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John B. "Jack" Mayo, Jr.

Obituary for John B. "Jack" Mayo, Jr.

January 9, 1938 - January 26, 2019
Austin, Texas | Age 81


John B. "Jack" Mayo, Jr passed away unexpectedly in Glasgow, Scotland on January 26, 2019, as he and members of his family were returning to the United States from a trip to Europe.

Jack was born Jan 9, 1938, in Richmond, Virginia, to the late John B. Mayo, Sr, and Lillian Mayo (nee Hargrave). Jack's father was in Public Relations and Advertising, and worked for the Railroads. As a result, Jack was raised in Cleveland, Ohio, Omaha, Nebraska, and Raleigh, North Carolina, never feeling far from family in Virginia and North Carolina because train passes came with his father's (and grandfather's) jobs with RF&P and C&O railways.

Jack often shared his two lasting memories of his time in Omaha, Nebraska, perhaps because in different ways both helped shape his future.

As a young man he enjoyed putting on puppet shows, and his father got him a spot on the local TV show, to showcase his budding talent. The host of the show, Johnny Carson, so enjoyed the segment he did with Jack that he encouraged him to take a post as a Page at the show, seating the audience when they arrived, then staying to see every show.

The other experience was of a less pleasant variety. In Omaha it was called the "Polio Panic of 1952," and Jack was one of those struck with the disease. His doctor was "cutting edge" and instead of putting him in a Polio Ward, where he felt he was seeing far too many patients die, he confined Jack at home, under the care of his parents, in isolation, particularly from his younger brother who they all feared could also get polio. When Jack returned to school he said it felt like half the Freshman Class was gone, never to return. A great many died, the lucky ones were moved to Rehabilitation situations. Another "cutting edge" belief of his doctor was to gradually rebuild his muscles and strength through physical exercise. Jack took up tennis, which he played for several decades afterwards, a sport he later shared with two of his children.

When the family moved to Raleigh, where Jack completed High School, he set his sights on the University of North Carolina, and the ROTC program that would help him achieve his goal of getting a BA in Radio, Television, Motion Pictures. He spent his summers as a midshipman in the Navy, and his school years working at the campus Radio Station, WUNC, where he worked his way up to Station Manager, recorded the series Strange Legends of the South which was picked up by NPR, and had the opportunity to interview Martin Luther King, Jr., as well giving campus tours to Eleanor Roosevelt and Robert Frost. The next monumental course change in his path came when the young single officer arrived in Austin, Texas, to teach ROTC at the University of Texas. He met a fellow student in the Master's program, who was also a fellow employee at KTBC, and in 1965 Jack married Nita Louise Kellam.

He left Austin with a Master's Degree in Broadcast Journalism, a wife, and a daughter. The next 15 years brought moving around America with the Navy, overseeing the launching of Submarines in New England, editing "All Hands Magazine" which won some awards under his tenure, working with Hollywood screenwriters on films large and small, including "An Officer and A Gentleman" which asked him to sign a release to use his name in the film (Zack Mayo being the closest rules and regs would allow), a tour in VietNam and his final tour in San Diego, California, where he oversaw the controversial negotiations that resulted in a "land swap" between the city and the Navy, allowing the relocation of Balboa Naval Hospital, and the building of a newer facility. It also included getting a second Master's Degree, at American University in Washington, D.C. and the raising of four children, who recall their Dad with tremendous love and affection.

It was at this time Jack told Nita Louise, "I am a warrior for peace, I fight with my typewriter."

After 21 years in the Navy as a Public Affairs Officer, Jack took a turn teaching Public Relations at National University, in San Diego, as well as handling their Public Relations department. Next was a turn at a little known company called Robert Keith. Their biggest project however is still recalled by many folks Jack never met… he oversaw an 84 foot tall inflatable King Kong being put up on the Empire State Building in New York in 1983. King Kong's climb of the Empire State Building appeared in the New York Times, the Washington Post, and Time Magazine.

After several decades of not being the top of the Chain of Command, Jack decided to take the reins, and opened Mayo & Associates, in San Diego, California. Initially a Public Relations firm, he gradually found his true love in Bernardo Press, an imprint he opened to publish Reference Books, and the occasional fiction novel.

Now that he was an Executive in his own right, family friend Phil Bohart saw the opportunity to help facilitate a dream Jack had not been sure would ever be attainable, he invited Jack into Rotary, an organization Jack's Father-In-Law Jesse Kellam had been a member of, that, among other things, works towards world understanding and peace. In 1984, Jack joined the The Rancho Bernardo - Noon club, in 1988 he was Club President under International President Royce Abbey, and during that year Polio Plus, and Rotary's effort to Eradicate Polio rang a chord with Jack, who found his first of many callings in Rotary. In 1992-1993, under International President Cliff Dochterman Jack spread the word that "Real Happiness is Helping Others" as District Governor for Rotary District 5340.

As part of his speech when visiting clubs, to keep it interesting and fun, Jack created a Jeopardy style game he called "RIG 4 SURF" aka Rotary Information Game for Simply Understanding Rotary Facts. The game was a hit with his clubs, causing rivalry, and some members did make ups at other clubs in hopes of finding out possible questions for when the game came to their club. Jack took the game to an International gathering of Rotarians in California, and it was so popular there it was taken to the Rotary International Convention in Melbourne, Australia… where Royce Abbey sat in the audience during one of the sessions with Jack's daughter Kathleen, competing with her to see who could get more right answers.

Trying to sum up Jack's Rotary efforts in a few sentences is impossible. He participated in countless club, district, and international committees, both in the Rancho Bernardo-Noon club, and after retiring to Austin in 2000, as part of the Rotary Club of Austin. Membership, Polio Eradication, and the Foundation were near and dear to his heart, as were the History and Scouting Fellowships. Jack's many friends, around the world, through Rotary were a highlight of his life, and attending meetings at clubs in other countries when he traveled added to his sense of not just seeing far off places, but getting to know the people. Jack believed in the Rotary foundation - he was a Paul Harris Fellow, and a Major Donor.

Donations can be made in Jack's memory to Rotary International Foundation for Polio Plus (

Jack is survived by 4 children, Carolyn Lee Pruitt, Sara, John and Kathleen Mayo, Grandson Alexander Pruitt (Trinity), brother David Mayo (Hideko) & niece and nephews Ellen Ogawa (Soshi), Thomas and Alex Mayo. He was predeceased by his parents, John and Lillian Mayo, one older brother who died in infancy, and grandson Christopher Mayo Pruitt.

Jack, his wife of 53 years, Nita Louise, and two of their children, John and Kathleen, were returning home from two weeks in Norway on a cruise ship to see the Northern Lights when Jack passed away. He ended life, having had his sea legs firmly under him, two weeks of magical sightseeing and family time, planning visits to friends and family.

Visitation will be 6:00 to 8:00 pm on Wednesday, February 13, 2019 at Weed-Corley-Fish Funeral Home, 3125 N. Lamar, Austin, Texas. Funeral service will be held 2:00 pm on Thursday, February 14, 2019 at Weed-Corley-Fish. Interment to follow at Austin Memorial Park.

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Suggested Memorial Donations

  • Donations can be made in Jack's memory to Rotary International Foundation for Polio Plus (

Message from the Family

Thank you for your support during this difficult time.

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Weed-Corley-Fish Funeral Home North

3125 N Lamar Blvd.
Austin, TX 78705
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