NORMAN — John Earley, a man of grace, warmth and integrity, died July 4, 2014, in the cockpit of his World War II–era Mustang.
John died at a time of great fulfillment and happiness in his life. He adored his family, wife Jodi and daughters Hannah, 14, and Julia, 8. He was CEO and chairman of the board of Saddle Butte Pipeline in Durango, probably his favorite job in his favorite place.
He was born John Charles Earley Jr. on Dec. 29, 1962, in Norman, to Marjorie Devonshire Earley, a mathematician and business analyst, and Jack Earley, an aeronautical engineer.
John loved building things. He majored in construction engineering at the University of Oklahoma and while in school he worked for Koch Industries helping build an asphalt plant in Norman. By the time he graduated, he was the plant manager. He liked working with his hands: to relieve stress when he managed the plant, he said, he would go out in the yard with a jackhammer. Through the years, he did many home improvement projects, starting, when he was a teenager, with renovations at the homes of his mother and a sister. He later learned wood-working skills from his father-in-law, John Cantwell.
Trains were another love of his. His first career goal was to be a railroad engineer. As a child, he rode his bike down to meet the Amtrak train in Norman. He made friends with the engineers and once, when he was about 10, he hitched a ride on the train from Norman to the next town.
Durango was a favorite childhood vacation spot and he was delighted to be back in Durango with his family. They often sat on the porch together, watching the Cumbres and Toltec wind across the mountain, or the hummingbirds visiting Jodi’s garden. He loved the mountains, skiing with his family in winter and riding his jeep in summer.