Harry J. Reitz of Kansas City, passed away peacefully in Eudora on June 19 at the age of 98.
He was born in Kansas City March 9, 1916 to Henry and Marie Adamo Reitz, who emigrated to the United States from Germany before WWI. He graduated from Paseo High School in 1932 and from the University of Kansas in 1937. He met the love of his life, Betty Jeanne Shawver, in the fall of 1935 at KU where he was a member of Delta Chi and she a Gamma Phi Beta. They were married October 17, 1937 and celebrated their 75th anniversary in 2012.
After graduation he joined his father’s meat packing company, Reitz Meat Products, of Raytown, Missouri. Though exempt from military service because of his work in a critical industry, Harry enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1943. Far older than the rest of his platoon in boot camp in San Diego, he still finished as the outstanding recruit and was made a drill instructor. After his exemplary performance in that billet, he was selected for Officer Candidate School in Quantico, Virginia and commissioned a 2nd Lt. In the USMC in November 1943. Upon his commissioning, he was trained as an intelligence officer and interrogated German POWs at a prison camp in Rhode Island.
He then went to Aviation Marine Corps and trained as an intelligence officer to identify enemy targets and assess damage. After stints at MCAS Cherry Point, N. C. and Newport, Arkansas, he was sent to the Marshall Islands in 1944 to join a squadron of SBD-2C dive bombers. Their primary missions were anti-submarine warfare and bombing of Japanese installations on various atolls in those islands. His job required him to fly with each of the pilots in the squadron. He recalled that the quietest pilots on the ground were often the most aggressive in the air in combat. He was fortunate to serve under Scott Wright, who, despite being a graduate of MU, became a life-long friend and later a federal judge in Kansas City. Harry returned to the United States just before Christmas of 1945. He remained in the Active Reserve for several years and served with Marine Fighting Squadron 215 at the U. S. Naval Air Station in Olathe. He retired shortly after promotion to Captain. In 1998 he was named Marine of the Year by the Marine Corps League of Kansas City.
After the war, Harry returned to Kansas City and took over as President of Reitz Meat Products, Inc. for the next 23 years. In 1955 Harry, Ray Evans and Jim Brown bought control of Raytown Bank. Among his many civic endeavors, he served on the Municipal Auditorium Board, the board of Research Hospital, and as President of the Sertoma Club of Kansas City. He was among the first season ticket holders for both the Kansas City Athletics and the Kansas City Chiefs when they moved to Kansas City.
After the sale of Reitz Meat Company in 1968, Harry managed a plant in Chicago for Hershey Foods, then came back to Kansas City to work for Leonard Hantover in meat packing supplies. At age 62 became a licensed life insurance agent for Roger Boeger’s Connecticut Mutual Agency and served many of his longtime friends and business associates. He subsequently joined Tom Curtis at Curtis and Associates, who very graciously allowed him to continue to serve clients well into his eighties. His warm personality and genuine desire to serve others were great assets in his insurance career.
Harry was an avid golfer and duck hunter. He was a member of Blue Hills and Mission Hills Country Clubs and of Beverly Lakes Hunting Club. He enjoyed quail hunting with his father-in-law, Karl Shawver of Paola. He also was a season-ticket holder for Kansas Jayhawk football and basketball.
He and his wife Betty were inseparable after the war. In later years they enjoyed traveling with friends and the Flying Jayhawks to Europe, Canada, and the South Pacific. They had two children: Joe, who also served as an officer in the Marine Corps in the early 1960s, and a daughter, Jane Anne, who died shortly after her birth in 1946.
Harry was predeceased by his wife and daughter, parents and sister, Erna Charleston, and most of his longtime friends, business associates and fellow WWII veterans. He leaves behind a large family who benefited from his love and generosity throughout their lives and from the example he set by his lifetime devotion to Betty. They are son Joe and daughter-in-law Nancy, and five grandchildren: David who served as a Marine officer in the 80s, Chris, Stephanie and Cathleen, who were also KU graduates, and Elizabeth, a graduate of North Carolina. He also leaves twelve great-grandchildren and one great-great grandson.
Harry was a lifelong Catholic and supporter of St. Francis Church and Rockhurst High School. Visitation will be Tuesday evening, June 24 from 5-7 PM at Warren-McElwain Mortuary-Eudora Chapel in Eudora. Mass of Christian Burial will be at 10 AM on Wednesday, June 25 at Holy Family Catholic Church in Eudora. Burial services with full military honors will be held immediately following in Holy Family Cemetery. The family asks that, in lieu of flowers, donations be made to Family Promise of Lawrence, which Betty and Harry served and supported during their final years. Contributions may be sent in care of Warren-McElwain Mortuary, 120 W. 13th Street, Lawrence, KS 66044.
For condolences and further information, please visit www.warrenmcelwain.com