A man of boundless passions and countless accomplishments, John Jewell died March 21st in Houston, Texas, at the age of 97.

John was born in Providence, Rhode Island, to Dr. Willard B. Jewell and his wife Ann Hennessey Jewell.  An accomplished athlete, he grew up primarily in Nashville, Tennessee.  There he attended West End High School, lettering in football, basketball and baseball.

He graduated early from West and volunteered for military service during World War II.  After completing his hitch in the Army Air Corps, John came back to Nashville in 1947.

Taking advantage of the GI Bill, he enrolled in Vanderbilt, ultimately earning BA and MA degrees in Geology.  This delighted his father who was then Chairman of the Geology Dept. at the university.

During his college years, John met Mary Anna Locke, a coed in the Nursing program.  They were married in 1950.  Soon enough, John and Mary Anna became the parents of three sons.

John pitched for the Vanderbilt baseball team and received feelers from pro baseball scouts after graduation, but he decided his fastball lacked the necessary pop and embarked on a life of global adventure instead.

Initially, he explored the desert southwest, prospecting for uranium and precious minerals.  After these efforts produced only modest success, he decided to focus on petroleum exploration. Working for various oil companies, he developed prospective fields in remote regions of Turkey, Libya, Sicily, Brazil, Indonesia, Honduras and other daunting locales.

After years of world travel, John decided to come back to the U.S. so his children could get a proper education.  He and Mary Anna resettled in Nashville in 1967 where the boys attended Montgomery Bell Academy.

John secured a job with the Tennessee Geological Survey, but his love of prospecting was undiminished.  He soon concluded that forsaken areas of rugged east Tennessee might have oil hidden beneath them.  Those hills are now peppered with pump jacks, a number of which sit on land that he correctly surmised presented drilling opportunities.

Most of the rest of John’s long career was spent hunting for oil and natural gas in Tennessee and Kentucky.  Sons Bill, Roger, and Rick grew up and developed their own professional interests but, sadly, Mary Anna’s health declined, and she died in 1993.

A few years later, John reconnected with the widow of a fellow geologist he had known in Sumatra.  They hit it off, and Nancy Patrick became his second wife.  John then joined Nancy in Houston where they shared a love of all-things-geological, birdwatching, and the hometown Astros.  John had two sublime joys in the later years:  his growing family (both kin and in-laws), and the two World Series championships won by the Astros.

All who knew John were enlightened and enriched by the connection.  He was a man of enthusiasms, always upbeat, always animated, always fascinated by the human condition.  Even in his 90s, he retained a youthful spirit that infused and brightened every day of his life, as well as the lives of others.

Predeceased by his parents Willard and Ann Jewell, wife Mary Anna Jewell, sister Barbara Pond, sons Roger and Rick Jewell, John is survived by his wife Nancy Patrick Jewell, brother Rick (Lynne) Jewell, brother-in-law Pat Pond, son Bill (Mary Jean) Jewell, daughter-in-law Becky Parker Jewell, step-sons Mike (Lynore) Patrick, Jeff (Nancy) Patrick, Steve Patrick, and beloved nieces, nephew, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.


  1. Hi Bill, this is John Hester writing to you after Elaine saw the news of your Dad’s passing on Facebook. Wow, your Dad had quite a full life. I can relate to his career because I also studied Geology as an undergraduate and worked for five years in land use planning after college before leaving for the business world in medical products and surgical equipment. I knew several people who had careers as exploration geologists and they had many interesting stories to tell, as I’m sure your Dad must have had also. And as a big sports fan, particularly of football and baseball, I would have enjoyed your Dad’s thoughts and comments on those sports.

    It doesn’t seem that long ago that I was visiting the biomedical department at Vanderbilt Hospital (1982-90) and chatting with you. And then Mary Jane was our daughter Katie’s kindergarten teacher at Grassland Elementary (1989-90). In 2008, after 18 years in the Chicago area, we moved to Greenville SC where we enjoy the great weather, the many offerings of this vibrant small city, and quick access to beautiful mountains and great hiking. We’ve been very happy here. I finally retired in 2017 at age 68.

    Our best to you and your family.
    John (and Elaine) Hester

    John and Elaine Hester
    • Dear Bill & Mary Jean
      Love & condolences to you . I feel blessed to have known both your mom & dad . I remember him coming to check whether it was OK for you to work with me – while you were a student at MBA. Remember visiting both parents in Sunbright & going out to a site he was drilling. I have great memories of both parents.
      Love, Ken & Jo

      Ken Von Nieda
  2. Dear Billl and Mary Jean,

    What a grand life your dad led!

    Sending love,
    Beth O’Shea

    Beth O’Shea

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