John Puddister

Published 12:00 am Sunday, August 1, 2010

JACKSON — Funeral Mass for retired Federal Bureau of Investigation Special Agent and longtime Jackson resident John Leo Puddister, who died Thursday, July 29, 2010, in Madison, will be at 11 a.m. Monday at St. Richard Catholic Church.

Visitation will be from 5 to 7 p.m. today at Wright & Ferguson Funeral Home at Parkway and from 10 a.m. until service time Monday at the church.

He was a man who enjoyed life and lived it with dignity, purpose, and above all, with a sense of humor.

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Mr. Puddister was born July 19, 1922, in Cambridge, Mass., the son of George and Anna McCarthy Puddister. He was the second of seven children. His first love was music. He was an accomplished trombone player during high school and he retained an affection for marshal music all of his life. From January 1943 to December 1945, he served in the U.S. Navy in the South Pacific. His most significant duty was a radio operator on a communication team on detached duty with the U.S. Marine Corps. He saw action at the battle of Tarawa, Pelilu, Kawajilen and Okinawa. Following the war, he found employment as a fingerprint clerk in the identification division of the FBI. Shortly thereafter, he met and married Evelyn Simmons, an FBI clerk/typist from Franklinton, La. He graduated from Strayer College with a bachelor’s degree in business and accounting in 1952. Armed with the degree, he applied and was appointed as a special agent with the FBI. He spent two years in the Pittsburg, Pa., office followed by three years at the Cincinnati, Ohio office.

On July 7, 1964, he was transferred to the newly opened Jackson field office of the FBI to aid in the search for three missing civil rights workers outside of Philadelphia. He decided to remain in the Jackson office and was appointed to the position of field supervisor before retiring in 1977. In addition to the Mississippi Burning case, he conducted a number of other investigations in civil rights violation matters, including the Wharlest Jackson case in Natchez. He also conducted investigations relating to fraud against the U.S. Government, Federal Tort Claims Act matters, bank embezzlement, bank robbery and kidnapping cases during his career. In his formal letter of resignation addressed to the director of the FBI, he reflected on his career as follows: “I leave with a feeling of fierce pride in our accomplishments, particularly in Mississippi, where the FBI met a difficult challenge and performed magnificently in the field of human rights.”

Following retirement from the FBI, he became a fixture at the Colonial County Club where he played 18 holes every day, weather permitting. He was a member of the Mississippi Seniors Golf Association and he never missed a home game of the Jackson Mets. In his final years, he passed his time by sitting in this backyard smoking his ever present cigar. In May of 2009, he moved to the Siena Center at St. Catherine Village in Madison.

He is survived by his wife of 61 years, Evelyn; one brother, Bob of Sebago, Maine.; three sons, Michael and wife, Mimi, of Natchez, John and wife, Pam, of Lost Creek, W.Va., and David and wife, Laura, of Aberdeen; one daughter, Ann of Allen, Texas; three granddaughters, Joanna and husband, Justin King, of Brandon, Virginia of Baltimore, Md., and Jessica of Lost Creek; one grandson, Jonathan of Lost Creek; and one step-grandson, Jordan Garner of West Point.

The family wishes to thank Joe Webb, Chris Grillis and all the gang at the Lamar Restaurant for their friendship, the staff at the Siena Center/St. Catherine Village and St. Dominic Hospital for allowing John to live his final days with dignity and comfort.