John W. ‘Jake’ Renfroe Jr.
Published 3:24 pm Tuesday, October 24, 2023
John W. (Jake) Renfroe Jr. passed away peacefully at home on Saturday, Oct. 21, and we know he awoke in heaven to find his Daddy and Mother, two sisters Joyce and Gail, and brother Frank, who he loved so much and had gone before him.
Born on Dec. 19, 1931, Jake spent his childhood in Troy, Alabama. He loved everything outdoors and long walks on the farm with his family on Sunday afternoons. He was a good athlete, enjoyed playing sports and was Captain of the Troy High School football team. After high school he enlisted in the Army National Guard and was stationed at Ft. Rucker. During that time, he was set up on a blind date with Lillian Connally from Red Level, Alabama, and the two fell deeply in love. After his tour of duty, and with the encouragement of Lil’s sister they eloped, and shortly afterwards they enrolled in the University of Alabama. Soon after graduation, Jake and Lil left Alabama with a young daughter, a degree in accounting, and a position at what was then Chemstrand in Pensacola, Florida.
Jake enjoyed a busy and varied career. He realized he wasn’t comfortable in a small office of a large company. He worked for Goodyear Tire Company for a time and then opened Renfroe Tire Service, a very successful Pensacola business in the 60s and 70s. His father, J.W. Sr. had been buying pecans in Troy from growers around the Southeast since the 1930’s. Jake began purchasing pecans from growers in Northwest Florida and South Alabama to help his father’s business and storing them in the back of his tire store. When his father passed away in the early 70s, Jake sold the tire company and devoted all his efforts to the pecan business. For many years, Renfroe Pecan Company was the largest accumulator of pecans and supplier to commercial pecan shellers and food processors in the country. In the early days, Renfroe’s was wholesale only, but today, the two retail stores and mail order business in Pensacola provide many varieties of pecans and nuts to customers around the country. As a business owner, Jake appreciated every person he saw; from the neighborhood teen selling ten pounds of pecans, to a farmer with ten thousand pounds, he treated each person with the same dignity and respect. As an employer, he never asked someone to do something he wouldn’t do. At Christmastime, he loved greeting customers in the store and handing out samples of fudge.
Jake and Lil taught themselves to play tennis on the courts at Pensacola Junior College. Rarely did a day pass when one or both of them weren’t playing. They were charter members of the Pensacola Racquet Club where on those courts they met some of their most cherished friends for life. It is told that the Pensacola Ski Club was formed at a changeover on the tennis courts. Jake was a board member and president of the Ski Club, and they enjoyed skiing on beautiful mountains around the world in their younger days.
Jake was active in the community and was chairman of the board of Pensacola Tourism Council and served on the Florida Tourism Board. He was president of the Fiesta of Five Flags, and was later crowned Don Tristan Deluna XLIII where he and Lil represented Pensacola in festivals throughout Florida. He enjoyed many Fiesta and Mardi Gras organizations, especially Rebellaires and the Order of Tristan Clowns. He was a board member of the Pensacola Historical Society, on several bank boards, and he and Lil were Pensacola Chamber of Commerce Pace Award recipients. He was a member of many trade organizations relating to the pecan and tree nut industry.
Jake is survived by his wife of 70 years, Lillian; daughter, Dee Renfroe; and sons Jake III (Jane), and Ben (Tammy). He had eight grandchildren, Margeaux Gibson (Ben), William Renfroe, Mary Kate Northup (Graham), Sarajane Simoneau (David), Maggie Renfroe, Jordan Fox, Skylar Fox, and Mackenzie Fox. He had seven great-grandchildren, Ted and Numa Gibson, Aubrey and Lillian Renfroe, and Carter, Harper, and Penelope Northup. Also surviving Jake are his siblings Betty Albritton (Bill), Gene Renfroe (Jana), and Esther Scherf. He loved all of his family deeply, and we will all miss his jokes and the big smile that lit up a room wherever he went.
The family would like to thank the caregivers who took loving care of Jake: Debra Gould, Sheila Shelby, and Felicia Knight.
A Memorial Service will be held on Saturday, Oct. 28, 11 a.m., at Trinity Presbyterian Church, 3400 Bayou Blvd, Pensacola, FL 32503, followed by a reception at the Church. Pallbearers will be William Renfroe, Ben Gibson, Graham Northup, and Parker Hamil.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to United Ministries (united-ministries.com) or to the charity of your choice.
Bayview Fisher-Pou Chapel, 3351 Scenic Highway, Pensacola, FL is entrusted with arrangements. Fond memories and wishes of condolence may be offered at www.bayviewfisher-pouchapel.com.