John R. Calo

John R. Calo

Sunday, March 26th, 1933 Thursday, February 6th, 2020

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Obituary for John R. Calo

John Raymond Calo, 86, of Kingsford, Mich., died peacefully on Thursday, February 6, 2020, in Green Bay, Wis., while on a day-trip with his wife Mary.

The son of the late Pietro and Graziella (Vitale) Calo, John was born on March 26, 1933, in Iron Mountain, Mich. The family moved to Iron Mountain in 1926 where his father opened a tailor and furrier business. (John liked to tell people he was “tailor-made.”) He was born in the family home on West A Street, the baby of the family. He attended Iron Mountain Schools, graduating from Iron Mountain High School in 1951.
John attended Northern Michigan University in Marquette from 1951-1955, studying Music Education and Voice. After graduation, he accepted a job offer in South Bend, IN. But plans changed when the KHS principal and superintendent and John’s long-time friend IMHS music teacher Wally Swanson came to his home and convinced him to take a position at Kingsford High School instead. He would go on to teach vocal and instrumental music at KHS for 35 years until his retirement in 1990. Teaching was his passion. He was dedicated to excellence and many students said they considered him one of the most influential teachers they ever had. He enjoyed being approached by former students; if you stopped him on the street he might not recall your name but he always remembered your vocal range or what instrument you played.
John married Mary Dougoveto of Kingsford on August 28, 1964. They raised five children on Hamilton Avenue, allowing John to walk across the street to work each day. Theirs was a musical home and a highlight for the Calo family was the year they hosted Bernd Rosenschon, a German foreign exchange student and superior clarinetist. John loved having Bernd in his band, and John and Mary always considered him another son.

During retirement, John enjoyed keeping in touch with all of his Facebook friends, golfing, watching Packer games, and directing the annual family sing-along after the ravioli dinner on Christmas Day. He faithfully recognized every family member’s birthday by phoning them to sing “Happy Birthday” and by sending a silly e-card. We all enjoyed his long and happy retirement.

The essence of John’s life was his love for his family, music and theater. His contributions to our community included many years as Conductor of the Dickinson County Area Band, as Director of the American Martyrs Church Choir and 20 years as Conductor of the Dickinson County Community Chorus. If you caught the Ciao Bella Trio (consisting of John, his niece Carmela and his best friend Bob Pedo) at Out to Lunch or at the Italian Fest, you were in for a treat. The Dickinson County Community Theater, the Lion’s Roar, Piccolo Opera Company, the Pine Mountain Music Festival, and several local barbershop quartets benefited from his talents as well.

John had a deep devotion to his Catholic faith and was proud to have seen Pope St. John XXIII in person in 1962. (He said that Good Pope John stood up for the “little guy”). He prayed every night, on his knees, for his wife, children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren, each of them by name. He expressed his love for others daily in his smiles and corny jokes. He simply was the most affable man a person could meet.

John is survived by Mary, his wife of 56 years, and five children, Celeste (Nicholas) Malone of Iron Mountain, Cecilia (Frank) Smith of Iron Mountain, Anthony (Cathy) Calo of Green Bay, Wis., Monica (Will) Shampo of Weaverville, NC, and Jay (Liz) Calo of Grand Haven, Mich. He bragged about his 22 grandchildren, Maxwell (Karla), Hannah (Lindsay), Molly, Frank IV (Gabrielle), August, Sophie, Charles, JonPaul, Benjamin, Jack Henry, Jason (Nicole), Julia, Sarah, Zoe (Teddy), Willa, Maia, John Francis, Clare, Luke, Avery and Addison; and 3 great-grandchildren, Roman, Emma and Shoshanna.

He is also survived by his in-laws, John (Sharon) Dougoveto, Ann (Tom) Martin, Lu (Bernie) Menghini, and Therese (Tom) Gross and their children, as well as nieces and nephews, Carmela Altobelli, Michelle (Buck) Wilkins, Grace (Woody) Tullis, Pete (Cecs) Altobelli, Elizabeth (Dick) Voelzke, Paula, Peter and Mickey (Cheryl) Calo, and Carla (Larry) Bolek, and their children and grandchildren.

In addition to his parents, he was preceded in death by three brothers, Carlo, Mike, and Henry, their spouses, a sister, Amalia (Molly) Altobelli, an infant brother Carlo and an infant granddaughter Grace Shampo.

Visitation will be Wednesday, February 12, 2020, from 4:00 p.m. until 7:00 p.m. at the Jacobs Funeral Home, Iron Mountain. A time of reflection with sharing by family and friends will take place Wednesday, 6:45 p.m. at the funeral home. Prayers will be recited Thursday, February 13, at 10:30 a.m. at the Jacobs Funeral Home. The Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated Thursday, February 13, 11:00 a.m. at American Martyrs Catholic Church, Kingsford. Rev. Fr. Joseph Gouin will officiate. Burial will be at Cemetery Park, Iron Mountain.

A memorial will be established in John’s memory.

Dad, we will miss your gentle way, your soft and sensitive nature; your jokes and puns that made us groan. Sully’s gonna miss his golfing buddy, Aunt Ann will miss her dancing partner at family weddings, and the chorus will miss your beautiful tenor voice--and “African Alleluia.” “Cent’ Anni” was your favorite Italian toast meaning “May you live 100 years.” Sadly, we didn’t get to have you that long, but we will take the 86 years we did have and be forever grateful for them.

You may leave a condolence or tribute for John’s family online at

The family has chosen the Jacobs Funeral Home and Cremation Services, Iron Mountain, Mich., to honor John’s legacy of life.

To send flowers to the family or plant a tree in memory of John R. Calo, please visit our Heartfelt Sympathies Store.
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Service Details

  • Visitation

    Wednesday, February 12th, 2020 | 4:00pm - 7:00pm
    Jacobs Funeral Home- Iron Mountain
    1025 Carpenter Avenue
    Iron Mountain, Michigan
    Get Directions: View Map | Text | Email |
    Wednesday, February 12th, 2020
    4:00pm - 7:00pm
    Prayers will be recited Thursday, 10:30 AM at the Jacobs Funeral Home, Iron Mountain, Mich.
  • Service

    Thursday, February 13th, 2020 | 11:00am
    American Martyrs Catholic Church
    910 W. Sagola Ave.
    Get Directions: View Map | Text | Email |
    Thursday, February 13th, 2020
    Rev. Fr. Joseph Gouin
  • Interment

    Cemetery Park
    Cedar Avenue
    Get Directions: View Map | Text | Email |

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Andrew, Susan, Conor and Katherine Smith, The Howard Fehr family, and other have sent flowers to the family of John R. Calo.
Hand delivered by a local florist
Andrew, Susan, Conor and Katherine Smith, The Howard Fehr family, and other have sent flowers to the family of John R. Calo.
Hand delivered by a local florist

Kenneth Feneley

I attended NMU as a music major from 1954-56, years that John was an upperclassman and I a freshman and sophomore. I then transferred to CMU but have never forgotten his infectious smile, gentle kindness, wit, friendliness, respect for him from his friends and classmates, his musicianship and that lovely tenor voice. Although we shared the same profession I never saw him again after May 1956. He, though, left an impression on this yooper I've never forgotten. I'm sorry to hear of his passing and even sorrier to no have known earlier. My very best to his family and friends.
Comment | Posted at 09:41pm via Condolence


One day in band class back in the 80s, the tuba was sounding a bit "off." The tuba player looked inside the bell and found the source of the problem - he pulled out a sock!. Without missing a beat, Mr. Calo said "That must be for playing footnotes!" Many kids in class groaned at the corny joke, but I thought it was hilarious! That was him - always quick with a corny joke to make us kids laugh in the midst of teaching us to love and play music as a group....all with the utmost patience. When I grew up and moved away to South Mississippi, Mr. Calo called me one day out of the blue. He was vacationing in in the area, and he just called to say hello and to catch up. He didn't have to do that, but he did. Such a special man with music and kindness in his heart. Always. I will miss seeing him up in the choir loft during my visits home. His memory and legacy live on, not only in his beautiful family, but in all of us students who still love, play, and listen to music. We will never, ever forget him. My condolences to you all! - Vicki (Zanoni) Dulski, KHS Class of 89
Comment | Posted at 11:04am via Condolence

Rose Fiorucci Meyer

Words cannot express how instrumental Mr. Calo was in my HS
Years. He encouraged me to learn the trombone for the band, pep band and orchestra. Little did I know with his caring nature, uplifting spirit, continuous encouragement, and sharing of his
musical expertise that I would be
the recipient of the John Phillip Sousa band award. His smile and acknowledgement made me feel important and welcomed. I loved being in music and continue to do so. Mr.Calo touched many young hearts to not be afraid to try.
God bless him,
Rose Fiorucci Meyer

Mr.Calo was a special person who touched many young lives to be not afraid to try.
Rose Meyer
Comment | Posted at 08:46pm via Condolence

Heartfelt Sympathies

With deepest sympathy,
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Comment | Posted at 09:46pm via Memorial Tree

Gladalee Lindstrom

Mary, I am so sorry to hear about John's passing. It has been many years since I have seen either of you but many fond memories are in my mind of both of you. It stared with band in KHS many years ago. Of course, I graduated with your bother John in 1960 so many memories of all of you. I will keep you all in my thoughts and prayers at this time of sorrow.
Gladalee McMahon, Lindstrom
Comment | Posted at 10:41am via Condolence

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