John J. "Jack" Dau, 85, businessman, sailor, chairman and majority shareholder of Bally Block Company and Michigan Maple Block Company, died on Dec. 28, 2011, after a lengthy fight against emphysema.
Born in the old Petoskey Hospital on lower Lake Street on April 17, 1926, he was the son of Alfred J. Dau and Beatrice Schmitt Dau and the grandson of Frederick and Minnie Schmitt, longtime residents of Petoskey and prominent Petoskey businessmen.
National Penn Bancshares, National Penn Investors Trust Company, and Boyertown Burial Casket Company, and chaired the board of the Wyndcroft School. Mr. Dau was an American decorative arts expert, a winning sailor and devoted family man.
Blessed with a sharp intellect and gregarious personality, Mr. Dau displayed a talent for business early in life. During the depth of the Depression when he was only 10 years old, he had amassed profits of more than $200 from selling stray golf balls collected from his grandfather's Miami garden to golfers in Northern Michigan. He ran a pop stand out the back of his father's Mitchell Street House Furnishing Company and helped with deliveries -- not a problem since he got his driver's license at age 14.
Mr. Dau enlisted in the Navy upon graduation from Petoskey High School in 1944 and became a gunner, operating a 40mm bow gun on a landing assault ship, LSM-288. Prior to deployment in the Pacific, Mr. Dau's right thumb was severed in a towing accident, and he was honorably discharged, receiving two medals.
After receiving a BS in mechanical engineering from the University of Michigan in 1950, Mr. Dau assumed management of Bally Block Company. In 1962, he acquired Michigan Maple Block Company, creating the largest butcher block manufacturing company in the United States. More than 60 years later, at the time of his death, Mr. Dau was still actively engaged in company and board affairs.
In the 1960s, Mr. Dau began a life-long love affair with yacht racing. For more than 40 years, his J109 Merengue or its predecessors sailed in nearly all the races organized by the Little Traverse Yacht Club, including the UGotta Regatta, frequently winning trophies. In July, Merengue placed first in its section of the Chicago to Mackinac Island Race. Mr. Dau gave crew positions to generations of young sailors. As a result, many of today's top sailors, both in Little Traverse Bay and other Lake Michigan ports, got their start on his boat. Mr. Dau believed in investing in the youth of Northern Michigan. Donations from him and his late wife saved Bay View's waterfront rec building from collapsing and allowed it to be restored and updated.
Mr. Dau's other great passion was antiques and design. His Pennsylvania home, completed in 1959, is an example of leading mid-century modern architecture, landscaping and interior design. Later, he turned his sharp eye toward the 18th and 19th centuries and became an expert on American decorative arts from that era.
Mr. Dau was predeceased by his wife of 54 years, the former Elizabeth Keely, of Boyertown, Penn., and is survived by his daughters, Barbara Southwell of Concord, Mass., and Bay View, and Ann Conway of Locust Valley, N.Y.; and by five grandchildren and two stepgrandchildren.
A memorial service took place on Saturday, Dec. 31, in Pennsylvania, and one is planned for Bay View during summer 2012.
In lieu of flowers, the family asks donations be made to Bay View Association.