IRONWOOD — When Helen Fashbaugh recalls her late husband, she can’t help waxing
“I was always in awe of how his brain worked and how he saw the world with such specificity
and abstraction, if that makes sense,” she said. “He could find complexity in just about
everything. He could be so exacting.”
Jack Fashbaugh, of Ironwood, was a teacher, minister and writer who was named as the Poet
Laureate of this year’s Emberlight Festival. Some of his poems will be shared during the festival’s final Main Stage program Showstoppers on Saturday, Aug. 26 at 7:30 p.m. in the Historic Ironwood Theatre.
“He always wrote,” said Helen. “He would get up at 4:00 in the morning. Writing is the first
thing he would do in the morning. It was like breathing.”
She added, “He saw such beauty and pain. It’s funny. Even when things are very bleak, if they
can be expressed well, it can be beautiful … It can bring tears, but there’s a sense of joy at the
Emberlight organizers are promoting Jack Fashbaugh, who died on April 13, as someone who
“left an indelible impact on our community.”
He received a comprehensive degree in literature from Saint Cloud State College, after which he
earned an M.S. and Ph.D. in English, with a focus on medieval and renaissance literature, from
Ohio State University. He then taught literature and composition for four years at Iowa State
University in Ames before returning to his hometown of Ironwood.
Jack also spent 16 years working as a commissioned lay pastor of First Presbyterian Church in
Ironwood, later acting as interim pastor at Lac du Flambeau Community Presbyterian Church in
Helen described some of her husband’s poetry as “academic,” revealing his love of form, and
some as “free flowing.”
She added, “Our shared interests were very strong. My artistic interest is the theatre, directing —
and acting at one point — but I’m always working with other people’s words.”
By contrast, her husband was a playwright, a screenwriter and an actor who performed in
productions at Ironwood’s Theatre North and at the Historic Ironwood Theatre.
Helen said that, in the 55 years that she “grew with him,” she has concluded that she would not
be the same person without having experienced the varying intricacy of her husband’s
She said that Jack really enjoyed being part of the Ironwood Carnegie Library adult poetry
group. While noting how writers often can be “loners,” she explained that the opportunity for her
husband to engage with like-minded people was always a welcome outlet.
Regarding his being named as the festival’s Poet Laureate, she said, “It’s quite an honor. I feel
Entertainers at the Saturday evening show will include Broadway singer Arica Jackson,
international violinist Chelsea Starbuck Smith and New York pianist Adam Rothenberg.
Bessemer pianist Daniel Mykkanen also will perform.
Also to be announced during the program will be winners of the International Film Festival,
which will continue throughout Friday at Theatre North, and of Art in the Park, a large art
installation that will continue at Miners Memorial Heritage Park through Saturday.