John S. Erwin, Jr.
Williamson: Entered into rest peacefully on May 17, 2023 at age 88.
Predeceased by his parents: John and Rose Erwin, Sr.; sisters: Rosemary Mandel and Elizabeth Speary.
John was born in Rochester NY to Canadian parents and was raised on a farm on Island Cottage Rd. in Greece, NY. He was known as “Jack” to family and friends growing up. It was on this farm where he developed an affection for horses and mechanical things. He would often ride around the country side on the back of his favorite nag or be seen and heard kicking up dust behind the wheel of some old jalopy car racing around his father’s orchard. One hot Saturday afternoon when John was just a wee lad, after patiently toiling over a tired and worn Indian motorcycle for many hours, he was able to kick it over until it roared to life, dump the clutch and rapidly and recklessly drive it through one side of the chicken coop and out the other! After the dust and feathers settled he was informed by his folks that in the future anything he was riding would have four hooves, and anything driven would have a minimum of four tires.
“Jack” was an elementary student at Mother of Sorrows catholic school until advancing to high school. He then spent the next four years at Edison Tech. Edison is where he learned how to be a machinist. Training that provided him a successful career the remainder of his life.
After high school, John was hired by Pops and Freddy VanCott who owned a machine shop at 118 Genesee St. in Rochester. It was there he learned to use his high school training and apprenticed as an automotive machinist and engine rebuilder. This apprenticeship was cut short when he was drafted into the U.S. Army in 1957. After basic training at Fort Dix, N.J. Pvt. Erwin requested to be sent to Alaska. He was then shipped to Ft. Benning GA. to serve in the motor pool. His mechanical aptitude was recognized by his fellow serviceman and superiors alike and would often be found on his free time tuning up peoples cars. John had a real gift for getting the most out of flat head fords. Evidently, this was the preferred engine of the locals who transported their corn in mason jars. Due to the fact that John, who being raised by Canucks talked like a Canuck, these southern gentleman, assumed him to be something other than a Damned Yankee, and therefore accepted him, and eagerly allowed him to “tune” their cars also. A service he did not readily provide to local or state law enforcement officials. John always had a soft spot for the underdog, and his rebel buddies, as he fondly referred to them, greatly needed the advantage that he was happy to provide. A television program, which aired long after his time in the military, often brought back many a joyful memory of his days in rural Georgia. The General Lee was no flat head, but it was always faster than the law.
After an honorable discharge from the Army, John returned to Rochester and resumed his apprenticeship at VanCott Machine Company. The owners eagerly welcomed him back, and taught him everything there was to know about the automotive machining field. He flourished there and became a valued employee.
In 1961 John bought a 50 acre farm on Townline Rd. in Williamson, NY. He and his parents and younger brother Gerard moved to the farm in the spring of 61 and started clearing land and filling the barn with livestock. John and his father Stu would work in the city by day and tended the farm after work and on the weekends. John also set up a shop in one of the barns and it wasn’t long before the neighbors were calling on the new kid on the block to repair anything from broken hand tools to tractors and everything in between. The farm in Williamson was a place where many a relative and friends of all ages were welcomed and treated to fresh air, freedom and Grandma Rose’s excellent cooking and baked goods.
One fateful night in 1969 John happened to meet a lovely young woman named Vera at Cherry Lanes in Sodus, NY. A romance soon developed and by August of ‘69 they were hitched. Vera brought a young daughter named Teri Lyn to the union, who John happily adopted. By the following August, a son, John the 3rd was born and a daughter, Mary Katherine arrived in July of ‘73. Many a happy time was had back in those days. Fridays at Spencer Speedway or the Senator restaurant, Saturdays at Agway or Auctions, Sunday Mass and Aunt Gladdies for floppy bacon. Country records on the stereo. Work all week and repeat.
VanCott Machinery sold during this time and became Van’s Machine Shop. John worked 48 years with dedication and in the end rigged all the machinery and equipment out of the building when it finally closed in the mid 2000’s. After retiring John spent many days working out of his shop on Townline Rd. and enjoyed tractor shows, meals at the Candy Kitchen, helping people, spending time with friends and family, loving his grand kids, and buying and selling old iron (mostly buying).
It goes without saying that John will be truly and greatly missed by everyone who knew and loved him. They aren’t making them like him anymore.
Survived by his loving wife of 53 years, Vera; children: Teri (John) Backus, John (Kelly) Erwin, lll and Mary (Billy) Erwin; grandchildren: Paul, Adam (Laura), Rachel (Christopher), Eleanor, Audrey, and John IV, Benjamin, Michael, Lilianna; great grandchildren: Skye, Adam, Jonah, Evan, Delilah, Lincoln, Antonio, and Samantha; brother: Gerard (Julie) Erwin; sister in law: Paulette (Peter) Griepsma; brothers in law: David Dorn, Larry Mandel and John Hanwell; many extended family members and friends.
A celebration of John’s life will be held on (Tuesday) May 23, 2023 at 10am at the Church of the Epiphany, Sodus, NY.
Per family wishes, no flowers are requested.
Online condolences can be expressed at www.youngfuneralhomeny.com
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