NEWPORT NEWS, VA — James Thomas “Jack” Warlitner, Jr. died Sept. 23 after a short illness. After 20 years of active duty in the U.S. Navy, Warlitner put his ship rigging climbing skills to work for theatrical supplier McManus Enterprises. Soon known as “Jack the Rigger,” Warlitner reinforced his reputation as “the man willing to do anything, for anyone, at any time” for major tours in the 1970s including Jethro Tull, Led Zeppelin, Elton John, KISS, ZZ Top, and many more.
McManus expanded into lighting, with clients including HBO Sports. Soon Warlitner was traveling the globe, supporting the production needs of top boxing matches and the Olympic Games. Known as the oldest working rigger in the U.S., he finally had to retire from the rigging life after 34 years in 2004, at age 79. But he continued rigorous daily work regimen until the time of his passing, producing such items as nautical knot boards and “Jack Bags” for the trade.
Warlitner is survived by daughter Dorothy Ann Warlitner Cannon, son James Thomas Warlitner III (Crystal Coffey Warlitner), son Keith Allen Warlitner, 10 grandchildren, 13 great grandchildren and 1 great-great granddaughter. He is preceded in death by his mother, father, a son (Thomas Wade Warlitner) and a daughter (Irene Warlitner) along with three sisters and three brothers.
Visitation will be Thursday, September 26, 2013 (5:30 - 7:00 pm at Peninsula Funeral Home, Newport News). Memorial Services will be Friday, September 27, 2013 (5:30 pm, at Olivet Christian Church, Old Courthouse Way, Newport News). A private burial service with full military honors will be held for family at Hampton National Cemetery, Hampton, Virginia (1:00 pm, Friday, September 27, 2013).
In lieu of flowers, contributions may be sent to the Peninsula SPCA or Olivet Christian Church.