Isaac (Jack) Jonathan | June 2, 1921 – January 16, 2021
Kansas City, Missouri – Isaac “Jack” Jonathan — husband, father, grandfather and uncle — passed away peacefully at home on Saturday, January 16, 2021, in Kansas City, Missouri. He was 99.
Jack was born in Cairo, Egypt to Aaron and Matilda Jonathan. While at boarding school Jack came to the attention of local track and field coaches and ultimately had great success as a sprinter and long-jumper. The untimely death of his father forced him to leave school to support his family. Initially he worked for John Dickenson, the British printing equipment manufacturer.
Jack’s expertise in printing, graphic arts and photography led him to a job in the U.S. Embassy in Cairo. There he helped create posters and other printed materials that were dropped behind German lines in World War II. After the war he was named the head of the publication and printing section of the United States Office of Information and Educational Exchange within the embassy. In this role he was selected for a publicity/goodwill trip to the U.S. At one of the tour’s stops – Springfield International College in Springfield, Massachusetts – he met Rena Libera. Soon after they were married and moved to Egypt.
The overthrow of King Farouk by Nasser in 1952 forced Jack, Rena and his extended family to emigrate. Family members settled throughout Europe and North America. Jack and Rena lived first in Springfield, Mass. And then finally in Kansas City, Missouri, where he began a 30-year career at Hallmark Cards. There he held a variety of jobs in creative design and pioneered the use of photographs in greeting cards. Ultimately he became Corporate Director for New Product Development.
After leaving Hallmark in 1983 Jack worked for Swarovski AG, an Austrian manufacturer of crystal. He and Rena divided their time between Innsbruck, Austria and Monaco for several years.
In 1989 he and Rena returned to Kansas City and Jack began working with James Stowers, a friend and the founder of 20th Century Investors (now American Century). At Stowers’ suggestion Jack took on a role focused on the re-design of all of 20th Century’s marketing materials. This led to a long working relationship with Stowers. Jack helped him create a series of investment guides written for the ordinary investor. The second in the series – Yes You Can Raise Financially Aware Kids – won the Ben Franklin Award from the Publishers Marketing Association in 2002.
Jack continued to look for ways to innovate in publishing and graphic design and set up his own firm, Jonathan & Associates, as well as subsequent company, Melagrana Editions. He maintained a regular work schedule through the age of 98.
Beginning in Cairo Jack developed a passion for photography that continued throughout his life. This led to numerous photographic exhibits, the first being at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo in 1951. This was followed by exhibits throughout Kansas City and the United States. Many of the 1951 photos were then exhibited at the Bibliotheca Alexandrina in Alexandria, Egypt in 2016. After 2016 Jack continued to exhibit his photos to raise funds for numerous civic and charitable organizations.
In Kansas City Jack and Rena joined and remained active in All Souls Unitarian Universalist Church, where they formed many decades-long friendships. He was a member of numerous civic and cultural organizations in Kansas City and elsewhere.
Jack is survived by his wife Rena Jonathan; son Stephen Aaron Jonathan and his wife Cathleen, son David Anthony Jonathan; daughter Carla Anne Jonathan; grandchildren Daniel Stephen Jonathan, Timothy Patrick Jonathan and Abigail Kathleen Jonathan; sister Mimi Mccartney, and numerous nieces and nephews world-wide. He was pre-deceased by his brothers Carlo Jonathan, Raymond Jonathan and Samuel Jonathan; sisters Lily Nevard and Daisy Feltner.
Contributions in Jack’s memory memorials may be by check to All Souls Unitarian Universalist Church of Kansas City, 4501 Walnut St. Missouri 64111, note on memo line, Jack Jonathan, or through the following web page: http://bit.ly/SupportAllSouls select “Online Giving” then in the drop down menu select, “Give to Memorial or Celebration Recognition”, in the comments put Jack Jonathan.
Burial will be in Springfield, Massachusetts. There will be a virtual memorial in the spring with details to be provided to family and friends at a later date.
You are invited to contribute to a virtual memorial event celebrating the life of Jack Jonathan, the date of which will be announced soon.
You can participate in several ways:
1. Record a brief video on your computer or cell phone, holding it horizontally or landscape, telling about one special memory or quality of Jack that you cherish. These should be no longer than 4 minutes, with 5 silent seconds before and after you speak, in order to facilitate editing. Please turn the phone to horizontal while you record. Upload the file to http://bit.ly/JonathanVideoForm
2. You can e-mail or USPS mail a written recollection to be read at the virtual event. Email to firstname.lastname@example.org or mail to All Souls.
3. You can mail a physical photo or picture of Jack, or scan and email it, to be included in the photo montage. If you are submitting an electronic image, upload the file to http://bit.ly/JonathanVideoForm
4. In lieu of flowers, contributions in Jack’s memory may be made to All Souls Unitarian Universalist Church of Kansas City, Missouri 64111 or through the following web page: http://bit.ly/SupportAllSouls
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I have such fond memories of the entire Jonathan family. Montauk, Kansas City, New York World’s Fair in 1964. Hallmark cards photography so often. Running into Jack and Rena at EWR with baby Philip and out came the camera. Our wedding photographer in NC. Rena in Monaco and Venti Miglia. Jack was always so warm and comforting when he’d visit us in Pelham. – Peter Ian
Jack was an amazing mentor and creative force. I am forever grateful for all he taught me. – Julie Forsyth
Heartfelt sympathy to Rena, Carla, Steve and David. – David and Janet Loftus
When I remember Jack I think of the film, “It’s a Wonderful Life”, Jack’s life has influenced so many people. I am blessed to have met him and am forever grateful for the 15 plus years of Tuesday nights spent around the Jonathan kitchen table with Rena and Jack that included storytelling, impromptu yoga lessons, stories of his childhood, discussions over current events, and teaching Italian songs to my three daughters. Thanks for the memories, the greatest gift! – Reenie and the Little Women (Maureen Taylor)
Thanks to everyone for their support – Steve Jonathan
I remember Jack for his consistent and persistent support of All Souls over the years. We will miss his presence as part of our community! – Roma Lee Taunton
We have lost a truly cultured gentleman. I have often looked to Jack as a role model of how to live life to the fullest. He exuded the best values of our UU tradition and was a true inspiration. – Jim Mitchell
Jack politely listened to my poetry and warmly praised it — a generous, kind man. I always enjoyed his jaunty beret. – Jan Wheeler
Jack’s deep generosity, his sense of humor and his joy of theological discussions will always stay with me. It was an honor to know him. He will be very missed. – Lynisa Robinson
I have very fond memories of my Uncle Jack growing up. We spent many summers vacationing on Cape Cod. I will always remember the great times we had together. And as his profession was, always taking photos, I was always there to oblige him, whenever and where ever he needed me to be. He will be sadly missed by his nephew John. – John Marchetti
Our families have been close since the late ’60s. We have had many gatherings over the years and honestly, I found Jack and his wife Rena to be the most intriguing couple in Kansas City. I’m grateful for having known him and his family. Jack was one of a kind and will be missed! – Gregory Hildner
Jack is a powerful & bright force. Every time I saw him, I learned something new. He was a natural teacher with incredible curiosity & thoughtfulness. Such a privilege to spend any time with him & Rena & see them sing to each other with so much love. He could make friends with anyone & so gifted at making a genuine connection with people. I am grateful that he shared his passion for language, his amazing story about his life & so much laughter. I really believe Jack can do anything! He will continue to be a shining inspiration! Much love & sympathy to Rena, Carla & family. – Shannon Fowler
For several years my sister and I visited Jack and Rena every year, typically in the Fall, for a weekend. We were pretty excited the first year we went, I think in 2002. We had not seen them in a few years, since they had stopped traveling outside Kansas City. Jack and Rena had tickets to a concert that evening, but wanted to see us, so they met us in the bar at the Intercontinental Hotel off the Plaza after their concert. It was approaching 11 pm, and I was dragging. But we were all so delighted to see each other, any tiredness disappeared. There was a band playing, and Jack insisted on dancing with each of us. He was tireless. And when he and Rena danced, almost everyone sat down just to watch them. It was a special moment, filled with a beautiful gentleness, and joy. When Jack and Rena stopped dancing everyone spontaneously applauded them. – Lisa Lamp
What a trooper. Lived a full life. R.I P. – Peter Nevard
We are so sad to hear of Mr. Jonathon’s passing. He was such an incredible man. Truly, a gentleman of distinction !!!! On behalf of my mother, Elsie, and the entire family, we hold you in our thoughts and prayers. – Pam McCroskey and Elsie McCroskey
I met Jack when he was 94 and he completely changed my life. He was an inspiration to me before I even met him. Every day he would enter the cafe by walking down this winding marble staircase with his cane in one hand and sometimes a briefcase on his shoulder and then go pick up a tray and start getting lunch. Often I would want to stop what I was doing and help him.
But that was the first thing he taught me. To not do everything the easy way because someday you won’t be able to do it at all. If he never took the stairs, it wouldn’t be long till he couldn’t take the stairs even if he wanted or needed to. – Linsey Whiteley
I was His caregiver and it was like i bekamen his daughter i love him and he loved me.Many nights he wasn’t feeling well and i kow how much he love music so i would start singing and he love it. He ask me why you didn’t tell me you could sing so well i want to buy you’re CD. I start laughing and said i dont have i CD Mr Johnathan.He Was A sweetie im going to miss him. – Padgit Smith
Jack was many things to many people. To me he was a boss, a friend, and a confidante. I love this picture of him, you see his intelligence and his sense of humor. I will miss him often, and remember the many lessons he taught, from whistling to ward of frustration, and always take the time to proofread. – Glenda Spellerberg
My relationship with Jack was a relatively short one in the context of his 99 years of life, but I nonetheless drew inspiration from him (as I’m sure many others have) in the exchanges that I was fortunate enough to have shared with him. His drive and spirit were extraordinary, and he will be missed immensely. – Andrew McClellan
Jack was a great spirit and an inspiration. Over the years we talked a lot about the creative process. Thanks to his photographic talents, many beautiful memories from my childhood were captured on film. I’m so glad I visited him and Rena a year ago; we spoke in Italian, and he sang songs (also in Italian). I know what you’re up to now, Jack, as your visions weren’t all realized. Live on cousin! – Jennifer Ian
One of my favorite memories of my Nonno was when I went out to Kansas City to visit in March of 2013. I had heard about his family history and youth/adolescent life in bits and pieces from my parents over the years, but had never truly been sat down and told in detail by my Nonno himself.
It was so fascinating a few minutes into ,I found myself setting up the voice recorder on my phone, as he was beginning to go into detail on his family history, life/career trajectory, and how he wound up getting the position that would eventually become Egypt: The Eternal Spirit of Its People.
I will never forget the conversation, and am eternally grateful that I was able to capture the audio. – Tim Jonathan
I have far to many cherished memories of Jack to post here. Growing up, the Jonathan’s and Gard were almost like family. We would get together and laugh, play, enjoy each other’s stories, share creative projects, and generally enjoy life together. Jack always had his camera and would take the most wonderful photographs that captured the soil of every moment he chose to focus on. One of my favorite specific memories is when all of us went to Antioch Park in Kansas City. We spent an entire afternoon there. They had a reproduction of the wild western “Dodge City” there for the kids. So Jack spent some time directing us in creating some Wild West photos – chasing each other around, coming in and out of the jailhouse, jumping from rooftop to rooftop, etc. etc. Jack Jonathan was a dear man and a great artist. The world will never be the same without him. – Larry Gard
Jack’s boundless energy and creativity is indelible. He left a positive mark on life for all who knew him. He was amazing and will be greatly missed. – Phyllis Westover
I met Jack in 2006, when I was working on an exhibition about Napoleon and the Scientific Investigation of Egypt. The subject drew Jack’s interest, and through that acquaintance we formed a friendship that lasted for the remainder of his life. We had lunch together often, which gave me the opportunity to learn much more about Jack’s Egyptian connection, as well as the many facets of his varied life. All of it was interesting and, as much as I listened to his stories of accomplishments and past events, there were always new and interesting ones. His mind, it seemed, was always in motion. – Bruce Bradley
Most of my memories of Jack involve the holiday open houses at the Jonathan’s or backyard BBQ’s with the Palmers, Jonathans, and Mitchells. But there is one memory of Jack that has stayed with me. Jack and Rena were among the first of our friends to come to our house to offer support when my mother, Sue, passed away. My sisters and I were devastated and not sure how to move through. I just remember we were all sitting in our kitchen and suddenly a pen and some note cards appeared, seemingly out of nowhere, and Jack was writing our names in Arabic with an engaging explanation. It was an act of kindness, distraction and connection that helped see us through. A fond thank you and farewell. – Phyllis Domezio (Mitchell)
My family has known Jack for at least 40 years, through All Souls Church. In one of our early meetings, I was sitting on the stage in Bragg Auditorium, with my then two young daughters climbing all over me, as if I were a jungle gym. Jack started taking photos of the activity, and then we talked. My favorite memory is from 20 or so years later, when we had Jack and Rena at our home for dinner, on the occasion of one of our daughter’s birthdays. Before that fine evening was over, Jack and Rean had sung Happy Birthday to Susan in five languages! I last saw Jack on the occasion of the publishing of his last book, on his life in Egypt, just a few years ago. An amazing man… – John Blevins
Having served on several projects with him in last 1.5 decade, I appreciated his leadership, ethics, patience, insightfulness, collaboration, mentorship, encouragement, artfulness (with people and with the arts), and could list several more descriptors. He is missed, irreplaceable, and a blessing with time and lessons that will be a part of me forever. With respect, thank you. – Dave BlackTags: in Memoriam, Jack Jonathan, obit, obituary