John MacHale “Jack” Schiltz died in Billings on Monday, Oct. 22, 2012, at the age of 93. He was born in Kremlin, Mont., on May 29, 1919, the son of John B. and Mary MacHale Schiltz.
The Schiltz family moved to Billings in 1927. Jack attended Kate Fratt Memorial Grade School and graduated from Billings High School in 1937, where he played football and basketball. In 1936, Jack fell in love with Edna Marie MacDonnell, the prettiest girl in the school. They married in 1942, after Jack had obtained a BA degree from the University of Montana and before he left for the war. This past summer, Jack and Eddi celebrated their 70th wedding anniversary.
Jack was a marine artillery officer and served 26 months in the Pacific Theaters on Midway Island and the Marshall Islands. He finished the war stateside at the Charleston Navy Yard with the rank of Major. There, he was a provost marshal who oversaw the employment of 300 German POWs. Having had one year of law school before the war, Jack resumed his law studies and graduated from law school at the University of Montana in 1947.
On Sept. 6, 1947, Jack and John “Skeff” Sheehy, an early classmate and now brother-in-law, opened a law firm together in the Treasure State Building in Billings. Ten years later, the firm expanded when Jack and Skeff merged with Ralph Wiggenhorn and George Hutton. Their firm practiced general law; Jack, however, became involved in Indian claims cases against the United States, on which he originally worked with Ralph Wiggenhorn. Over the course of his career, Jack represented the Crow, Coeur d’Alene, Northern Arapaho, Cheyenne, Cheyenne River Sioux, and the Assiniboine Tribes against the United States before the United States Indian Claims Commission in Washington, D.C.
Jack loved the law and his career was long and distinguished. He was particularly proud of his tenure in the 1972 Montana Constitutional Convention. Jack was a member of the Judiciary Committee and, more importantly, was Chairman of the Style and Drafting Committee. This committee was largely responsible for the ultimate language of the adopted Constitution and for the clarity of the document’s intent. Jack also served two terms in the Montana Legislature in 1951 and 1953.
In 1973, Jack left Montana to be counsel for the Herman and George Brown families for five years. He then practiced law in Whitefish before being appointed as Special Assistant Attorney General for the State of Texas to handle the Howard Hughes estate case.
The Yellowstone Art Museum had its origin in Jack and Eddi’s art studio, on Jeanette Werner’s urging. Jack and other community businesspeople went before the County Commissioners to convince them to convert the old County Jail into an art museum. The Commission agreed, on condition that the art enthusiasts raise $20,000, and it was done.
Upon Jack’s retirement from the law, he and Eddi moved to the Eastern Shore of Maryland, where they enjoyed many years by the Chesapeake Bay. Jack played golf every day and began to write poetry. He was an avid reader and enjoyed crossword puzzles with a passion.
Jack will be remembered for his many contributions to his home state of Montana. He was active in the Kiwanis Club, Montana Bar Association, the Governor’s Committee on Higher Education and the Montana Opinion Magazine.
He was preceded in death by his parents; his brother, Richard; and his sisters, Mary Gleason Thomas, Marjorie Lemire McLean and Rita Sheehy.
He is survived by his lovely wife, Eddi; his children, Kathe, Richard, John and Chris; and his nine grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
A vigil will be held on Thursday, Oct. 24, at 7 p.m. at Michelotti-Sawyers Mortuary, 1001 Alderson Ave., Billings. Memorial mass will be celebrated on Friday, Oct. 25, at 12 noon, at St. Patrick Co-Cathedral Parish, 215 N. 31st St., Billings.
In lieu of flowers, the family suggests memorials to The Educational Leadership Excellence Award, University of Montana, 32 Campus Drive, Missoula, MT 59812-6376