Obituary: John ‘Jack’ Dorr
John “Jack” Dorr, a longtime Montclair resident and the former co-owner of the Montclair men’s store Geismar Kaplan, died in his home, surrounded by his family, after a long struggle with congestive heart failure, on Feb. 13, 2023. He was 78.
Mr. Dorr, born in 1944, was raised by Henry and Phyllis Dorr in Albany, New York, but it was the family’s summer home, at Piseco Lake in the Adirondacks, that became his lifelong place of respite and joy.
After attending Albany Academy for high school, he went to Bucknell University, where he completed an ROTC program. He entered the Army as a second lieutenant, was deployed to jungle school in Panama and, in 1967-68, served in the Vietnam War.
He was on duty as an MP, manning the radio and recording incidents and losses, during the initial surge of the Tet Offensive on Jan. 30, 1968. The Army awarded him a Bronze Star. He was honorably discharged at the rank of captain.
After his service in Vietnam, Mr. Dorr moved to New Jersey and started a job as a salesman at Geismar Kaplan, a haberdashery then located in Passaic. He soon reconnected with a Bucknell alumna named Judith Berk.
They started dating, and married in 1971. He bought a portion of Geismar Kaplan and, with his partner, Edgar Kaplan, opened its Montclair location in 1970. The store, at the corner of Valley Road and Bellevue Avenue, became an anchor of the Upper Montclair business district.
Mr. Dorr initiated and co-founded Upper Montclair’s sidewalk sale. Generations of Montclair families came to Geismar Kaplan to buy sweaters and suits, or to rent prom tuxedos.
He had a talent for listening, and for serving cocktails to business people coming off the train. He often became a friend and confidant of his customers. He trained generations of salespeople in the store. Geismar Kaplan closed in 1990, soon after the advent of casual Fridays.
Mr. Dorr was a capable, creative and empathetic father, as well as the patriarch of a three-generation Montclair family. He coached Little League baseball and town soccer teams. He created the family tradition of a rhyming Easter basket hunt in the voice of the Easter Bunny that always started with, “It’s Easter / Get off your keister.”
As the leader of multiple troops for what was once called “Indian Princesses/Guides” and is now called “Adventure Guides” (through the Montclair and Frost Valley YMCAs), he braided hair for “powwows” because, he reported, ”most of the fathers didn’t know how.”
In his 60s, he launched a late-life career in construction management and sales, eventually forming a partnership with local contractor Peter Tschudy. Mr. Dorr retired in 2016 to take care of his wife, who suffers from Alzheimer's disease.
When he was young, he was a college swimmer, an avid runner and a tennis player. Later, his passions were making Adirondack furniture, telling his grandchildren stories, cooking and reading novels.
He will be remembered for his abundant generosity, loyalty, creativity and off-color sense of humor.
Mr. Dorr is survived by his wife, Judith; his children, Jennifer, Amy and Brian; his son-in-law, David Moon; his grandchildren, Sam, Zoe and Finn, and his brothers, Bill and Tom.
A memorial service will be held in Piseco, New York, in June. Hugh M. Moriarty Funeral Home is handling the arrangements.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests a donation to the Montclair Public Library Foundation, because the library provided him with large-print books when he needed them most.