Santa Clara Magazine is published in print for alumni and friends of the University. It is updated weekly on the web.
Dr. John W. McMahon Sr. ’53 died April 28, 2015, with his family by his side. Born in Butte on the same date in 1931, he wrote an incredible life story in the 84 years from his first to his last breath.
Jack was the third of four children born to Brandon and Anita McMahon. While attending the Catholic schools in Butte, he excelled in football, basketball, and baseball, all while maintaining a perfect grade point average. Summers working in the mines were no doubt the cause for his academic success because he “never wanted to do hard labor for the rest of his life.” Uncle Jack Doherty promised to pay his college expenses as long as A’s were the only marks he received. After graduating from Boys Central in 1948, he went on to play football and baseball at Santa Clara University. Summers were spent in Montana playing semi-professional baseball in the Copper League, working in the mines, and building what would eventually become the family cabin at Georgetown Lake.
Although Jack debated between the priesthood or a career in coaching, he eventually decided medicine was his calling. This led him to St. Louis University Medical School, where he met Joan Livingston in his Biochem class. His relentless pursuit paid off when she accepted his marriage proposal, despite the fact that she had two other dates scheduled for later that night. They married on Dec. 10, 1955. In 59 years, he never forgot to tell her he loved her each night and how fortunate he was to have been the one she chose . . . despite the efforts of her parents and at least one of those suitors trying to talk her out of marrying that boy from Montana.
While completing his residency in general, vascular and thoracic surgery in St. Louis, he and Joanie welcomed Jack Jr., Steve, Joan Marie, and Joe. In 1962, they moved to Helena, where Jack began his practice at St. John’s, and St. Peter’s Hospital. They added Mary Anne, Mike, Tim, Mary Ellen, Tom, and Dick (mom’s favorite) to the family. Jack was famous for telling people that when the priest said to go forth and propagate, he thought he was responsible for the whole world. He and Joanie also welcomed their home to countless others, most importantly, Ramon Rodriquez, Kathy Battrick, and Charlie, Ron, Nancy and Sunny Mott. He taught his children that serving God meant serving those around them, learn from today and do better tomorrow, and if you are having a bad day, “get your ass to church.”
Along with his 31-year medical career, Jack was committed to serving his community through a number of professional medical organizations, the Catholic Church, and the Helena athletic community. For all of his kids and grandkids, he did his best to make every game they participated in as either a competitor or coach. He was a fixture on the sidelines or in the stands at both Capital and Helena High, Carroll College, Utah State, University of Louisville, and SEVERAL NFL teams (sorry Tom). In addition to his love of athletics, he had a deep appreciation for spending time in all that Montana has to offer. Pack trips, float trips, hunting camp, and summers at the Georgetown/ Lincoln cabins were some of his family and friends greatest adventures.
He was preceded in death by his son, Steven Edward; his parents, Brandon and Anita; siblings, Steve, Tom, and Mary Jo; and his lifelong friends — John and Alice Hale, Roy and Billie Rule, and Dick and Marge Fryhover.
He is survived by his wife, Joan; his children and their spouses; and over 50 grandchildren.