wife Pat passed away in 2003. After a year, Jack connected
Jack was preceded in death by Pat Roemer, his parents John E and Katherine Lentz, stepdads Lloyd C. Roemer and Raymond “Hap” Kibble. He is survived by his wife Alice F. Roemer, son John Roemer (Ginnie Morey), daughter Katya Roemer (Cameron Birse), grand children Chris Roemer (Mikiko), Andrea Roemer (Dan), Angela Birse, Nicole Fuller (Robert), Paul Rodriguez (LeAnn) and great grandkids Kaito, Julia, Carson, Keara, Aiden, Chloe, Caitlyn, Carson, Caleb, Cora, Cosette, Cadence, Flynn and Mara; brother Conrad Joel (Carolyn) and their daughters Jocelyn Patchen (Ray) and Marci Preble (Doug) their children Gianna and Isaac Patchen and Jakob, Luke and Shane Preble. Other survivors include Jack’s step-children Richard Fischer, Carol Cade (Matt), and Patty Evans (Scott) and his step-grandchildren Andrea Ham, Robert Ham, Elizabeth Evans, Tom Chandler (Chelsea), Chris Chandler (Mary), and step-great grandkids Wyatt, Leo, Alice, Claire, and George. Additional survivors include Jack’s nephews Mike Garr (Penny), their children Keri and Mike and Steve Garr (Alice). Jack loved dogs throughout his life and brought his last German Shorthair “Gunner” into the family in 2019.
Citation: Many details regarding Jack’s childhood came from, Out of Our Past, A Memoir by Conrad Lentz Roemer
In lieu of flowers, the family asks that you consider donating to the University Congregational Church of Missoula, the Poverello Center or your favorite charity or foundation. A celebration of Life will be held at University Congregational Church in Missoula at 2pm Saturday, March 11.
Bar 93 Ranch Song as sung by Jack to his kids
I’ve been around from the east to the west,
And I want to go back to the friends I love best,
In my dreams I’ve been living where life is so free, In that little ranch
house on the Bar 93