Cover photo for James R.  Willett's Obituary
James R.  Willett Profile Photo
1934 James 2022

James R. Willett

October 22, 1934 — December 7, 2022

Former Buckhannon resident James R. Willett passed away in Punta Gorda, Florida on December 7, 2022. 

Born in Waverly, Kentucky, on October 22, 1934, Willett left his Kentucky home at the age of 16. Eventually making his way to Pennsylvania, he began his career in the oil and gas industry. In the early 1960s, Willett, then employed by S.W. Jack Drilling Co., of Indiana, Pennsylvania, came to West Virginia and started S.W. Jack Drilling’s southern operations which would be headquartered in Buckhannon.

Starting his career as a rig hand, he rose through the company ranks eventually serving as Vice President of S.W. Jack Drilling and J&J Enterprises, the production arm of S.W Jack. Under Willett’s leadership, S.W. Jack Drilling and J&J Enterprises would become the largest independently owned oil and gas company in the eastern United States with those companies employing hundreds of local residents from their base of operations in Lorentz.

While a resident of Buckhannon, Willett pursued a myriad of interests, including race car driver and NASCAR fan, softball coach, avid golfer and local philanthropist. A parishioner at Holy Rosary Catholic Church, Willett, along with his wife, were instrumental in fund raising for St. Joseph’s Hospital. He was a regular supporter of the West Virginia Strawberry Festival, an avid supporter of Buckhannon-Upshur High School football, serving as President of the Boosters Club, and a supporter and fan of WVU Football. Willett was also an Honorably Discharged veteran of the United States Army.

He retired to Punta Gorda, Florida, in the late 1980s along with his wife, Norma, who preceded him in death on May 25, 2022. Willett is survived by three sons, Randy (Midlothian, VA.), Kenny (Buckhannon, WV), and Dennis (Punta Gorda, FL), together with six grandchildren and two sisters.

To order memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of James R. Willett, please visit our flower store.

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Wednesday, March 8, 2023

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