Peter H. “Pete” Jantz was born on April 3, 1930 in Wolf Point, Montana to Henry Peter Jantz and Mary Jantz, née Berg. His sister, Ann, followed four years later.
His family were Mennonites and his father farmed without powered machinery. One of Pete’s early memories is having the job of adding oil to the thresher when it came to their property. His mother had a stroke when he was about 5. He and Ann were sent to live with different families while she recovered. Afterwards, he had to learn to help with both inside and outside chores. This, along with his native mechanical ability, meant he was able to fix or build pretty much anything.
He started school in a one-room schoolhouse. As they lived aways outside of town, he really did ride his horse to school, uphill both directions, in the snow! As an example of the life-long relationships he cultivated, he and his first-grade teacher exchanged letters throughout her life. Pete also attended the Prairie Bible Institute in Canada, before returning to Montana to graduate from Wolf Point High School in 1948.
Pete went on to serve in the military. He was a paratrooper and learned to jump carrying a typewriter, as he was the secretary to the generals on base. He was attached to the 11th Airborne at Camp Campbell, KY from 1948-1951. Pete used to buy candy bars to sell on hikes to those who had not thought ahead. He also earned extra money taking pictures of fellow servicemen for them to send home. He was offered the opportunity to test for West Point, but decided against a career in the service. Pete got a hardship discharge when his father suffered a stroke.
His post-military life began with selling life insurance, a business he stayed in for 35 years. Pete began with Prudential, and after a year or two he moved to Bankers Life, now Principal Financial, where he spent the rest of his career. He started as an agent in Modesto, CA; became an agency manager in San Diego, CA; moved to the home office in Des Moines, IA to head up the in-house training program, planned and ran conventions for a number of years, and retired as a second vice-president.
It was in Modesto that he met and married Prudence Ann “Prue” Vacante. They were married for sixty-three and a half years. Prue helped man tables at the conventions and was a true companion. Once they were both retired, a hotly contested cribbage game was played many evenings. She passed away June 1, 2019. They are survived by their two children, Dennis (Lynne) and Lia ( Doug Hansen); four grandchildren: Taylor and Allison Jantz, Matthew Hansen (Tabitha), and Jeanette Hensley (Hansen), and five great-grandchildren: Elizabeth, Penelope, Matthew Jr, Olivia, and Julia Hansen. Pete is also survived by his sister Ann Brink and two nieces, Karen Lifshay and Catherine Brink.
Pete was involved in a number of service organizations. In 2019 he was recognized for 65 years of perfect attendance with Kiwanis. In that organization he held the offices of treasurer and club president. He was on the Salvation Army board in Des Moines and rang the bell on many a winter’s day. A 33°degree Mason, he was an active member of the Blue Lodge, the Scottish Rite, and the Shrine for over fifty years. He held the post of Assistant Personal Representative to the Sovereign Grand Inspector General of California and was instrumental in establishing the RiteCare Childhood Language Center of Orange County through the California Scottish Rite Foundation. Pete received the Hiram Award from the Blue Lodge for his work with them in 2013. He also served on and was the president of the homeowner’s association in Huntington Landmark, where he and Prue retired after leaving Des Moines.
One of Pete’s favorite hobbies was bike riding. He started by accompanying his son on the first Register’s Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa. He rode in many of these as well as other long-distance rides with a group of friends—the Pugsley rides. Pete rode the Bicentennial trail, taking it in 3 stages. He portaged in the Boundary Waters between Canada and the US and almost logged enough hours for a private pilot’s license.
Pete taught his children how to ride horses, fish, and fix things around the house. He built a playhouse for his grandkids, stock shelves for his daughter’s work, and participated in Scout activities with his grandkids. Pete was always willing to help anyone who asked.
Pete suffered a stroke on February 1, 2021 and died on February 14, 2021. He left a legacy of helping others and thinking deeply about life. He will be missed. Donations can be made to the Kiwanis Club of Huntington Beach, the Masonic Lodge of Huntington Beach-#380, or the RiteCare Childhood Language Center of Orange County. A memorial is planned for a future date.
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