Idaho Transportation

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In Memoriam – Jack Combo

Family Tribute
By Brock Combo

Jack Combo
John “Jack” Xavier Combo passed away April 3 in Idaho Falls, Idaho, from an ongoing battle with cancer.
Jack was born July 3, 1922, in Butte, Montana, to James Emmett and Mary Edmunda Fleming Combo. He  grew up with his two sisters, Mary Jule and Kathryn (later Sister Marie de Paul), and his younger brothers, Jim (Gitch) and Dan. He graduated from Boys Central High School and worked for the Silver Bow County Road Dept. When it was 30 below zero, he was out spreading sand on the streets of Butte. He graduated from the Montana School of Mines with a BS in Geological Engineering and later received a Professional Degree in Geological Engineering. He served as a commissioned officer in the Navy during WWII on a sub-chaser in the Marshall Islands.
Following the war, Jack attended Georgetown Law School in Washington, D.C., where he finished in the top 3 percent of his class. He married his Butte sweetheart, Eileen Sullivan, during a Christmas break from law school. They spent their honeymoon on a train back to Washington, D.C. During law school, Jack worked for the U.S. Geological Survey. After graduation, he worked for the Department of Interior and then the Atomic Energy Commission in Grand Junction, Colorado. In 1962, he transferred to Idaho Falls to serve as Chief Counsel to ERDA (later the Department of Energy) and then became Deputy Manager and Acting Director of the INEEL Site.
Upon retirement from DOE, Jack went into private practice in Idaho Falls with his son Bill.

He was a member of the Montana and Idaho Bar Associations. Jack served 18 years as a board member with the Idaho Transportation Department, serving as board chair for many of the years. He also served for 18 years on the Board of the Montana Economic Revitalization & Development Inc. (MERDI) and MSE, serving as board chair for some of those years. He considered all the employees at ITD and at MERDI and MSE as extended family.  Jack’s accomplishments were many and varied, but you never heard about them from him. He coached youth baseball when his children were younger, and he was the founder and president of the Booster Club at Idaho Falls High School. He was active in Kiwanis and later, Rotary.
While he was Chief Counsel, Deputy Director, and Acting Director at DOE, he was instrumental in acquiring the land for the current University Place. He also helped move the tech library from the Site to the university, and he was instrumental in obtaining teaching certificates for the Site instructors teaching night courses.

Jack was appointed by then-mayor Eddie Pederson as Vice Chair of the Library Committee that was to locate and build the current library. He was very proud of the library, and a plaque bears his name on the facility’s exterior wall. He also was an advocate for education his entire life. As a true Irishman, he knew that the road to success was through education.
During his service on the Idaho Transportation Board, Jack was instrumental in obtaining funding in Idaho Falls for the Sunnyside Bridge and the expansion of Sunnyside Road. Worker safety and training was always a foremost importance in his mind. There is a training room named for him at the state ITD office in Boise and another in the Rigby ITD office.
No matter where he worked, Jack greeted employees by their first name and with a smile, no matter their position or title in life. He and Eileen loved to take their travel trailer out and enjoy time away. Jack enjoyed hunting trips in the trailer with his sons and good friends. He was so proud of his children and grandchildren,always showing them off to others and letting those people know about each one’s accomplishments. His idea of a vacation was to spend time with his children and grandchildren.
Jack so enjoyed those loving family moments; he always took photos to capture those special times. He single handedly kept the local photo shops in business. Jack was happiest when surrounded by his family, and he loved to tell his children and grandchildren about his youth in Butte, his service in the Navy, his experiences in
Washington, D.C., and the history of Idaho, Montana and other Western states. He regaled his grandchildren with facts and stories if they drove with him anywhere.
He also loved sharing how he met the love of his life, Eileen.
Not only did Jack show commitment to his many activities, Jack also never neglected his devotion to God. Jack and Eileen, the pair of them, would never miss a church service, being active, longtime members of Christ the King Catholic Church in Idaho Falls. And it was awe inspiring to see him on his knees by his bed every night as he said his prayers. A rosary was always in his pocket.
Jack is survived by his wife of 61 years, Eileen; their 6 children, John (Jeanne) Combo of Phoenix, Ariz., Mary Ellen (Jeff Jaksich) Combo of Olympia, Wash., Bill (Trish) Combo of Idaho Falls, Kathryn (Mike) Koloski of Boise, James (Sandy) Combo of Coeur d’Alene, and Brian (Annette) Combo of Minneapolis, Minn.; his brother, Dr. Daniel (Sheila) Combo, of Missoula, Mont.; his sister, Sister Marie de Paul Combo, of Kansas City, Kan.; and 14 grandchildren. Jack was preceded in death by his parents; sister, Mary Jule; and brother, Jim “Gitch” Combo.
Jack leaves a legacy of service to his country and his community and devotion to his family and faith.
A family visitation took place Tuesday, April 7, at Wood Funeral Home, followed by a rosary.  A celebration of Catholic Mass followed Wednesday, April 8, at Holy Rosary Catholic Church.  In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made to Hospice of Eastern Idaho, Idaho Falls Youth Hockey or a favorite charity.
Condolences may be sent to the family online at

Published 4-10-9