Cover photo for John E Mcalpin Jr.'s Obituary
John E Mcalpin Jr. Profile Photo

John E Mcalpin Jr.

October 17, 1944 — April 26, 2022

John Edward McAlpin Jr. was born on October 17, 1944 to John E McAlpin Sr. and Anna May McAlpin (nee Zoesch) in Butternut, WI. Shortly thereafter, they moved to Norfolk, VA, then to Menasha, WI and then onto Key West, FL by age 7. This seems to be when he developed a lifelong love for Key Lime pies. They also lived briefly in Great Neck, NY, but by age 11, John’s family had finally settled in Wautoma, WI.

In his youth, he enjoyed boy scouts and working alongside his father in the family’s soda pop bottling business. As he grew older, he joined the forensics team, became the basketball team manager, and acted in multiple plays. He graduated from Wautoma High School in 1962 and that fall enrolled at St Norbert’s College. After six weeks, he dropped out and moved to Milwaukee, WI. Unfortunately, he found no luck finding a job in the city and nearly gave up on Milwaukee altogether when he impulsively tried to join the military.

He went to enlist in the Air Force, but when the officer saw his glasses, he reportedly told John to go next door to the Navy Recruitment Office, who did enlist him. He trained as a cryptographer and by 1964 was stationed in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. He learned to read Russian so he could help decode intercepted communications between Russia and Cuba in the aftermath of the Cuban Missile Crisis. He was a spy. In 1966, he extended his enlistment and was stationed in Germany. In 1968 he was honorably discharged with a rank of Private First Class.

After his service, he was hired by Western Geophysical as a member of the crew of the research vessel Anne Bravo, which surveyed the ocean floor out of Point Barrow, AK. As a sailor regularly thrown about due to the merciless nature of the Bering Sea, he made lifelong friendships and experienced some of the most exciting years of his life. After two years, John moved back to Wisconsin and enrolled in college at UW Milwaukee. Four years later, he earned his bachelor’s degree in Philosophy with a minor in Russian and an emphasis in Geology.

In addition to his years of military and geological service, John had held many titles: a lumberjack, a trade salesman, an engineer, a musician, a canoe racer, a realtor, a draftsman, an entrepreneur and a die cast foundry machinist. But his true calling was as a craftsman and he spent most of his life as a woodworker. He loved Art Nouveau and the Craftsman style and was heavily inspired by the great architect and designer Charles Rennie Mackintosh.

In April of 1982, he met Kathleen Hanson on a blind date and proposed to her two weeks later. On December 26, 1982 they were married in Milwaukee, WI. In 2021, John and Kay celebrated their 39th wedding anniversary. In August 1985 at the age of 41, John became a father when their daughter Siobhan arrived. Mary Margaret was born thirteen months later to complete his family.

John, a walking encyclopedia, was known as a voracious reader. He had read tens of thousands of books over his lifetime and the local library was constantly outsourcing books specifically for him. Friends and family alike can attest that he had knowledge on virtually every subject, especially relating to maritime or military history of virtually any country and time period.

He was very interested in his Scottish ancestry and was part of the Clan Campbell Society and the Saint Andrews Society. In his free time, he loved visiting a local historic tavern, the Hanson Brothers, and telling tales of his many adventures to all the regulars. He loved working with his hands and created striking furniture pieces as well as boats of all sizes, crafting even as he grew older and mobility became more difficult for him. He loved to commiserate with the many cats who crossed his path over the years, and played many rounds of solitaire in between his blocks of inspiration, always drafting the next great woodworking project.

John was an extremely intelligent man who spoke several languages and visited several countries throughout his life. He will be remembered as stubborn but brilliant, crass but genuine. John passed peacefully in his sleep on Tuesday, April 26, 2022 at home. He is preceded in death by his parents Anna May and John Sr. He is survived by his wife Kay, his sister Kathleen and her husband Chris, his daughters Mary and Siobhan, grandchildren Duncan, Rhona and Desmond, close friends Vasso Sasic, Pat Younk, Romany Kramoris, Eric Barthenheimer, and Carl Gustav Werngren, as well as many nieces, nephews, in-laws, cousins and additional close friends.

A Celebration of Life Ceremony for John will be held on Sunday, July 17, 2022 at the Stahl Celebration & Remembrance Center (W7452 State Road 21/73) Wautoma, WI 54982 at 2:00 pm with military honors to follow. Family and friends are welcomed to visit at the Celebration and Remembrance Center from 1 pm to 4 pm. All friends and family of John are welcome to attend.

To help memorialize him for his Celebration of Life, we ask that for any friends and family who have a fond memory, anecdote, quote or photo from or about him to post them on this page or email it to We plan to have a memorial wall with memories from all parts of his life on display for the ceremony. He was a legendary man and he will be dearly missed.

Below is a video made a few years ago by his daughter Siobhan featuring John in his workshop:

John’s final resting place will be at the Calvary Cemetery, N2547 16th Ave, Wautoma, WI 54982.

To order memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of John E Mcalpin Jr., please visit our flower store.

Service Schedule

Past Services


Sunday, July 17, 2022

1:00 - 4:00 pm (Central time)

Add to Calendar

Stahl Celebration & Rememberance Center

W7452 Wisconsin 21
Wautoma, WI 54982

*Standard text messaging rates apply.

Celebration of Life

Sunday, July 17, 2022

Starts at 2:00 pm (Central time)

Add to Calendar

Stahl Celebration & Rememberance Center

W7452 Wisconsin 21
Wautoma, WI 54982

*Standard text messaging rates apply.

*Standard text messaging rates apply.


Photo Gallery


Visits: 2

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the
Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

Service map data © OpenStreetMap contributors