John C. Weitekamp

John C. Weitekamp
May 31, 1926 – October 21, 2014
Aerospace Pioneer

On October 21, 2014 John C. Weitekamp, 88 years of age, of Clear Lake City, Texas passed away, surrounded by his family. Loving Husband of Frances, his wife of 65 years, and Father of 10 Children, John, Michael, Carolyn (husband Joe Mancuso), Mark, Patricia, the twins, Robert & James, Mary (husband Charles Angele), Joan and Judy (husband Kenny Cleveland). He was Grandfather of 17, and Great Grandfather of 11. He was an avid tennis player and enjoyed tending his meticulously kept gardens. His love of Jazz and devotion to the local performances of the Houston Jazz Community, gave him incredible joy, particularly after his retirement. He had a broad selection of all genres of Jazz on his iPad and would play it in his office as he worked.

His family learned very quickly that his job as an Aerospace Engineer with McDonnell Douglas would occupy much of his time. As Project Leader of the development of the F-4 fighter jet, he was responsible for the design of the fuselage of this jet which was the first plane to be able to fly at Mach
2.2. He was always quick to say that he headed the team, and wanted to be certain that the other engineers were recognized as well. The F-4 Fighter Jet was the primary jet utilized by all branches of the United States Military from the late 1950’s until the end of the First Gulf War! Remarkably, this task was accomplished with mathematical calculations done by hand and a slide rule!

When McDonnell Douglas was awarded the contract by NASA to design the first Space Capsule to be able to not onlysuccessfully launch into space, but to be able to return the Astronaut safely back to earth, John was assigned the project, and Mercury was born. Its success was celebrated around the world! It was followed up with the Gemini Capsule. The engineering demands of these projects were enormous, coupled with the intense pressure of the Space Race.

Chuck Jacobson of McDonnell Douglas summarized John’s accomplishments when John was selected as an MDC Fellow, by Mr. Marvin Marks, the Corporate Vice President for Engineering and Research. This accolade was announced as a “very high honor for one of our teammates”.

The criteria for a fellow candidate are that he or she should have a history of outstanding and sustained technical performance and accomplishments, with particular skills and productivity in a highlyspecialized field or item of development. A memo from Mr. Marks confirmed that the Selection Committee approved John Weitekamp to the position of Staff Manager, MDC Fellow. This distinguished technical achiever was selected from a group of 12 nominees and was honored in ceremonies later in the year.

At the ceremony the new fellow, John Weitekamp from MDTSCO-Houston
was awarded the MDC Founder’s Medallion and a monetary honorarium. He became one of fifteen members of the Fellow Program, and this is out of a population of 15,600 in the MDC Engineering and Research organizations!

McDonnell Douglas honored our husband and father with a synopsis of some of his accomplishments: “John Weitekamp joined the McDonnell Aircraft Corporation in January 1949 as a Flight Test Engineer and in 1952 he transferred to Aerodynamics where he’s had and continues to have a distinguished career. For example, here are some of his achievements:

• On the F4H Aircraft Program, he was instrumental in developing the selected aerodynamic configuration during its advanced design. In addition, he correctly predicted superiority of low horizontal tail location which was later verified by wind tunnel testing.

• On the Mercury and Gemini Spacecraft Program, he was largely responsible for the design, development and successful qualification of the launch, escape and recovery systems.

• He was awarded a cash bonus by J.S. McDonnell for his personal contributions to the success of the Mercury Spacecraft Program.(less than 10 persons received such recognition.)

• On the Space Shuttle Program he managed the MDTSCO-Houston support to NASA-JSC in the area of Flight Performance. He has been responsible for many aerodynamic and trajectory analysis innovations used by NASA and the prime contractor.

• He was appointed to, and continues to serve, as a member and MDTSCO-Houston Representative on the “Ascent Flight Integration Group” which directly supports the NASA-JSC Space Shuttle Program Office.

• In this role,

 he was responsible for development of an integrated system of analysis techniques to resolve aerodynamic, trajectory, environmental, and structural interactions associated with the Space Shuttle Launch System.

 He was responsible for development and unique analysis techniques for determination of Space Shuttle ascent trajectory shaping requirements of allowable flight envelopes: and

 He was responsible for development of unique analysis techniques to permit post-flight extraction of aerodynamic characteristics of mated elements which make up the Space Shuttle launch system. These techniques were used by NASA and the prime contractor of the Shuttle Program.

• He was also appointed a charter member of the “Launch Systems Evaluation” Advisory Team.

• He has of course, received several Space Shuttle Awards by NASA in recognition of his personal contributions.”

These are just a few of his accomplishments. So much of his professional life was spent on classified projects that no one will ever be able to truly know the depth and breadth of the scope of his contribution to the Space Program. His awards and the mementos given to him by the various astronauts, commemorating their flights will always be treasured.

But collectively as his family, our pride in his participation in the Aerospace Industry will always be a part of his legacy and will be shared with future generations.

However, he was Mom’s loving husband and father of our tribe, and to us he was Dad, Grandad, and Great Grandad. The void in our lives will be filled for each of us with our fond memories. Now as we get ready to say goodbye to our “Rocket Scientist”, we will always hold him in our hearts and minds. Thanks Jack – Dad for the many memories! We love you~

A Memorial Mass at St. Bernadette Catholic Church will be held for John – date to be determined.

In lieu of customary remembrances, for those desiring contributions in John’s memory, they may be directed to Houston Hospice, 1905 Holcombe Blvd, Houston, TX, 77030-4123.


  1. Mr. Weitekamp was a very significant part of my life growing up. I admired him and Mrs. Weitekamp with highest regards! During the period of the 60-70’s were my fondest memories of the Weitekamp family. Even with 10 children, friends were always welcome. I was always amazed at the talent that he had in converting a two bedroom house with probably one bath into at least 6 bedrooms with 3 bathrooms! The house and the family in it were remarkable! Their yard and home were always perfect! Hard to believe with 10 children! I could go on and on, but the bottom line was that he was a very good man, with extreme intelligence and integrity. He worked very hard for his family (and along with Mrs. W) raised 10 amazing children. He will never be forgotten in my mind. May he rest in Peace.
    Love, Linda Watson

    Linda Watson
  2. I am so sorry for the loss of your husband, father, grandfather and great-grandfather. He will truly be missed. May God always bless you and keep you safe.

    Linda Watson
  3. My heart goes out to the entire Weitekamp Family. Reading this recap of his life reminded me of so many wonderful memories with John and Fran. The Weitekamps opened their home to me when I moved to Texas in the ’70’s waiting on my first job and trying to find a roommate for my first apartment. They became my support and base as I ventured out into my adult life away from my family in St. Louis and have remained very close over all these years. John and I played tennis together for many years, I remember the Space Center could be seen from the courts, he was never for from it. We played tennis and watched many Grand Slams together, he remembered matches and stats just like a broadcaster. Sharing Jazz with John and his sons was also some of my most favorite times, Hanging out at Cézanne’s and Sunday jazz spots around the area was so much fun and are very special memories for me.
    Thank you John for the life you shared so generously with so many of us and we are all better in this world for being touched by you and your spirit.
    Rest in peace and with lots of love to your family.
    Lyn Sullivan

    Lyn Sullivan
  4. My heart goes out to Jack’s family~

    I don’t have to explain all of his attributes, however, as I got to know him better, and more personally, he stole a piece of my heart. He could be stern and obstinate, but that side of him was tempered by his kindness. It was alway a treat to watch him melt when interacting with his Grandchildren, and more recently, his Great Grandchildren. His love for Fran was so apparent. ‘The way he looked at her was a deep abiding acknowledgement of his feelings. He was so proud of the ring he selected to give her on their 60th Anniversary!

    I will always treasure the evenings spent with him enjoying live Jazz! I will also always remember the first time he brought me back to his home office and we spent most of the time perusing his selection of Jazz on CD. I expressed an interest in some of the more obscure music we sampled. I was touched, that the next time we got together, he had burned the ones I liked the best for me.

    His knowledge of the Space Program was so very vast and the recent revelation of some of his accomplishments solidified some of the things he shared with me. The night that Columbia disintegrated we were heading down to Galveston to listen to live Jazz. I was driving, and asked if he had any idea what had caused it. He said he hadn’t heard anything that would give an indication. I told him that I had seen footage of foam breaking off the fuel tank and striking the forward edge of the wing during liftoff. He replied simply and with conviction “Then that was it.”…and it was.

    Saying goodbye to Jack is so hard,…so I won’t, for he will always be merely a thought away! I thank him for the memories, time and knowledge that he shared with me…and most importantly, his friendship~

    Fondly, with love~
    Bobbi Townsend

    Bobbi Townsend
  5. i have never been more sadden to hear of this wonderful mans passing , he was always kind to me as the entire Weitekamp family was when I was part of their family . Mr and Mrs Weitekamp were and Mrs Weitekamp is truly an amazing , loving, kind, and beautiful. One of the best mothers I’ve evr known, her delicious cooking always hit the spot with me even though I wasn’t hungry at the time.
    mr Weitekamp was always diligently working hard with his endeavors, he still had time to guide his children with his out pouring love and affection. He even assisted me with my first position at the Johnson Space Center. He was just that type of man. Yes I still love this incredible family because they all are truly great people, all are intelligent and have always carried on the Weitekamp tradition of what the true meaning of Family is all about. Mr Weitekamp you will be missed by so many people I pray you soar with the Angels and even improve their aerodynamics as you were the most talented engineer in our Space program . God bless with my deepest sympathy . Love Tammey from Tennessee formerly proud to have been a Weitekamp

    Tammey Smith

Leave Your Condolences

Make sure you enter the (*) required information where indicated. Basic HTML code is allowed.