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Pallet Industry Loses a Great Friend in Jess Garnett
It is with a great deal of sadness that I report that Jess Garnett of Garnett Wood Products passed away on March 3, 2007 at Brooke Haven Health Care Center in West Plains, Mo.

By Ed Brindley
Date Posted: 4/1/2007

   It is with a great deal of sadness that I report that Jess Garnett of Garnett Wood Products passed away on March 3, 2007 at Brooke Haven Health Care Center in West Plains, Mo. Before giving some details of his life and those he left behind, it is my privilege to take a minute and reminisce about one of the most interesting people I have ever known. Only a handful of people have made a unique impression on my life; Jess is one of these people.

   I remember when a colleague Bob Risby, who has known and worked with Jess for many years, told me that Jess is the best people person he had ever known. 

   My son Chaille had a unique opportunity while he was in college to serve as Jess’s legislative assistant during his last year in the Missouri House of Representatives. And he is quick to tell others the few months he spent as Jess’s legislative assistant were very memorable.

   Jeff McBee, a valuable staff member at Industrial Reporting, recently posted on the Pallet Board (www.palletboard.com) about Jess. He wrote about, “Anyone who met Jess would remember the encounter. Although it’s been almost 15 years, I remember meeting Jess like it was yesterday. It was one of my first road trips as a member of the IRI staff. Mark Garnett was a gracious host for a full day of touring forest products operations around West Plains, Mo., which included lunch with Jess and Betty Garnett.

   “Jess was a charismatic guy. The time flew — too fast. As we left, Jess wanted to make sure that Pallet Enterprise would cover the MFPA banquet later that evening. We told him we would.

   “Since the banquet wasn’t in our advanced plans, we didn’t have reservations or tickets. Our original plan was to just observe from the back of the room, take a few pictures and leave. That plan was not to be. The guard at the door would not allow it. As far as the doorkeeper was concerned, we weren’t getting in, even just to stand in the back. We tried to explain our presence but were not getting anywhere. But Jess spotted us at the door. His eyes lit up as he made a beeline for us. Jeff turned to the guard and said, “I’d like you to meet a good friend of mine — Mr. Jeff McBee. Jeff is with the Pallet Enterprise; he’s sitting at my table.”

   “Jess’ table was the best in the place. It was a great time. While we enjoyed the whole evening, Jess Garnett was the one who made it special. He was that kind of guy.” Jeff, I couldn’t have said it better myself.

   As I look back over better than 60 years of my life, the times that I enjoyed with Jess stand out as very rewarding. He had a warm way of making everybody feel welcomed. He was a blessing to his family, me and my family, his industry, his company, and his state. He will be missed, but he will live on in the memories of all who were fortunate enough to know him.

   Jess is survived by his wife, Betty Garnett, and their two sons, Mark and Jay. Mark and Diann and Jay and Karen gave him four grandchildren, Kimberly Foht, Stephanie Lashley, Mathew Garnett, and Jonathan Garnett. Jess was also blessed with two great grandchildren, Kayla Foht and Ethan Foht. Everybody remembers Jess because of his outgoing personality, but Betty has been the glue in his life for over 60 years.

   Jess founded Garnett Wood Products in 1965 and remained as president until his death. Garnett Wood Products has become one of the larger players in the Missouri pallet market. Beyond pallet, Garnett has been a valuable nail supplier to the industry for years.

   Jess served his community as member of the Missouri House of Representative for 10 years. He was elected five times as a Democrat representing a largely Republican district.

   Jess served as a Board member and president of the West Plains Chamber of Commerce. He served as a board member and president of the Missouri Forest Products Association. He is one of only three people to be presented the Order of the Acorn, the MFPA’s highest honor, for his leadership in both the wood products industry in Missouri and in the Missouri legislature. Jess also served on the National Wooden Pallet & Container Association board of directors.

   In lieu of flowers, contributions can be made to the Alzheimer’s Association or the Jess & Betty Garnett Family Scholarship at Missouri State University. These can be mailed to Robertson-Drago Funeral Home, 211 West Main, West Plains, MO 65775.

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