Rev. Jack Calvin Burton died of natural causes on April 2. He was 87.

Jack was born April 29, 1936 in St. Louis, Mo. to Henry and Lorine (ne Zimmerman) Burton. His sister, Beverly, was born two years later.

Jack’s father was a real estate salesman, and his mother was an artist and homemaker. During WWII, his father worked for the railroad moving troops and supplies, and two of Jack’s older cousins fought in the Pacific Theatre. 

He had a happy childhood playing streetball with friends and spending time with his family at his grandfather’s hunting lodge. He was active in the Boy Scouts, earning the rank of Eagle Scout. During high school, Jack was a member of the Episcopal young people’s group (EYC). He went to St. Louis Cardinals games to see his favorite player, Stan Musial, and danced to Bill Hailey & His Comets at the Meramec Caverns Ballroom.

He began college at Missouri School of Mines and after his freshman year transferred to Washington University in St. Louis.

In the summer of 1958, he went to Martha’s Vineyard as part of a student leadership conference. He worked at the Colonial Inn in Edgartown (now the Vineyard Square Hotel). It was here that he met Mary Hunter, his future wife, who was attending the conference from her home in Southern Ohio.

Jack graduated with a degree in industrial engineering and completed four years of ROTC and Army Basic Training. He was commissioned a second lieutenant in the Air Defense Branch.

He began work at General Electric in Cincinnati, Ohio and married Mary Hunter.

He said he felt “called to the priesthood,” and worked with the Diocese of Southern Ohio to prepare for the ministry. He first fulfilled his military commitment, serving at Fort Bliss near El Paso, Tex., then attended the Episcopal Theological School in Cambridge. He graduated in 1963 with a Master of Divinity Degree, was ordained a priest and began his ministry in Cincinnati.

During this period, he became involved in civil rights and social justice issues. Working through the church he attended and organized events to further this cause. In August of 1963 he and some fellow clergy took a train to Washington, D.C. to participate in the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom and heard Martin Luther King Jr. deliver his I Have a Dream speech.

The first of Jack and Mary’s three sons, Timothy, was born, followed shortly by their son, Steven.

Jack’s next ministry was in Columbus, Ohio. Here their son Paul was born. The young family then moved to his next church in Cambridge, Ohio. He was elected to be the diocesan Youth advisor and worked to have women allowed into the priesthood.

Living in the church owned rectory, Jack and Mary decided they should have a home of their own. They built a summer cottage on Pine street in Edgartown in 1967. For the next few summers, Mary would bring her three boys and an assortment of children, friends and family to the Vineyard. Jack would join them when he was able. In July of 1969, he took his wife and little boys to the Dike Bridge when he got word that Ted Kennedy had driven his car over the side the night before. 

In 1972 he accepted the position of Probation Officer-in-Charge for the Dukes County District Court. The family moved to the Vineyard, and Jack and Mary built a home on land that had previously been Cyrus Norton’s commercial apple orchard. He spent the next 26 years serving as probation officer. Stern but compassionate, he focused on helping the youth of the community and counseled countless families and individuals in crisis.

During this period he was a counselor at Martha’s Vineyard Community Services and was an interim minister at St. Andrew’s Church in Edgartown.

He loved the Vineyard and spending time outdoors with his sons, fishing, playing ball and encouraging them in all their endeavors. He even worked for a time as a commercial scallop fisherman. He was an avid long-distance runner and was a perennial winner of his age group in the Chilmark Road Race.

Jack and Mary divorced in 1985. 

He began a relationship with Carol Carrick in 1990. They traveled together extensively in the states and abroad and bought a house together in Gulfport, Fla. Carol died in 2013. 

He is survived by his sister Beverly and her children, his son Steve and wife Carol, and their children Ace and Maxine, his son Paul and his children James and William, and his son Tim.

Jack will be forever immortalized as the person holding the “Beach Closed” sign as it gets hammered into the sand in the movie Jaws. He will be remembered for his humbleness, kindness, compassion, sense of humor,and good deeds. He will be interred at his family plot in St. Louis. 

In his memory, Jack asked that we “Pray for peace, love, reconciliation, justice, equality, and to walk humbly with God.”