Whitmarsh Jackson Letts

 Whitmarsh Jackson Letts passed away peacefully on May 18th 2020.  Jack Letts was born August 9th, 1932 in St. Louis, MO the middle child of Zelle Whitmarsh Letts and Willis Jackson Letts.  He grew up in Short Hills, NJ where he excelled in sports including ice hockey, baseball and football.  He spent his Junior and Senior year at Westminster School in Simsbury, CT where he graduated Cum Laude and won the schools best all around athlete award in 1950.


From Simsbury, Mr. Letts made the short move to New Haven, CT where he attended Yale University and earned a BS in engineering.  As a member of the Yale Army ROTC program, he was sent to Korea after graduation where he served honorably as a 2nd Lieutenant in the 24th Infantry division.  For his service in the Army’s Inspector General’s office, Mr. Letts was awarded a commendation ribbon.


Jack Letts began his long career in the pump Industry at Worthington Corporation.  His assignments at Worthington took him to Denver, Jacksonville, Miami, Tampa, Chicago eventually landing him in New Jersey where he was the marketing manager at Worthington’s Standard Pump Division in East Orange, NJ. 


In 1973 an opportunity arose in Kansas City, Kansas where the leadership at Fairbanks Morse Pump was putting together a new management team.  He accepted a position as General Manager and was soon promoted to Vice President.  In 1979 Mr. Letts was named President of the Fairbanks Morse Pump Division of Colt Industries.  In 1985 Mr. Letts put together a group of investors and bought Fairbanks Morse Pump from Colt Industries.   After successfully guiding Fairbanks Morse Pump Corporation as a stand alone company for nine years, Mr. Letts retired in 1994.


 Jack Letts devoted much of his time to community service and philanthropic efforts.  His greatest commitment was to the United Way.  He began by serving on the board of the Wyandotte County United Way not long after moving to Kansas City, and was director in 1986.  In 1988 he also began serving on the board of the Heart of America United Way (today’s United Way of Greater Kansas City) and was Chairman in 1997 and 1998.  In 1993 he began serving on the board of the United Way of the South Central Region in Dallas, TX.  He was Regional Chairman in 1995 and 1996.  He went on to serve on the United Way’s Board of Governors in Alexandria, VA.  The United Way of Wyandotte County recognized his efforts with their “Spirit of Caring” award for 1994.  He was recognized by the United Way of Greater Kansas City when he was given the honor of Olympic Torch Bearer during the cross country Olympic Torch Relay prior to the 1996 Summer Olympic Games.


In addition to his work with the United Way, Jack Letts served on the board and as Chairman for Kansas City Public Television, Bethany Medical Center, The Wyandotte County Red Cross and Baker University.  In 1998 he received the Kansas City, Kansas Chamber of Commerce “Corporate Citizen of the Year” award. 


 His volunteerism extended to the pump industry and the Kansas City business community.  He served on the board and was Chairman for the Kansas City, Kansas Chamber of Commerce, The Hydraulic Institute, The Labor Management Council of Kansas City, The Water Systems Council, Fairbanks Morse Pump Corp., and the Water and Wastewater Equipment Manufacturers Association (WWEMA).  Mr. Letts also found time to serve on the board of Labconco, Neosho Wire-Talbots, The Wyandotte Health Foundation, the United Way of America, Kansas Chamber of Commerce, Wyandotte Development Inc., Faribanks Morse of India, Fairbanks Morse of Venezuela, Fairbanks Morse of Mexico and Guarantee Bank.


Whether it was for business or pleasure Jack Letts was a world traveler.  Business interests took him all over the globe from South America, the Middle East, Europe, Africa and Asia.  He further enjoyed traveling with his wife Joyce.  Their travel destinations included ocean cruises, European tours, African tours and even a trip to Antarctica.   A final tally of countries visited exceeded 90.  


  Jack was an avid skier.  Ski trips took him all over North America and Europe.  In 2006 he won a Silver Medal at the Nastar Nationals in Steamboat Springs, CO.  Golf was another favorite activity.   He belonged to the Kansas City Country Club and the Belvedere Golf Club in Charlevoix, MI.  Retirement finally gave him the time he needed to take up flying.  He obtained his pilot’s license and an instrument rating. 


Mr. Letts was a lifelong member of Sequanota Club near Charlevoix, MI. where he enjoyed sailing on Lake Charlevoix and visiting with his friends and relatives.  He served on the board and as President.   


 A tough competitor in business and athletics, Mr. Letts might best be remembered for his unflinching courtesy, kindness and gentlemanly qualities.  He treated everybody with dignity and respect.   In the pump industry, the Kansas City business community and among his family he’ll be remembered with great joy. 


Jack Letts is survived by his wife of 59 years, Joyce, his sons Jackson Whitmarsh Letts and Charles Goodwin Letts; his grandchildren Jackson Anthony Letts, Nicholas Whitmarsh Letts and Douglas Houston Letts; his sister Zelle Elizabeth Washburn and many nieces and nephews.  He was preceded in death by his parents Jack and Zelle Letts and his brother John Spencer Letts.  



Funeral services will be streamed on the Amos Family Funeral Home Facebook page at 10 a.m. Friday, May 22, 2020. 

Memorial Contributions

Memorial contributions may be made to the United Way of Greater Kansas City, 801 W. 47th Street, Suite 500; Kansas City, MO 64112.



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Posted in Kansas City Obituaries, Obituaries | on Tuesday, May. 19th 2020 | 20 Comments »

20 Comments on “Whitmarsh Jackson Letts”

  1. MaryKay Horner Says:

    Charlie and I wish to express our deepest sympathy to you, Joyce, and the rest of your family. I served on the United Way board with Jack and always appreciated his Very thoughtful comments . He will always be remembered as the intelligent, caring gentleman he was!

  2. Bob Jacobi Says:

    On behalf of myself and the Labor-Management Council of Greater Kansas City, please accept our deep condolences on Jack’s passing. He was a great leader for the LMC and for the Kansas City community, an outstanding model of how to treat people with respect while advocating his views. He made a huge difference for the workers at Fairbanks Morse and the whole community. My wife Mary remembers him as dapper. His tremendous accomplishments and experiences in business and the community were paired with kindness and openness to learning. We will miss him. I hope the family recognizes and is comforted by the great respect he earned in the community.

  3. DOUG LOVELL Says:

    it was a supreme pleasure working for and with Jack ,and sailing with him on The Great Lakes!!Jack was a real GENTLEMEN,and treated all with respect!!GOOD BY GOOD FRIEND!! You will be MISSED!!! Doug

  4. Brad and Kelly Saul Says:

    Kelly and i would like extend our deepest condolences to you and your family. Though i only had the pleasure of meeting your Dad a few times, it was very obvious that he was a great man with a hug heart. If you or family need anything, please let us know sir.

  5. John Millard Says:

    Lou Ann and I want to express our condolences to Joyce and family. We shall miss him greatly! Jack was a great leader and a friend who served as Chairman of the Board of Bethany Medical Center while I served as President and CEO. His concern was always directed to supporting the best interests of our patients and employees. After we both retired, our friendship continued as we sailed numerous times on Lake Michigan with Doug Lovell; and, in the evenings after sailing all day, we enjoyed white fish and “Miller Time.” Another shared pastime was playing golf which was always fun, but usually humorously frustrating. Jack and I successfully flew ourselves to Palm Springs and back to KC in my Cessna 172, good tailwinds in both directions. God bless you, Jack. Smooth sailing!

  6. Kevin Qu Says:

    Jack, please have our deep condolences on the passing of your father! Your mom, you and your family are in our prayers! May the soul of your father be at peace with our Heavenly Father.

  7. Daniel Lambert Says:

    Jack Letts was one of the greatest men I have known, truly a remarkable human being. I am grateful that he was in my life and daily give thanks for the splendid leadership he gave as chairman of Baker’s Board of Trustees.

  8. Daniel Lambert Says:

    Jack Letts was one of the greatest men I have known, a truly remarkable human being. Thank you, Joyce, for sharing him so unselfishly.

  9. Daniel M. Lambert Says:

    Joyce, I considered Jack to be a great man, remarkably able in so many ways. His leadership of our Board had no peer. Thank you for sharing him with us.

  10. Daniel M. Lambert Says:

    Joyce, your Jack was a great man, remarkably able in so many ways. I have been blessed by his friendship. Thank you for sharing him so unselfishly.

  11. pete pomerenke Says:

    What a gentleman, what a great guy to call your friend. I will always remember Jack and Joyce and their great devotion to the children in our care at Wyandotte House now know as KVC. Busy people can always find in their hearts and acts, ways to help those in need, you both redefined the term of giving back to you community. Jack made this world a better place and will be sadly missed. MY heart and prayers are with you.Pete

  12. Catherine Schiller Says:

    I had the opportunity to know Jack from working at Fairbanks from 1977-1993. He was a great leader and friend.

  13. Sherry (Super) Wilson Says:

    I am so very sad to hear of Mr. Letts’ passing and send my deepest sympathy to you, Joyce, your boys and your family.
    I thoroughly enjoyed working for Mr. Letts at Fairbanks Morse…he was a wonderful boss! Besides being a wise and very successful businessman, he was generous with his time and talents serving the local needs of Kansas City, Kansas and Wyandotte County, and nationally and internationally those of the pump industry. He was always and very much a gentleman, in the truest sense of the word.
    Rest In Peace, Mr. Letts….and may there be challenging ski slopes in heaven!

  14. Thomas Rhodes Says:

    I would like to express my condolences from the Georgia part of the family. The world has lost a great man.

  15. David & Penny Loving Says:

    I have know Jack from growing up at Sequanota Club every summer. My wife said it best, Jack was like his father, always a perfect gentleman. We were fortunate enough to have Jack and Joyce as next door neighbors at Sequanota. Jack was a voice of calm and reason. He will be dearly missed.
    David & Penny Loving

  16. Rick and Aracely Van Kirk Says:

    Aracely and I would like to offer our condolences on the passing of Mr. Letts. It was an honor to work with him for him most of my career and he a true gentlemen and remarkable with numbers also!Your family is in our prayers.

  17. Priscilla H Wilson Says:

    I am grateful that this good man is now at peace. I do hope they let you
    into the 3rd floor here at Claridge before the end came
    I send blessings and peace to you as you journey on without
    him…I know that has been true for several weeks. I continue to
    think of you in this time.
    Priscilla Wilson

  18. Jim Sappington Says:

    I am saddened to hear of Mr. Lett’s passing. I was able to work for him at Fairbanks Morse for many years and always had the utmost respect for him. Prayers for his wife, Joyce and two sons.

  19. Jim Borthwick Says:

    I knew Jack as a client. I represented his company in a single lawsuit that actually started trial in Wisconsin before it was settled. But I will always remember Jack as one of the most enjoyable clients I ever represented. His good humor, his integrity, his constructive ideas for handling the case, his willingness to listen to his lawyer, and many other good qualities made him a good friend and an ideal client. My condolences to all of his family.

  20. Jack Letts (Jr.) Says:

    I’d like to thank everyone on behalf of the family for all the warm condolences. I read them the other day with Mom. While we both teared up a bit while reading them, it is a comfort. He truly was a great man and we will all miss him.

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