Daytime swordfishing was a lost art in the Florida Keys until a little over a decade ago when the Stanczyk family –owner/operators of Bud ‘n’ Mary’s Fishing Marina in Islamorada–decided …
IGFA Remembers Trustee Jack Willits
Obituary courtesy of the International Game Fish Association
A life filled with passion for sport fishing came to a sudden end last week, when IGFA Trustee, friend and benefactor John “Jack” F. Willits passed away on Wednesday, November 16, 2011. His contributions were many to his favorite sport, and he was committed to doing all that he could to ensure that recreational fishing would thrive.
At the Billfish Expo – Left to right: Mark Ellert, Guy Harvey Outpost President; Jack Willits, IGFA Trustee; Capt. Ned Stone, Guy Harvey Outpost Director of Programs
Born on July 17, 1932 in Glen Ridge, New Jersey, USA, Willits graduated from the University of Vermont in 1956. In 1958 he joined C. R. Bard, Inc., a manufacturer of medical equipment, where he served as Director from 1958 until 1970. In 1971 he left to continue his work with Willits International Company, based in Red Bank, New Jersey, dealing in worldwide investment and development. Among the company’s many projects were a charter airline, resort hotels in Thailand and the Seychelles, Taurean Films Production Company, and The Racquet & Yacht Club of Boca Raton.
But beyond his business acumen, Willits was known for the great love he had for sport fishing. A long-time member of the Manasquan River Marlin & Tuna Club, one of the most influential clubs in the eastern United States, and a member of the Board of Governors of the Chub Cay Club in the Bahamas, Willits and his 45’ Rybovich
Frisky Lady were staples of the Annual Billfish Tournament sponsored by the Nantucket Anglers’ Club and tournaments throughout Florida and the Bahamas. But it was a routine fishing trip, rather than one of the many tournaments in which he competed, which landed Willits his world record swordfish. The 177.81 kg (392 lb) Xiphias gladius he caught on 15 kg (30 lb) test during a daytime trip on August 3, 1976 stands as the line-class record to this day.
Willits was earnest in sharing his passion for deep sea fishing with his contacts among anglers and fishing clubs throughout the world. Having been elected to the IGFA Board of Trustees in 1975, he served as a Board Member for nearly 37 years and never once missed a Board meeting. During that time he worked diligently to enable the IGFA to inspire others to take to the water as he had. In recent years Willits served on the Museum Oversight Committee, promoting the IGFA Fishing Hall of Fame & Museum in Dania Beach, Florida, USA as the heart of the sportfishing community. Additionally, Willits was a founding board member of The Billfish Foundation and an honorary board member of the Bonefish & Tarpon Trust.
When he wasn’t pursuing a business venture or a billfish, Jack Willits had another love: Boykin spaniels. His first Boykin, “JV”, found him on a golf course in South Carolina, USA, and the lost dog quickly found a warm place in his heart. He owned a number of the breed over the years and served on the Board of Directors for the Boykin Spaniel Society. Seldom was Willits seen without a dog close at hand, and was known to spare no expense or effort in their well-being.
Jack will be remembered in a small private ceremony in the Bahamas. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in memoriam to the International Game Fish Association, 300 Gulf Stream Way, Dania Beach, Florida, 33004, USA.