Jack Wolters, one of the greatest champions of Millard and Linda Fuller’s affordable housing movement, passed away June 10 at the age of 90. Wolters helped organize Habitat for Humanity’s Care-A-Vanners and later became a tremendous supporter of and volunteer for The Fuller Center for Housing after its founding in 2005. There will be a memorial service on Saturday, June 28, at 10:30 a.m. at St. Mark’s Presbyterian Church, 3809 E 3rd St, Tucson, AZ. To make a contribution to The Fuller Center for Housing in Jack Wolters’ memory, please click here.
Statement to the family by Fuller Center President David Snell:
I’m writing to share with you the sincere condolences of all of us here at The Fuller Center for Housing on Jack’s passing. He was a true and faithful partner to Millard Fuller’s ministries, a kind and exuberant soul who lightened the spirit of all who had the great pleasure of spending time in his company.
I worked at Habitat through most of the 90’s and part of my assignment was the annual building events. It was at these celebrations of housing that I got to know and work with Jack. He never missed an opportunity to help get a house built. The work he did in organizing the Habitat Gypsies was truly inspired, and the continuation of that program is a testament to its wisdom.
When Millard and Linda moved on from Habitat and we started The Fuller Center Jack was right there for us — he was one of the first donors to this new ministry. I know that Millard held Jack in high esteem and counted him among his friends. I’d like to be counted as one of Jack’s — he was the kind of person that gives meaning to the word friendship.
You and the family are in our prayers. May the good Lord enfold you in his comforting arms.
Statement to the family by Fuller Center co-founder Linda Fuller Degelmann:
I sincerely regret that I cannot be with you on this special day as you remember Jack and celebrate his life. Distance prevents me from being with you physically, but hopefully through these words I can be among you in spirit.
Along with my late husband Millard, Jack was one of Habitat’s most exuberant “cheerleaders.” He was a magnet attracting new volunteers and supporters. As Millard, he helped the name “Habitat” become a household word.
Jack Wolters is a legend within God’s partnership housing ministry. Hundreds of people either knew him personally or knew of him through a unique program he and Lois started when they were building homes for migrant workers in south Florida. They saw a great need and sent out a call for help. This appeal attracted other RVers, most of whom were in their retirement years desiring meaningful work while at the same time enjoying the camaraderie of doing it with other like-minded folks.
Through the years, the Wolters were such fans and supporters of Habitat that they seldom missed major Habitat events such as blitz builds, milestone celebrations and fundraisers. Everyone was always happy to see that Airstream roll up and a booming voice pouring forth from the driver seat. Next thing you know, he was bounding over to make rounds with his big bear hugs. Jack was the kind of guy who made you feel happy when he was around.
Jack Wolters was a character, and I say that in the best sense of the word. Millard liked “characters” for several reasons. One reason was because he himself was one and he knew that characters could attract attention and make friends for Habitat. Jack was not only a great spokesperson for Habitat, he was a doer whether he was working on a house, organizing more RV work teams or lending encouragement to those in need of a decent place to live.
The RV program has quite a history. The Wolters officially started in 1990 was first known as the RV Gypsies but then changed to Habitat Care-A-Vanners. Their first year, 30 couples traveled to eight Habitat building sites. Today, there are nearly 6,000 members and about 1,000 of those are active at least part of the year. This translates into thousands of volunteer hours given by loving hands to help families realize their dream of homeownership.
One can find Jack Wolters in numerous stories in newspapers, magazines, issues of newsletters and videos. Millard dedicated several pages to Jack in his book entitled, “A Simple Decent Place to Live.” (144-146) He writes “Some people think RV Gypsies are nuts to travel hundreds of miles, just to work for free. As Jack Wolters, a former electrical supervisor answered, ’The lure is the joy of fellowship with people who feel as we do. The idea is that the more I give, the more I can give.’ They have been called the cavalry of Habitat for Humanity … traveling the highways, usually in caravans to help local Habitat affiliates.”
Jack Wolters served on Habitat’s Board of Advisors beginning in 1986. He was one of the most generous donors and supporters among that select group. His passion for the ministry came shining through from head to toe. One rarely saw him without his “Danger; Infectious Habitatitis” button on his cap. A waitress in a restaurant looked worried and asked, “Sir, do you really think you should be in here?” Ah, another opportunity to explain that he really didn’t have hepatitis…he had “Habitatitis”!
When Millard and I left Habitat International in 2005 and started the Fuller Center for Housing which is a similar partnership housing ministry, Jack didn’t skip a beat in his support of our work. He remained faithful to the end, even after his friend Millard preceded him in death by five years.
Don’t you know those two men are having a great reunion? Even though Jack is no longer pulling a trailer, his hugs will be remembered forever.
Jack Wolters spoke with Fuller Center Director of Communications Chris Johnson in 2012 about his support for The Fuller Center for Housing and the Fuller family. Click here to read the blog post about that conversation.