GULF STREAM — Jefferson Feigl Vander Wolk of Gulf Stream and Osterville, Mass., died peacefully on June 14 in Boynton Beach. He was 87.
He is survived by his devoted wife of 60 years, Betty Brown Vander Wolk; his daughter, Hope Morrison Vander Wolk of Santa Fe, N.M.; his sons Philip Jefferson Vander Wolk of Santa Fe and Peter Walton Vander Wolk of Richmond, Va.; as well as seven grandchildren.
Mr. Vander Wolk was born in Springfield, Mass., on June 16, 1930, and reared in nearby Longmeadow. He attended Phillips Exeter Academy and Babson College, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in business and later sat on the board of trustees.
Mr. Vander Wolk was stationed in Big Spring, Texas, as a flight trainer in the Air Force. While there, he began his real estate development company and eventually parlayed his business sense into owning and operating a variety of successful businesses, including the Inn of the Governors in Santa Fe and the Waterway Cafe in Palm Beach Gardens.
As the employer of thousands over his lifetime — many of whom remained with him for decades — he treated his workers as partners by listening to their advice and distributing to them a handsome share of profits generated by their efforts.
Inspired by the teachings of William Edwards Deming, an American statistician credited with much of the economic rebirth of Japan after World War II, Mr. Vander Wolk wrote and published The Workplace Where Everyone Wins later in his life, illustrating his own business journey and his unique style of management.
Mr. Vander Wolk was known for his distinctive looks, his unwillingness to live in a house he didn’t design, the convertibles he drove while negotiating a legal pad and a No. 2 pencil in hand, his propensity to be the last to leave a party, his larger-than-life personality and his ability to move well on his feet, whether in black tie on the dance floor or playing net on the tennis court. He enjoyed offshore sailing, golf, socializing, dining with his wife and flying.
In the 1970s he built his own helicopter, powered by an Evinrude 235-horsepower outboard engine. Throughout his adult life, he owned and piloted a variety of aircraft, most notably his next helicopter, which he owned for 30-plus years and in which he liked to buzz his friends’ houses.
A good friend to many, Mr. Vander Wolk enjoyed spending time with like-minded people of all stripes and could often be found at one of the clubs with which he had affiliations, including the Gulf Stream Bath and Tennis Club, the Gulf Stream Golf Club, the Wianno Club, the Beach Club of Centerville, Massachusetts, the Hyannis Yacht Club and the New York Yacht Club.
Undeterred by most obstacles, Mr. Vander Wolk, the Dancing Bear, made magic happen when most others said it wasn’t possible, and will be sorely missed by many people.
He was preceded in death by his mother, Edith Powell Vander Wolk; his father, Walter William Vander Wolk; both of his brothers, Walter William “Bill” Vander Wolk Jr. and Donald Powell Vander Wolk; as well as by many of his dear friends.
The family will celebrate his life with a gathering from 4-6 p.m. at the Wianno Club in Osterville on July 29. In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation to the Achievement Centers for Children and Families, 555 NW Fourth St., Delray Beach, FL 33444, or online at achievementcentersfl.org.
— Obituary submitted by the family