CLARKS SUMMIT — Local historian John “Jack” Hiddlestone, of Clarks Summit, who died Thursday, Aug. 25 at the age of 88, had many great accomplishments in his lifetime. But were he still here today, he would likely list his family as his biggest accomplishment, as he always made it clear how proud he was of them.
And his family would add to that list the way he treated each person he knew and came in contact with – whether that be his best friend or a stranger on the street.
“At the viewing, we were so humbled and honored by all the people who came,” said his only child Suzanne Shea, of Glenburn. “Even a man who he used to buy his gas from back 30 years ago came because he said he was always so nice.”
Hiddlestone leaves behind his wife of 61 years, Nancy Sanders Hiddlestone. Their daughter is married to Joseph Shea and the couple has one adult child, Samantha Shea, of Glenburn.
When asked about the most significant life lessons Jack Hiddlestone taught them, Suzanne Shea told a story of how when she was a little girl she wrote him a note, in which she attempted to say, “Today is a happy day.” Due to her backwards formation of the letter “d,” however, it read, “Tobay is a happy bay.”
Her father treasured the note, keeping it under the glass in his dresser and “Tobay is a happy bay” became a special saying in their household.
“It’s that kind of thing,” she said. “Just to be happy and don’t let every little thing get to you – try not to worry. And love your family, be nice to each other and give everybody a kind word.”
Her daughter agreed.
“To be kind and gentle takes a lot of strength and that’s what makes the biggest impact – those little things,” she said. “Being good and kind to others and caring.”
A hard worker
A native of Throop, Jack Hiddlestone was the youngest of four siblings and the only one not born in England. His parents are the late John and Emma (Crossman) Hiddlestone Sr. All three of his sisters, Norah Wetmore, Phyllis Herskovets and Joan McGuire, preceded him in death.
After graduating from Scranton Technical High School, he immediately joined the U.S. Army and served with the 520th Engineer Maintenance Company in Korea.
His family members said they don’t know a lot about his career in the Army, but one thing he discussed that stood out was the cold temperatures in Korea – that, and the trip home by way of San Francisco and the Golden Gate Bridge.
“When they were leaving to come home, all these Koreans would come out in boats and they would be trying to sell you something,” said Nancy Hiddlestone. “So all the soldiers would be leaning over the decks, trying to decide what they wanted. So he got a suitcase. I remember it was imitation leather.”
After his service in the Army, he got a job installing telephones for Bell Telephone Company and was so employed for a total of 36 years, the later of which he worked as a field engineer.
A people person
His widow said he especially enjoyed the parts of his job that involved working and interacting with people.
“He enjoyed meeting everybody – he liked that,” she said. “He would call me up at 5 o’clock at night, there’d be a snowstorm and he would be up a pole, up at the top of the pole, and he would say, ‘I’m going to be a little late for dinner.’ But he enjoyed that work.”
The couple first met at a roller skating rink in Scranton, but he had a girlfriend at the time. Later, after that relationship ended, he asked a mutual friend of then-Nancy Sanders on a date, but the friend wasn’t interested.
“She was telling me about it (the phone call) and I said, ‘Why don’t you tell him to call me or something?’” she said. “So, he did call me, and when he said who he was, Jack Hiddlestone, I said, ‘Who?’”
Their first date was to the movies and they continued seeing each other for between one and two years before they were engaged.
They celebrated their 61st wedding anniversary in May.
Jack Hiddlestone had a love for Scranton, the city of his childhood, as well as the Abingtons, where he raised his family.
“He was born in Throop, but then they moved to Scranton right away,” explained his daughter. “His mom, my grandmother, liked to move all the time, so they lived in 13 different houses in Scranton, because she always wanted new decorating and everything to look new.”
She added when he and his bride moved to Clarks Summit after living for a short time in an apartment in Scranton, they embraced the school district, rarely missing a Comets sporting event. He would show up at a football or basketball game with his camera, then get double prints made from the negatives, so he could give them to the parents of the players. He also did the same for the people participating in the Clarks Summit Memorial Day Parade, which his family marches in with his son-in-law’s company Shea Demolition each year.
A collector of history
After an early retirement from the telephone company, he did some odd jobs and volunteer work. He and his his wife were also the caretakers for the Lackawanna Historical Society for a number of years.
It was through the historical society that he first met Charlie Kumpas, fellow historian and postcard collector, more than 30 years ago. The two were part of a group that formed the Anthracite Postcard Club, which met regularly for about 20 years on the second floor of the Clarks Summit Borough Building.
“He was always very helpful with advice, helped me with postcards and just talking postcards and local history,” Kumpas said, remembering his long-time friend.
“I’ve never heard him say a bad thing about anybody and he was always a laid back person who took you as you are,” he said, adding he was helpful to everyone in the postcard club. “And I think that was his life. He was always this nice person that was always willing to help somebody and share his knowledge.”
Jack Hiddlestone wrote and published five books on the region’s history: “Greetings from Scranton,” “Scranton Luna Park,” “Wish You Were Here,” “As Seen Through A Camera” and “Return to Scranton Luna Park.” Each is illustrated with historical postcards from his collection, as well as photography from his own camera and lens. He often made history presentations using his postcards at area libraries and for local groups.
He also contributed as a columnist for the Abington Journal from around 2006 to 2010, with “Yesterday and Today,” a twice monthly photo excursion with photographer Jim Gavenus.
Suzanne Shea said his postcard hobby began when she was in high school. Her parents were driving her to a cheerleading camp in the Poconos, when they stopped at a flea market, where her father bought some old postcards of Scranton.
“From then on, he was hooked,” she said.
But he didn’t just collect the postcards to store in an album that rarely came off the shelf. He dove into the history behind the collection, learning about the people and places depicted in each photograph or illustration.
“He liked that each of them had a story behind them,” said Samantha Shea.
Kumpas summed it up, “I just think the area has lost a good person, and a lover of local history.”
Reach Elizabeth Baumeister at 570-704-3943 or on Twitter @AbingtonJournal.