John “Jack” Niland, 86 of Valparaiso, IN, passed away peacefully at home on Friday, April 7, 2023, surrounded by his family.
He was born December 16, 1936, in Westchester County, NY to Irish parents, the late Michael Niland and Anna (Lyons) Niland, and grew up nearby in the town of Mamaroneck, NY with his parents, brother Tom, and sister Mary.
As a youth, Jack was bright, competitive, and mischievous. He kept those around him on their toes and was called ‘a rascal’ and ‘cheeky’ by many who knew and loved him. These qualities would last throughout his life. Growing up, he had a paper route, sold cotton candy at Rye Playland, and caddied at Winged Foot Golf Club, where he’d play ‘twilight golf” which meant sneaking on to the course to golf with friends in the evenings.
After putting himself through M.I.T., Jack began his career as a supervisor in the steel industry. On October 1, 1960, in Towson, MD, he married the love of his life, Joy Cook, and the two set up house in Baltimore, where they soon welcomed their first two children, Susan and Patrick. In the mid-60’s, Jack was transferred to Indiana to help open Bethlehem Steel’s Burns Harbor plant. The family settled in Valparaiso, quickly adding two more daughters, Kelly and Jamie, as well as beloved fox terrier, Katie, to the mix.
Jack always put family first, often making sacrifices to create opportunities for his children. Each summer, he used his vacation time to take them on long, lively road trips, alternating fun-filled visits to his extended family in New York with far-flung adventures across the US. Jack would drive while Joy would keep the kids entertained. The family still treasures these memories.
A big proponent of education and hard work, Jack encouraged the kids to one day seek a discipline that would enrich their lives. He supported them through college and cheered them on in their careers. When they were grown, Jack still saw the kids often, whether for holidays in Valparaiso, visits with Patrick’s family in Indianapolis, or trips to see his three daughters in Tennessee and California. A Fourth of July family barbecue at his home has been a yearly staple for decades.
Perhaps due to his Irish roots, Jack possessed the gift of gab and loved nothing more than to sit and catch up, or even better, to debate a topic with a loved one. Call it the art of conversation or the art of persuasion, he had it. He was a talented writer as well, and kept in touch with loved ones regularly through witty, charming dispatches.
Jack enjoyed a number of interests. An avid golfer, he formed some lifelong friendships through the sport. He was fascinated with finance; even in retirement, he enjoyed the creativity behind stock trading. He liked to fish with Patrick, follow Purdue Basketball and the Chicago Bears, and participate in a fantasy football league with sister Mary. And through Joy, he became a member of Liberty Bible Church, forming various friendships there. Following Joy’s tragic passing in 1997, Jack continued to attend.
After losing Joy, Jack was blessed with the companionship of Elaine Chinn of Hobart. Elaine and Jack enjoyed the theater, evenings out in Chicago, taking in the wildlife in each other’s backyard, and decamping to Florida for occasional winter sabbaticals. Jack’s kids were grateful for their partnership, and grieved Elaine when she passed away in September 2022.
While the Niland family is still shocked by the loss of their larger-than-life patriarch, they’re grateful for all Jack was blessed with in his life: a happy childhood and continued closeness with his siblings, a loving family of his own with a wonderful wife, a gratifying career, various friendships, a second relationship later in life, and the chance to attend the college graduations and weddings of both of his beloved grandchildren, as well as to hold his three great-grandchildren.
Jack is survived by his and Joy’s children: Susan (Peter) Rogers of Nashville, TN, Patrick (Michele) Niland of Greenwood, IN, Kelly (Stephen Bramfitt) Niland of San Francisco, CA, and Jamie Niland of Knoxville, TN; grandchildren: Michael (Brittany) Niland and Erin (Ryan) Barnett; great-grandchildren: Scarlett Niland, Micah Barnett, and Isla Barnett; brother, Michael (Joan) Niland; and sister, Mary Niland.
A celebration of Jack’s life will be held in August. Details will be shared here. In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made in Jack’s name to Liberty Bible Church, 824 N. Calumet Ave., Chesterton, IN 46304 or VNA Hospice of NWI, 501 Marquette St., Valparaiso, IN 46383.