Obituary: John T. “Jack” Edwards
Compassionate, exuberant and generous artist, teacher, Army veteran
John T. “Jack” Edwards, a resident of Mt. San Antonio Gardens, died November 6 of complications from pneumonia. A native of Englewood, Colorado, Jack was 79.
In today’s parlance, but in his own inimitable way, Mr. Edwards had swagger—with his startling blue eyes and dark skin, signature hats, a distinct gait from a years-ago traumatic motorcycle accident, and ever ready stories, which were sometimes true, sometimes not, and a lot of the time somewhere in between. He could captivate audiences with his enthusiasm, extensive knowledge, and discerning mind.
Educated in art—a bachelor’s degree in art history from Dartmouth College; MFA in sculpture from the University of Colorado, Boulder (UCB); a sculpture apprenticeship in Essex, England—he was also an active artist nearly all his life, maintaining a studio in Pomona until only recently.
Mr. Edwards was especially proud of his early neon art and large-scale steel sculptures, including “Rainbow Fountain,” beautifying the MSAG grounds since 2012, and “Windmark,” a giant, Cor-Ten Steel weathervane in Colorado Springs’ Quail Lake Park.
Mr. Edwards taught art at UCB, Colorado College and, most recently, Mt. San Antonio Gardens, where he instructed fellow residents in acrylics and watercolor.
For several years he oversaw the dA Center for the Arts’ life drawing program and served on its board of directors until the end of his life.
Artist though he was, Mr. Edwards spent the last 18 years of his career with his keen eye trained on a different set of details, retiring in 2006 as a hospital building inspector specializing in seismic safety for Kaiser Permanente.
Previously, his love of large-scale construction had him working as a special inspector for concrete, welding, structural steel and masonry for Twining Laboratories of Southern California.
A veteran, Mr. Edwards served with the US Army Security Agency, working in radio intelligence with expertise gained from Albanian-language training at the US Department of Defense Language School in Monterey.
Mr. Edwards pursued a wide range of interests, always with an exuberance that showed his love of life and friends and family.
“He was always bubbling over with strong emotions,” said Arlene Andrew, his companion of 21 years.
He enjoyed houseboating with close friends on Lake Powell, cheering on the Denver Broncos, and doting on his beloved car. He loved music, regularly attending L.A. Philharmonic and Master Chorale concerts, playing harmonica in the Gardens’ “jam,” and singing in numerous choirs, most recently at Mt. San Antonio Gardens and Claremont United Church of Christ.
People were drawn to Mr. Edwards because of his enthusiasm for life and for the way he accepted most everyone just as they were, without judgement or the desire to change them, his friends shared.
A supremely social animal, “He was friendly and ready to think well of others; people sensed this and liked him for it,” Ms. Andrew said.
Mr. Edwards was a compassionate and generous man, contributing to many organizations that helped the homeless, the helpless, the wounded and the oppressed. For several years he was a volunteer tutor for the Claremont After School Program (CLASP), and earlier served on the board of the nonprofit Greater Pomona Housing Development Corporation.
Mr. Edwards and his sister Susan grew up in Colorado, his father a doctor, his mother a homemaker. An elementary school student who couldn’t sit still, his teachers sent him on campus errands, hoping to expend his boundless energy.
He channeled some of that vivacity into the Boy Scouts, achieving the rank of Eagle Scout and going on to serve as a scoutmaster for his son’s troop years later. After a love-at-first-sight encounter, at age 21 he married “Bish,” and together they adopted a daughter, Raina Edwards, and bore a son, John Alonso “Lonny” Edwards II.
Bish, a much-loved Bloomington High School drama teacher, died from a fall in 1996. He treasured his memories of her for the rest of his life.
Mr. Edwards spent his last years loving and helping his family, continuing his close relationship with Ms. Andrew, and enjoying his many friends and activities at the Gardens.
Mr. Edwards is survived by his companion, Arlene; his sister, Susan, and brother-in-law, Jim; daughter, Raina and her husband, Dominic; son, Lonny and his wife, Rachel, and their three sons.
A memorial service was held November 14 at Claremont United Church of Christ.
Honoring Mr. Edwards’ lifelong passion for art, memorial donations may be made to the dA Center for the Arts at dacenter.org/donations, or by check to 252 N. Main St., #D, Pomona, CA 91766.