John Franklin Custer Obituary (1938-2021) – Milton, FL
A celebration of the life of Jackie Custer
In December 1938 Emma Sasse Custer and CC Custer traveled on horseback and on foot from a gold mine high in the Absoroka Mountains (pronounced Ab sore Kee) to Chico, Montana. From there, they drove a Ford Model A about 20 miles east to Lott Hospital in Livingston, MT. John, also known as Jack and later Jackie, was born on December 13, 1938. He spent his early years in the warehouse near the world’s largest gold dredging machine, where his father worked. His mother was the camp cook.
When Jackie was around 3 years old, a lifelong family friend, Bill Actor, pulled him out of the melted snowwater creek and saved his young life. Bill reminded Jackie of this incident for the rest of his life.
The family then moved down the mountain to live and work on a ranch near Chico Hot Springs. They lived in a tent house. Both mom and dad said the tent house was warmer than the gold storage huts in winter.
In 1942 they moved to Livingston. The US entered World War II, and at the age of 31, CC joined the Marines. After boot camp on the island of Paris, he was sent to Guadalcanal. Mom took Jackie to see musicals at the local movie theater. And the young Jackie developed a lifelong love for music and dance.
Papa returned home after the war and when Jackie started elementary school the family moved to the western edge of town. Jackie learned to ride a Cushman Trail motorcycle. The bike had running boards and Jackie found that they injured themselves when they hit the ruts of the road. One of Jackie’s jobs was to stake Dad’s horse called Rodeo. A retired rodeo saddle bronc, Rodeo picketed and wandered to the fairground to visit his old Bronc pals during the Livingston Roundup on July 4th. After catching the horse and trying to ride it back to the picket line, Old Rodeo dropped it and Jackie broke his ankle.
In July 1949 and again in August 1950, Jackie became Bob and Ken’s big brother. Jackie quickly learned how to change diapers and do babysitting.
When he was in high school, Jackie developed rheumatic fever. He was locked up on the first floor of the three-story school building. After recovering, he got into trouble for using some of the words he learned from Dad when he was angry. He was expelled for 3 days and then 10 days. Dad decided it was time for Jack to see the army recruiter. Upon graduation, Jackie entered the reserve and was sent to Yakima Washington for training. Then he visited a friend who was stationed in the Air Force at Malmstrom, Great Falls, Montana. Jackie was quick to notice the better food and accommodations. He joined the Air Force and began his military career
Jackie’s boot camp consisted of two phases. The first phase was at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio. He was sent to Cheyenne, Wyoming while waiting for the second phase. He was offered telephone maintenance training in Cheyenne, but decided he didn’t want to step on sticks during the Wyoming winter. Fate stepped in after he finished his education. He was assigned to a radar location in Pagwa River, Canada, 250 miles north of Sault St. Marie, Michigan. He was told that if it fell below -30 F, he would not be able to climb because of the danger of breaking poles. Fifty below zero was not uncommon. When Jackie returned to Montana in the winter and the temperature fluctuated around zero, Jackie was running around town in a shirt.
Jackie’s next duty station was Malmstrom Air Force Base in Great Falls, Montana. During the shifts he worked, he could regularly drive his ’58 Chevy Impala convertible 138 miles south of Livingston. He met Pat Lynch and married him. They were transferred to their nearest office in Honolulu, Hawaii. On June 15, 1962, their eldest daughter, Janette, was born in Tripler Army Hospital.
The family then moved to Brooklyn, AFB in Mobile, Alabama. Pat Jeffery gave birth to Scott Custer on November 30, 1965. Unfortunately, he succumbed to a brain tumor and died on March 19, 2004 in Lincoln, Nebraska, where he was a disk jockey. After moving to Hamilton, the Air Force Base in Novato, California, Jennifer Lynn was born.
Jackie was sent to Vietnam and then to Udorn, Thailand. The base had just been built and the airmen had to rummage through their barracks furniture. The base was built on poor quality iron soil, which makes it difficult to bury cables. The cable lay on the floor and was damaged several times. While working on the cable, Jackie’s partner stepped on a 12-foot python.
In the mid-1960s, the family moved to Hamilton Air Force Base in Novato, California. Jennifer Lynn was born in June 1967.
When Jackie was relocated to the Philippines, martial law was there and corruption was the order of the day. He bought a Honda 90 motorcycle that was ridden hot. The driver test ran over a go-kart track and through water, and if you stopped for the person who jumped out in front of the bike, you passed.
In 1971 he was sent to Keesler AFB in Biloxi, Mississippi, and Jackie and Pat divorced. Jackie then went back to Thailand. He met and married Tuenji (pronounced two en ji) Vivejith. She had a son, Yutana. Charles, aka Chuck, was born on October 10, 1973. The family moved to Rome, New York. Temporary duty assignments sent Jackie to Tule, Greenland and Ampigna Germany. This service was located near Paris so he could visit the Louve and listen to music in the West Bank.
On April 1, 1989, Jackie retired from the military and was tired of the snow and cold. He got a job while the family was traveling to West Ministers in Southern California. The family then moved to Anaheim. Jackie and Tuenji were divorced, and Yutana and Charlie continued to live with Jack. Then he met his future wife, Karen Laws.
Jackie was working on the LA courtroom phone systems to replace and repair phones. Some of the work was in the prisons. In the adult sector he had no problems; however, had to be extra vigilant in the youth section where they were trying to “make bones”. He had begun his college degree in Rome, New York, and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in California.
He bought another motorcycle. It was a Kawasaki 400 that he and Chuck covered 50,000 miles on before it died. Then he bought a Yamaha 650, but the engine produced a humming vibration that could be felt through the handlebars and footpegs. So he bought a Harley softtail in the first year of its introduction. With Chuck on stern and Yutana on the Yamaha, they traveled east to pick up the US 89 and followed it north to Livingston, MT.
He married Karen Laws in the mid-1980s. They bought a house in Lake Elisnore and shared it with Chuck and Karen’s children, Courtney and Justin.
In 2003, Karen and Jackie retired and decided to move to Florida and buy a home with acreage in Gulf City. After a while, Karen decided to move to Dallas to be around Courtney. Jackie moved back to military shelter. Eventually he found St. Mary’s Church and became a member.
Posted by Trahan Family Funeral Home of Milton on December 4, 2021.