Friday, February 29, 2008

My hero, My grandfather John Lee Pitts III..May 1919-Feb 2008

John L Pitts III died Tuesday February 26, 2008 in Delray Beach at the Manor Care nursing facility, while in the company of his son John Pitts IV. “Jack” was born 22 May 1919 in Scottsville, VA to John L Pitts Jr and Laura Margaret Connellee. Jack lived in Scottsville with his mother, father and sister Alice until May 1929. Due to the national economic depression his family moved to Middletown, Delaware to live with his grandfather and grandmother Connellee. The family moved around over the next few years ending up in Bloomfield, New Jersey. During this time he and his sister shared their home with their first cousins, Alfred and Bill Connellee.

During these younger years, Jack became interested in airplanes and flight. He entered the Virginia Military Institute following his father’s footsteps, where he played football, ran track, and played guitar in the VMI band. While attending VMI he courted Marjorie Ann Gibbs of Middletown, DE whom he would later marry. They spent many weekends at Big Band dances and riding the scenic area on horseback. Graduating with the VMI class of 1941, he entered flight training and following the attack on Pearl Harbor, became a B-17 “Flying Fortress” pilot, ultimately completing 58 combat missions with the 97th Bomb Group earning among other awards, the Distinguished Flying Cross, losing only one of his crew to enemy fire.

Within days after returning from the African theatre he married his childhood sweetheart Marjorie Anne Gibbs and was assigned to the Boca Raton airfield by the Army Air Corp to command a flight test group who developed night fighter tactics, testing and improving almost all known Air Corps aircraft and testing the then secret “G” suit for jet aircraft, as well as other duties. He left the Air Corps in 1946 and began a car rental business which he would own and operate in Delray Beach for the next 50 years. A son, John L Pitts IV was born to Jack and Marjorie on January 20, 1946. They continued to live in the Delray area in the house that Jack built for the rest of Marjorie’s life. Marjorie died in 1977 after a long battle with cancer. Jack then cared for Edna Gibbs, Marjorie’s mother, who had come to live with them until her death in 1981. He was very involved in the community being a Scoutmaster in the Boy Scouts, a Delray City Councilman, a senior warden at the St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, President of the local Kiwanis Club and leader of a harmonica band that played at local hospitals and homes. Jack was well known to appreciate as well as play golf and to be a long time fisherman. Many locals will remember seeing him around town and in local restaurants entertaining with his harmonica. A few years after Marjorie’s death he married Ann Detwiler to whom he stayed married until she died of a stroke 19 years later. Once again he married, this time to a longtime local friend Bernice McNeece with whom he enjoyed a refreshing 9 years of marriage and who survives him. He is also survived by his only son John and his wife Patricia and grandchildren Dagney and John L Pitts V and wife Anne, great-grandchildren Aurora and Bryn Pitts. He is a much missed and beloved Dad, husband and grandfather. We are proud to have called him our own. A memorial service will be held in the Spring in Scottsville, VA where Jack will be buried alongside Marjorie Ann (Gibbs) Pitts. The family requests in lieu of flowers that gifts be made to the Pioneer Boys Association at 309 NE 1st St., Delray Beach 33445 which supports the local Boy Scout troops in Delray Beach.