John T. “Jack” Traynor ’51 (1926-2021)
John T. “Jack” Traynor
November 19, 1926 – July 11, 2021
John Thomas “Jack” Traynor, 94, died calmly and quietly at home with his family the evening of July 11, 2021. He had visited with all five of his children over the weekend, and with several of his grandchildren and great-grandchildren. He lost Jane, his cherished wife of 66 years, on December 1, 2020.
Jack was born on November 19, 1926, in Devils Lake, ND, to Mack Vincent Traynor and Elizabeth “Betty” Margaret (Dostert) Traynor. His mother, originally from Larimore, ND, was an elementary school teacher in Devils Lake. She met Mack Traynor, who had been wounded in World War I, when he spoke to the students in her class.
Jack was always very close to his older brother, Mack Jr., who was born just 18 months earlier. As children, Mack and Jack developed a life-long love of hunting and fishing that they would pass on to both of their families. Jack recalled hunting ducks in the East Bay of Devils Lake, which was no more than a slough when he grew up. In fact, the main body of Devils Lake was an alkali flat. Jack recalled walking across it when he was 9. Both Traynor boys played the accordion in the Devils Lake High School Band. Jack graduated from Devils Lake Central High School in 1944.
He attended the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, MD, and obtained an honorable discharge from the Navy in 1946. The Academy offered only an engineering degree and Jack wanted to become a lawyer, like his father.
He enrolled in the University of North Dakota in Grand Forks, ND, where he became active in the Phi Delta Theta Fraternity and served as Chapter President. He was admitted to Phi Beta Kappa and earned a major in law from UND’s College of Arts and Sciences in 1949. He continued his legal education at the University of North Dakota School of Law where he was elected to Order of the Coif and earned a Juris Doctorate degree in 1951.
Jack met Kathryn Jane Donovan while at the University of North Dakota. They married at St. Alphonsus Catholic Church in Langdon, ND, on June 19, 1954. Throughout their marriage, Jack and Jane engaged in a life filled with faith, family, civic volunteer and leadership activities.
Jack and Jane raised five busy children in Devils Lake. Jack was a life-long member of St. Joseph Catholic Church in Devils Lake. His children and their families continue to practice the Catholic faith.
Upon admission to the North Dakota Bar in 1951, Jack joined his father in the Traynor Law Firm in Devils Lake, ND. He actively practiced law for more than sixty years. In his professional life, Jack served as Ramsey County Justice and Police Magistrate in Devils Lake. He served on the Executive Committee of the State Bar Association of North Dakota and on the Grievance Committee of the North Dakota Supreme Court that created the lawyer disciplinary system in North Dakota. After Jack’s father died in 1970, he was joined by attorneys Thomas E. Rutten and, eventually, his sons J. Thomas Traynor, Jr., and Daniel M. Traynor.
After years of volunteer service, the North Dakota Jaycees recognized Jack with their Distinguished Service Award.
Jack served on the Board of Directors for the UND Alumni Association and Foundation from 1959 to 1968. The UND Alumni Association awarded Jack its highest honor, the Sioux Award, in 1969. He also served on the Board of the Lake Region State College Foundation and was inducted into its Hall of Fame.
In 1985, Jack was elected Grand Exalted Ruler (National President) of the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks. Jack and Jane traveled to 48 of 50 states, Puerto Rico and the Panama Canal. The Elks was a 1.6 million-member organization at the time. The Governor of North Dakota recognized Jack’s national service with a state Leadership Award. As Past GER, Jack continued his Elks involvement and particularly enjoyed serving on the Grand Lodge Youth Activities Committee, sponsor of the famous Elks Hoop Shoot competitions.
In 1990, Jack was elected to the North Dakota State Senate. He served as a member and chairman of the Natural Resources and Judiciary Committees. Jane joined him during his sixteen years in the legislature. The State Bar Association awarded Jack the Legislative Service Award in 1999.
With the advent of heavy rains and snows beginning in 1993, the resulting flooding of Devils Lake occupied much of Jack’s time in the legislature. He sponsored legislation in 1997, 1999, and 2001 to appropriate state funds for an outlet from Devils Lake. While the early measures were dependent on federal participation which never materialized, the 2001 legislation provided for an outlet with or without federal funds. An outlet to the burgeoning lake was finally constructed in 2003.
He served as the President Pro Tempore of the State Senate in 2003. Jack’s legislative service ended in 2006.
Jack was a member of the Devils Lake Elks Lodge 1216, the local Fourth Degree Knights of Columbus, the Devils Lake Rotary Club and the American Legion. He was an avid gardener and loved to plant rose bushes and share the flowers with friends and family.
Jack lived a life of faith, community service and leadership and was a devoted and loving husband to Jane. He was particularly proud of his family. Jack and Jane were pleased that four of their five children chose to remain in North Dakota and two of their sons practiced law in Devils Lake. All of the Traynor children followed their father in obtaining professional degrees with four becoming lawyers and one becoming a surgeon.
He is survived by his children: Tom (Julie) Traynor of Devils Lake, N.D., Mimi (Kevin) Mahoney of Anthem, Ariz., Dr. Michael (Mary Beth) Traynor, of Fargo, ND, Paul Edward Traynor of Grand Forks, ND, and Daniel Mack (Patricia) Traynor of Bismarck, ND.
Jack is also survived by his grandchildren Dr. Erin Follman of Fargo, ND, John Thomas Traynor III (fiancée, Josephine Knowski) of Devils Lake, and Katie Traynor of Shakopee, MN; Dr. Michael (Antinea Ascione) Traynor Jr. of Rochester, Minnesota, and Tim (Madison) Traynor of Fargo, ND; and Mary, Daniel Mack Jr., and Joseph Traynor of Bismarck, ND.
Also surviving him are great-grandchildren: Olivia Marie and Patrick Thomas Follman of Fargo, ND; and Michael Donovan III and Amadeus Matthew Traynor of Rochester, Minnesota.
Jack is survived by his 99-year-old sister-in-law Mary Eileen Nelson, of Fargo, ND, and sister-in-law Rita Traynor, also of Fargo.
Jack was preceded in death by his parents and treasured wife, Jane, brother Dr. Mack V. Traynor, Jr., of Fargo and brothers-in-law Dr. Edward J. Donovan of Denver, Colorado and Harry L. Nelson of Langdon; his grandson Matthew “Matto” Thomas Traynor of Fargo; and his grandson-in-law Matthew David Follman of Fargo.
Jack’s children are profoundly honored and grateful to be the family of Jack and Jane Traynor, who both taught and led by example in their own lives. We loved them, will miss them every day and will pray for them for the rest of our lives.
Preferred memorials to St. Joseph School Foundation, Devils Lake Public Schools Development Fund, Elks Camp Grassick, or the Matto Foundation.
Visitation will be held at St. Joseph Catholic Church, Devils Lake, on Sunday, July 25, 2021, from 5:00 p.m. until 7:00 p.m. The Very Reverend C.F. Wilhelm will lead a rosary service at 7:00 p.m. Mass of Christian Burial will be held on Monday, July 26, 2021, at 10:30 a.m. at St. Joseph Catholic Church with the Very Reverend C.F. Wilhelm celebrating the Mass. Burial will be in St. Joseph’s Catholic Cemetery.
Arrangements by Gilbertson Funeral Home, Devils Lake