Mr. John ” Jack ” Wolcott Vandervort

Mr. John ” Jack ” Wolcott Vandervort

Mr. John ” Jack ” Wolcott Vandervort

Mr. John Wolcott Vandervort
July 7, 1933 – January 16, 2021

JOHN W. “JACK” VANDERVORT – After a valiant two-year battle with pancreatic cancer, Jack Vandervort of Naples, Fla. passed away peacefully on Saturday, January 16, 2021, at the age of 87 surrounded by his loving family.

Jack, a man loved by so many, genuinely enjoyed sharing stories and making connections. One of his favorite ways to connect with others included asking the question “So, where are you from?” Now, let us share with you Jack’s journey.

On July 7, 1933, in State College, Pa., he was born to John Vandervort and Helen Manning Bull Vandervort. When he was a teenager, Jack’s family moved to Ithaca, N.Y., where he graduated from Ithaca High School. Jack attended Wake Forest University and Cornell University.

Jack moved to Albany, NY at the young age of 26 to work for the New York Republican State Committee. It was there that he met his wife of 60 years, Gayle Brandow Vandervort. They were introduced by Gayle’s mother, Jane, a Republican State Committee staff member. Thus, began their loving journey together, and later, the creation of their beautiful family.

Jack was a true icon in New York’s political world going back to the 1950’s. He worked on numerous political campaigns over the years, beginning with Dwight Eisenhower’s presidential re-election campaign in 1956. He was Nelson A. Rockefeller’s only advance man in his first election campaign and served as Executive Director of the New York Republican State Committee under six State Chairs. Jack built many personal connections throughout these political endeavors, impacting the lives of many across the Empire State and beyond.

In May of 1973, Jack moved his family to Manlius, N.Y. to work for Carrier Corporation, where he served as Corporate Vice President of Public and Government Relations from 1977 to 1986. His accomplishments and successes while at Carrier, and in the Syracuse, N.Y. community, were immeasurable. Most notably, Jack was instrumental in securing state funding for the High-Tech Center in Syracuse and the Carrier Dome at Syracuse University.

Jack also served on various boards of directors and committees including Clarkson University’s School of Management Advisory Council, Regent of Le Moyne College, Siena College’s Board of Associate Trustees, the NYS Trooper Foundation, and the Board of Governors of the Child’s Hospital of Albany, N.Y. He was very involved in the formation of the Business Council of New York State, and sat on several of their key committees.

In 1986, he and Gayle moved back to Albany where Jack started his own lobbying firm, John W. Vandervort Consultants. After taking early retirement from Carrier, Jack parlayed his 30+ years of political experience into building his new venture with his sons, Jay and Todd. Together they built a lucrative family business that is still in existence today and currently operated by Todd and daughter-in-law, Margaret.

When Jack wasn’t working, he thoroughly enjoyed spending time with his loving family and friends at his vacation home in Manchester, Vt. He also loved his time in Naples, Fla., where he and Gayle moved full-time in 2014. His favorite retirement hobby was playing golf at Royal Wood Golf & Country Club. Some of his favorites over the years included Manchester Country Club, Wolferts Roost Country Club, Olde Kinderhook Golf Club, and Colonie Golf & Country Club. He was also a long time social member of the Fort Orange Club of Albany, N.Y.

Golf…well that’s another story. Jack’s style was the same as his character: straight and right down the middle. And what about those ten-foot gimmies? Nobody enjoyed playing golf more than Jack. For him, golf was more about spending time with family and friends than it was about his score. His involvement with the Carrier Classic, as the co-chairman, resulted in him forming lifelong friendships with many of the Senior PGA Tour players…yet another example of Jack’s innate ability to form friendships that lasted a lifetime.

Jack, a class act from start to finish, had a charismatic personality unlike any other. He had a remarkable capacity for instilling calm and balance into every situation. Jack and his wife Gayle also had an endearing ability to open their hearts and their homes to anyone and everyone. All who crossed paths with them quickly became dear friends.

Jack is survived by his wife Gayle, who resides in Naples; four children, Jay (Christine), Todd (Margaret), Holly (Jeff Johns), and Amy (Celeste Foley); and four grandchildren, Jake, Morgan (Kevin Crowley), John “Jack” II, and Jane. He was predeceased by his sister Phebe Goldstein.

No evening was complete without Jack’s favorite cocktail – vodka on the rocks, filled to the rim with ice and a splash (or as he would say, a “tiny little pinch”) of Rose’s lime juice. So please join us in raising a glass in honor of our giant of a man named Jack and a life well lived.

A Celebration of Life will be held at a later date in both Albany, N.Y. and Naples, Fla.

In Lieu of flowers, please consider donating to one of the following charities.

Avow Hospice, Naples FL (
Capital District YMCA Circle of Champs, Albany, NY (


Willis Stephens Jr.

January 17, 2021, 10:03 pm

I read the notice of Jack’s passing with a heavy heart. A flourish of happy memories came rushing back – Jack will always be remembered as one of the “good guys” in the NY political scene – working tirelessly for his clients, always with a view toward making New York a better place. He knew his way around every nook and cranny in Albany and forged many close friendships – two generations of my family included. My father, Will Stephens, and I extend our heartfelt condolences to the Vandervort family. May Jack rest peacefully in God’s loving embrace. Will Stephens Jr.

John J Coppola

January 17, 2021, 10:34 pm

My prayers go out to the Vandervort family with gratitude for the influence Jack had in my life and career. As a new kid on the block in the Albany government relations world, my first office was a small furnished office sublet from Vandervort, Hill, and Gosdeck. Jack, Jay, Todd, and Margaret were all very hospitable and willing to provide helpful advice as I helped launch an office for the NY Association of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Providers. I will always appreciate how important their support was.
For years, after leaving for a bigger office, I ran into Jack so many times and enjoyed his company every time. His counsel, stories, jokes, and pearls of wisdom made every encounter enjoyable and appreciated. Jack had such a gift of giving old-school advice that fit with a newer world, probably because it was rooted in principles that transcend time. I always felt like a student in his company and have always had a deep respect for all that he brought to our conversations. I will miss the special encounters.
God bless Jack and the Vandervorts.

Rosanna and Felix Bongiorno

January 17, 2021, 11:15 pm

Rosanna and Felix Bongiorno
For many years Jack was a valued customer at Bongiorno s Restaurant
Over time we became friends. He will be missed by every one that knew him.
I hope Heaven has a good Veal Marsala!
Farewell Jack

Johnny Evers

January 17, 2021, 11:19 pm

When I was hired by The Business Council of New York State in 1999 the first member to welcome me was Jack Vandervort. As a former Assembly staffer, I knew who he was and remembered seeing him in the Capital hallways, the LOB, and in the early morning hours when the budget used to be passed after all night sessions. He was part of the A team; ever present; a top tier lobbyist. When he took the time to stop and greet me at my first meeting at The Business Council he welcomed me, made me feel at home, and started a 20 year friendship – one that continues today with his son Todd and daughter-in-law Margaret. I’ll miss him – he was a class act.

Patty York

January 18, 2021, 7:04 pm

Margaret and Todd,

My sincerest thoughts and prayers are with you at this time.

I regret I never had the opportunity to meet your Dad. He sounds like an incredible man.

It must give you peace to know his legacy will live on.

Most Sincerely,

Patty York

Steven Markowitz

January 18, 2021, 7:14 pm

I first met Jack in 1986, not too long after the creation of MultiState Associates, and soon after Jack, Jay and Todd formed Vandervort Consultants. He was one of the first lobbyists we retained in Albany and we were one of his first clients. We hit it off right from the beginning and it led to a 30+ year mutually successful business relationship, but, more important, a genuine and close friendship. Jack and his sons, and then Margaret too, were consummate professionals who always got the job done and unfailingly abided by the strictest code of legal and moral conduct. It seemed like every elected and government official knew, liked and respected Jack and his word was his bond. I had the privilege of meeting and spending time with Gayle and the other members of the Vandervort family and I will always cherish those memories. You had an extraordinary husband and father, and all those who knew Jack will always remember this extraordinary man and friend. May his memory be a blessing.

David Fox

January 18, 2021, 7:32 pm

I was the fellow who worked in the Fort Orange Club parking lot for 40 years.In all that time I never met a nicer person than Mr. Vandervort. Through hundreds of conversations we developed a special bond.Todd and Margaret Vandervort,in particular,will know that I had the utmost in love and respect for him.My condolences to the Vandervort family.

Catherine Bertini

January 19, 2021, 1:55 am

To Gail, Todd and family,
When Governor Rockefeller visited Cortland NY in the 1966 campaign, I approached Mr. Vandervort, whom I met at TARS School the year before, to ask if I could be a junior staff member at the next year’s TARS school. He delivered. What seems like a little step was huge for my fledgling career. In 1971, I became a colleague of his when Chuck Lanigan hired me to run the youth programs at state committee. Colleague might be overemphasizing as everyone knew that Jack knew everything and everyone like no one else ever would. He came back into my life when he recruited me to be the campaign manager for George Wortley for congress in 1976. George almost won against the incumbent, and of course, he won four years later when the seat was vacant. Once again our paths crossed when I joined Container Corporation of America and Jack was already a master in the field at Carrier.
My experience is just one example of the many lives Jack touched and people whose careers he supported.
I am always grateful.
Sending you condolences on Jack’s passing, and thanks for sharing him. Cathy Bertini

Debby Cole

January 19, 2021, 1:31 pm

Gayle, we are so sorry to hear about Jack. We send you and the family our deepest sympathy. Our thoughts are with you all at this sad time.
Debby and Bob Cole

Lisa Riley

January 19, 2021, 1:35 pm

Amy and Cess…
‘A life well lived’ for certain! We will toast him and raise a glass and picture him with all the love and family sent before him. May eternal rest shine upon his beautiful smiling face!
Love and peace,
Lisa and Michelle

Susan Crossett

January 19, 2021, 1:55 pm

Jack was an omnipresence in Albany during my time there. He was kind and thoughtful and generous with his knowledge to all of us. My condolences to the Vandervort family.

Susan Crossett

Ellen Muir Clickner

January 19, 2021, 10:13 pm

My sincerest condolences to Gayle, Jay, Todd, Margaret and all of the Vandervort family. One of the first Business Council members I met when I started there back in 1982 and then the Vandervort family. Many years of love and laughts followed. May he rest in peace.


January 19, 2021, 10:29 pm

My favorite brother-in-law. The obit was the real Jack. We will miss him particularly on the golf course.

John Aretakis.

January 20, 2021, 12:49 pm

A true gentleman who left his mark w everyone he met or touched. It’s hard to be in politics and still have humanity and kindness; but he seemed to balance it all so well; and his children are his lasting legacy to continue dad’s work. Well done Mr V.

Betty Little

January 20, 2021, 10:28 pm

It was always great to see Jack in the halls of the Capitol! He had a wonderful way of advocating for his causes and was a pleasure to see. Regardless of what was going on Jack was cheerful, happy and considerate and always full of good reliable information to make his case. And what a golfer — no one enjoyed the game more! Jack loved his family and I know they will miss his presence as will all his many friends and colleagues. With loving thoughts to all of you…..

Kaia Van Praag

January 22, 2021, 4:39 pm

I’m so sorry to hear about your dad’s passing. I have such wonderful memories of visiting you all at your home when we were little. I will let my mom know and I know she will be sending her love to all of your and of course your mom. Perhaps now my dad and your dad can once again be laughing over cocktails somewhere sunny by the ocean. Love to you all. Kaia

Dick Taylor

January 26, 2021, 10:48 pm

My condolences to Gayle and the family.
I will always remember my good friend and associate. We were both born in 1933 and would kid about who was older or younger, depending on the time of year.
I think of Jack when I travel on Route 173 in Manlius.

Terri Fulton

January 29, 2021, 1:09 pm

Sending my condolences to you and your family, Amy. I loved reading all about your father; obviously he was well loved and lived a very full life.

Sending hugs,


Bob Stegemann

February 11, 2021, 3:38 pm

Jack was such a presence in Albany as a mover and shaker. He had a style and grace of a gentleman in an arena where that disposition is really tested. Jack always had a good story and positive demeanor. He was a friend to so many over so many years – that’s a good measure of the man. He was a good friend. I will miss him. My sympathies to all the Vandervorts.

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