MUSCATINE, Iowa (July 24, 2020) — Jack May, former President Emeritus of Kent Feeds, Inc., passed away at his home in California on Tuesday, June 23, 2020 leaving a lifelong legacy of devotion to his family, the Muscatine community and Kent Corporation. During his 42-year career with Kent Feeds and Kent Nutrition Group, Jack was an integral part of Kent Corporation’s history. Jack was a dedicated leader in the livestock industry as well as a loyal friend to all.
Jack’s memorial services are Friday, July 24, 2020 in Muscatine, Iowa; Information on the time and location can be found here: John ‘Jack’ May Obituary: WittichFuneralHome.com.
Employees who worked with Jack throughout his career at Kent shared their memories and experiences of how he made everyone feel like family.
“Jack actually hired me,” said Kent Heckman, Pricing Manager for Kent Nutrition Group. “When I started with the company, he went out of his way to not only get to know me, but also my family. Whenever he talked to you, after a funny story or two, he would always ask about your family. When I moved to Muscatine in 2000, Jack asked my wife and me to go out to dinner. I mentioned that I needed to find someone to watch my boys. Jack didn’t miss a beat, he said ‘bring them along… we’ll go to Happy Joe’s!’”
Jack is remembered at the Kent family of companies as being genuinely kind and welcoming to everyone. When he retired on May 31, 2002 he enjoyed a new path as an author of children’s books.
“I ordered Rolf’s Guide to Training your Pet Human,” said Penny Safley, Accounting Clerk at Kent Nutrition Group. “It is a wonderful book. Jack was always laughing about something – always cracking a joke.”
Friend, mentor and educator are commonly used descriptors by Jack’s former colleagues, including Rich Dwyer, Kent Corporation Senior Vice President of Corporate Affairs and Enterprise Risk:
Jack May Memories
“Shortly after graduating from college, I got a call from Jack May looking for someone to help with the Kent Fitting and Grooming schools for the summer. This was the first time I ever talked to Jack, who seemed like a nice guy — energetic and a talker. He said he got my name from a friend of mine and he knew my family from showing cattle even though he wasn’t sure which Dwyer I was. he wanted to visit with me about the job. This call happened to be on a Sunday night, the day I came home from college. Of course, I said yes and we met for breakfast the next morning.
Jack must have been running short on options. During the interview he mentioned that I needed to come into the office to interview with few more people, and that Jack was pretty sure I would be the right person for the job, but he needed to follow protocol. The next week I interviewed with 4 to 5 people, shortly after I received a call that I had the job. Jack asked that I come in the office to sign some papers and meet with Russ “Doc” Brannon, and by the way, you’ll be traveling with Russ today to LaCrosse, Wisc. to put on your first Fitting and Grooming school. I’d never met Russ before, but knew who he was. Plus, I was asked to help with the school which I never attended. All of this happened within two weeks of coming home from college. The interesting part, he wanted us to attend a gathering on the Kent Boat the day we returned to get to know few more people. Come to find out, we had dinner on the boat with a group of retirees from Kent. Russ’ other helper and myself were the youngest people on the boat. I think Jack was testing us.
Over time, Jack became my mentor. Always positive, energetic and willing to help people, I learned so much from Jack. When he retired he would call every 3 to 4 months, first thing he would ask was about the family not how business was. Family was everything, He would ask about Nora and each of the kids, where they were living and what they were doing. Then, we would talk about his boys and the grand kids. I always enjoyed his calls. Staying connected was a part of who he was and he helped me in so many ways, as I suspect he helped so many other people during his career and his life. Rest in peace Jack.”Rich Dwyer, Kent Corporation Senior Vice President of Corporate Affairs and Enterprise Risk
Judy Carter was Jack’s secretary during his tenure as president of Kent Feeds, Inc. from 1994 – 2002. She remembers her boss fondly as being a great person and leader. As president, Jack was always on the road, thanking feed dealers for their business and staying in touch with the livestock industry. Jack was an entertaining speaker who left his audience with a meaningful message and a joke or two:
The Jack May Joke Book
“Jack had his jokes and we would all just, sort of, roll our eyes and say ‘It was a Jack May joke’. He always used them in his speeches. Jack did a good job of keeping it light. Even when things were not going well, Jack was always positive, and it would give everyone a boost, and you needed that.
I kept in touch with him even after he retired. The last time I talked to Jack was in the Spring and we had a good conversation. He always liked to hear about friends of mine who worked at Kent Feeds. That is one thing about this company, we always keep in touch. Kent is really a family, we really care about each other.”Judy Carter, Former Secretary to Jack May
On regular visits to feed plants across the Midwest, Jack treated everyone with respect regardless of their position – one always got the feeling you were part of his family.
“It was an education to work with him,” said Cecil Vandygriff. “Jack’s legacy is the friendship he felt with his team. His dedication was to the feed company where he spent so many years.”
For Kevin Chard, Kent Nutrition Group Accounting Manager, memories of Jack go back to the 1980’s when Kevin first started working.
“Jack visited the small Kent feed dealership where I worked in Eliza, Illinois,” said Chard. “He impressed me as a genuine person, one who never met a stranger and always had positive things to say. Jack was a true gentleman who most definitely made an impact on all who knew him.”
Bruce Read, Kent Nutrition Group Vice President of Midwest Strategic Accounts, credits Jack as one of the main reasons he started with the company 20 years ago. Jack was persistent in recruiting Read.
“For at least a year he would call once a month on a Wednesday night between 7:30 p.m. and 8:00 p.m. just to touch base and see what I was thinking,” said Read. “Jack was a man of integrity and honesty who truly cared about the employees, customers, and the livestock industry. Even after his retirement we kept in touch several times a year to discuss the “State of the Industry”.
Jack May left a legacy at Kent and he will be truly missed.