John Walter Lackman

John Walter Lackman was a former Laurel schools superintendent who never forgot his roots: A boy who helped his mother scrub the floors of the very office he’d later occupy.
He started in rags and found riches, in family, in community, in laughter and in life. The lifelong Laurel resident died March 24, after a short illness at age 92.
Services will be held at 11 a.m. Wednesday, March 29, at St. John’s Lutheran Church in Laurel, where he was a lifelong member.
John was born Sept. 21, 1924, in Laurel, the son of Margaret (Frank) and John Lackman, German immigrants from Russia’s Volga River region.
He grew up speaking German on Laurel’s South Side during the Great Depression. John often boasted he was the fastest runner in the Black Ace gang, a roving band of watermelon thieves, cigarette sneaks and youthful ne’er do-wells. Their cry was “AWOOO-GA!”, which he would gleefully and loudly recall in later years (sometimes to the surprise of nearby patrons at a restaurant during dinner.)
John married Lillian Estreich, a Laurel girl, Sept. 22, 1946. According to his stories, told with varying degrees of embellishment: He was driving on the South Side, she was walking, he rolled down his window and yelled “Hey beautiful!,” she jumped in the car, and the rest was history.
Their union produced two sons, Randy and Marc, and one daughter, Peg.
John spent three decades in education, starting in a one-room schoolhouse and working as an elementary school teacher, principal, administrator and superintendent in Laurel. He’d later say he enjoyed the profession less the further he got from the classroom, because teaching brought him the greatest joy. After retirement, at the behest of his old colleague, Bob Western, John returned to the classroom one final time as a substitute for his grandson’s class at West Elementary School—a memory still cherished today.
Despite his aversion to administrative duties, he found success. One wing of West Elementary School bears his name for his work as superintendent to secure funding for its construction.
John served in the U.S. Army in World War II from 1942-46. He served in Europe and told his children and grandchildren tales from far behind the front lines of fixing vehicles and equipment. He glossed over other experiences, like how he, a bilingual speaker, was once placed in charge of a German POW camp, older relatives remembered.
John is survived by a son, Marc; daughter, Peg (Ken) Olson; sister Betty (Paul) Wold; grandson, Erik Olson and his fiancee, Cari Bohm; granddaughter, Annie Olson, her husband, Dan Lutke; and great-granddaughter, Violet. Another special girl, Lenyn, called him great-grandpa. Survivors also include numerous cousins, nieces and nephews.
He was preceded in death by Lillian, brothers Ralph and Melvin, his parents and a son, John Randolph (Randy.)
John used to say “Old age ain’t for sissies,” and he lived it to his last breath. He maintained regular walks and golf outings into his 80s, and he was easily identified by his blue Chicago Cubs cap.
When his health declined, he moved into Richardson Cottage in Laurel, where he was treated wonderfully by the staff. The family would also like to thank the staff at Fischer Cottage in Billings, where John spent his final day.
Memorials may be made to St. John’s Lutheran Church in Laurel.

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