Teton Jon and the way west
A boyhood dream realized after retirement
Jon “Teton Jon” Rose has summited the Grand Teton five times from three different directions. For him, those summits represent his chase of a lifelong dream. His quest for the mountains was dormant for decades aside from summer trips. His career kept him firmly rooted in the Midwest. A retired educator from the Grand Rapids Public School system, he earned his degree from Montana State University via a track scholarship. When jobs in his field were in short supply in the west, he moved back to Michigan and spent over a decade teaching inmates basic math and reading skills so they could pass the GED. Budget cuts forced a shift and he suddenly found himself transitioning from teaching adults to teaching sixth graders at an inner city school.
“I had a master’s degree in adult education and reading, so they said, ‘You qualify to be an elementary school teacher,’” he said. His last 10 years in education, he taught physical education to kindergarten through 8th graders and was the middle school athletic director. It was while functioning in these roles that he was able to build relationships, help pursue grants and foundation monies and form a sort of legacy.
“Back in our day, our school didn’t have many sports programs – we had basketball and football. Through some grants and foundation money we were able to start some inner city programs for soccer, volleyball, track and field, tennis, swimming – those are all the traditional rich school sports,” he said. Inner city kids do not often get the opportunity to play those sports. The track team excelled.
“I have three kids who have full ride track scholarships and another that plays in the NFL – he’s in his third year,” he said.
As athletic director he was able to connect with the kids through sports and institute programs common in other districts, but not to his inner city school: ways to encourage good grades, solid attendance and good behavior.
Upon his retirement in 2010, his two daughters had graduated and were out of the house in the suburbs. He was living the middle class dream, as he puts it. Yet something kept nudging him – a wanderlust; a lost dream.
He retired on a Friday and by Saturday had driven to Cheyenne, Wyoming en route to Signal Mountain Lodge in Grand Teton National Park – a place historically important to his family.
“In 1963 my father said to my mother, ‘Do you want me to pursue my doctorate degree or do you want to get a camper and tour out west?’ We had a panel sided station wagon and my dad bought a pop-up camper and off we went for six weeks: four kids, a cat and mom and dad,” he said.
Grand Tetons National Park and Yellowstone National Park were always on the list. A special fishing spot on a sandbar in Yellowstone was also a required stop. Rose and his dad would fish while his mother would sunbathe and his sisters would oscillate between putting a line in the water or soaking up the sun.
He has taken his daughters and closest friends to fish at that same spot.
That first summer of working at Signal Station Lodge, he was able to fully immerse himself in the outdoor world – thus securing his nickname.
“When the summer was over I said well, now what am I gonna do? One of my old college friends said, ‘Well, I have a house in Big Sky. So, why don’t you bring a couple of friends up and rent this house?’ Five of us moved up and rented this house,” he said.
He became a food and beverage manager up at Big Sky Resort and did that for five winter seasons.
“Then, when the winter season would end, I had to think of what to do again, so I applied to the National Park System to be a park ranger. I applied to a bunch of different parks and low and behold got one, and started my career as a seasonal ranger in Lake Powell,” he said. With winter seasons in Big Sky and six months as a park ranger, he went to Zion National Park, Glacier National Park and finally to Grand Teton National Park – the place that started his westward journey.
“That was my dream job from the time I was a kid to be a park ranger in the national parks. I did that until 2016 and I just decided I had had enough and moved back here because of all the local people that I met here.”
When Dave House suggested he should work at the Corral three years ago, he agreed. After so many years as a food and beverage manager, he did not want a leadership position.
“I have been here ever since,” he said. “You meet the good people of Big Sky and they are like family. It is – it’s a family and the Corral is a family.”