March 20, 2023 - Well-known and highly respected mining engineer, John Allen Reeves, passed away on March 1, 2023. John was truly one-of-a-kind and the world and the coal industry has lost a fine human being. John will be missed! He will be remembered for his friendship, courage, determination and innovation, as well as for his contribution to mining coal and being one of the first to see the opportunities for longwall mining in America.
John was born August 8, 1925, in Price, Utah. He was the son of Goldie Jackson Reeves (1887-1947) and Margaret Barbara Schaefer (1887-1972). John Reeves had four older sisters: Rose Elizabeth Reeves (1912-1997), Esther Lucille Reeves (1915-2010), Margaret Anne Reeves (1920-1970), and Dorothy Marie Reeves (1922-2003). John Reeves’s wife, Jacqueline Taylor Reeves passed away on August 20, 2018. John Reeves is survived by his three sons, John Allen Reeves, Jr., James Jackson Reeves, Richard Gordon Reeves and his grandchildren. John Reeves died peacefully in his sleep, napping at the Heritage Care Park Center, on Wednesday, March 1, 2023, from natural causes at the age of 97.
John, completed most of his primary and secondary education in Price, Utah with the family having lived in Crescent City, California for about two years when John was about 12 years old. His father Goldie Reeves, was an educator and the school district superintendent. After the attack on Pearl Harbor in late 1941, he joined the Navy in 1943 upon graduating from High School at 17 years old. The Navy selected him for the Navy V-12 program. He began training as an officer at Idaho State University, Pocatello, and was subsequently transferred to the Navy NROTC program at University of Colorado at Boulder, Colorado. He received his Navy commission as an Ensign and served in Guam and later as a Lieutenant JG and second officer aboard the Navy gasoline tanker, USS Patapsco, (AOG-1) in the South Pacific. At the end his tour on board the USS Patapsco, he was designated as the officer in charge/command of the USS Patapsco, and assigned the duty to take the ship to New Orleans and decommission the vessel. Afterwards, he was discharged from active duty, and joined the Naval Reserve. He was honorably discharged as a Lieutenant in 1962.
After being released to inactive duty in July of 1946, he attended the University of Utah and received a BS degree in Mining Engineering. While attending the University of Utah he met Jacqueline (“Jackie”) Taylor, his wife. In 1948 he graduated from the University of Utah and went to work for Independent Coal and Coke as mining engineer. He was a surveyor, engineer, underground superintendent, and chief engineer at the Kenilworth Mine in Kenilworth, Utah where he lived with Jackie and later their sons John, Jr. (b. 1950) and Jim (b. 1954). In 1952 he earned his EM (Engineer of Mines) degree (the equivalent of a master degree today) from University of Utah formulating a thesis about mine pillar design.
The primary thermal coal market for Kenilworth Mine collapsed. The conversion of the railroads to diesel fuel and the conversion of commercial buildings and homes to natural gas heating (in the early 1950’s), forced the Kenilworth Mine to greatly reduce operations and eventually close. In 1954 John was offered employment by Monsanto in Soda Springs, Idaho as their Mine Superintendent. John, Jackie and their two sons (John, Jr. and Jim) moved to Soda Springs, Idaho; and John managed the open pit mining operations exploring for and producing phosphate ore for Monsanto’s elemental phosphorous production facility.
In 1956, LS. Wood hired John to develop, and manage the operations of the coalmine operation in Coal Basin near Redstone, Colorado as part of his company Mid-Continent Coal and Coke (“Mid-Continent”). After accepting this position John, Jackie and their two sons moved to Glenwood Springs, Colorado. Although, Glenwood Springs was a long commute to Redstone, they chose to live there for the benefit of their children since the only accredited schools in the Roaring Fork valley were in Glenwood Springs.
The Coal Basin resource was a high grade medium volatile metallurgical coal. The production of coal from Coal Basin peaked at approximately 1 million tons per year. Metallurgical coal is critical input for the primary steel sector. Coal Basin was considered an impossible task, given, the steeply pitching seams, the gas content of the coal, and 10,000 feet elevation. John successfully pioneered the successful mining techniques under the foregoing arduous conditions. The company operated for more than 50 years employing hundreds of people and supporting their families.
John and Jackie continued to live in Glenwood Springs, raising their two sons and at the same time growing their family with one more son Richard (b. 1961). They bought a home in 1960 at 112 Virginia Road where the family lived until 1977, afterwards they moved into a new home, John and Jackie had built in Oak Meadows. During these and later years John and Jackie saw their children complete High School and college with advance degrees and pursue their own lives and careers.
When LS Wood, the original owner of the mine passed away in 1968, his Will provided that his assets be used for educational purposes, since he had no living heirs. John (who by that time was a vice president of Mid-Continent) together with other corporate officers (William Gibbs and Donald Joyce), the company’s legal counsel Robert Delaney, and Alan Harker (the President of Morrison Knudson), an outside investor, executed what would now be known as a Management Buy Out (“MBO”) to purchase the company from the LS Wood Estate at fair market value. The principals raised money by mortgaging their homes and other sources of personal finance to fund the transaction. The MBO enabled the mine to continue operations for the benefit of both its management and 300 plus employees. The MBO funds were remitted to the LS Wood Estate. John Reeves and the other new owners of Mid-Continent formed and funded the LS Wood Charitable Trust (the “LS Wood Trust”) with the MBO funds enabling the fulfillment of Mr. Wood’s estate planning. The LS Wood Trust has provided scholarships and grants to hundreds of students in Roaring Fork Valley, and continues to do so. The new owners of Mid-Continent served as the Trustees of the LS Wood Trust.
After the MBO, John Reeves continued in his role as the corporate executive responsible for the operation of the Coal Basin mine, Robert Delany joined the company as an officer and legal counsel. Likewise, Donald Joyce and William Gibbs continued as officers of the company with Mr. Joyce continuing to be responsible for the Mid-Continent’s coke benefaction and marketing activities in Cleveland, Ohio and Mr. Gibbs continuing as the Chief Financial Officer.
During the succeeding years John would be instrumental in many important changes in the Mid-Continent. Among them was marketing coal to Asian customers in Japan and South Korea, which enabled the mine to continue production despite reductions in primary steelmaking activity in the Western US. Another key change implemented by John at Mid-Continent was the introduction of longwall mining at Coal Basin in the early 1970’s. Longwall mining had been used extensively in Europe, which had many more mines with conditions similar to those at Coal Basin than other mines in the US. Longwall mining was relatively unknown in the US with very few previous mechanized longwall operations. The rationale for this change was that longwall mining is more suitable for mining under deep cover due to the reduced number points of concentrated rock stress and provided improved ventilation across the working face. Undoubtedly the success of introducing longwall mining at Coal Basin was instrumental in its more widespread adoption throughout the US. Under favorable conditions for longwall mining, US coal operators also found that longwall mining could be safer, more productive and efficient than room and pillar mining as well.
Of particular importance in the decision to introduce longwall mining at Coal Basin was the fact that deep cover and gassy coal mining conditions can be very unforgiving with an unfortunate human cost. The switch to longwall mining mitigated numerous safety hazards at Coal Basin Mines. It is doubtful Coal Basin could have continued its last 15 years of operations without longwall mining
As the 1970’s progressed and into the 1980’s frequent work disruptions by labor unions and intransigence of unions were becoming more of an issue throughout the entire US mining and manufacturing economy. Eventually, these matters had to be resolved, in many respects starting with the Coors Brewing company and then the Reagan Administration with air traffic controllers. Mid-Continent was organized in the 1950s by an independent union (the Redstone Workers Association or “RWA”). Most of the coal industry was organized under the United Mine Workers of America (“UMWA”). Unfortunately, this intransigence eventually reached the RWA, and with the company’s survival at stake during an unsuccessful attempt to renew the labor contract. John led Mid-Continent through decertification of the RWA, and going forward as a union free operation. This was one of many bell weather events for American industry at the time reshaping labor relations. While unions still have a place, providing a floor for compensation and safety practices, companies with more enlightened management practices now often operate union free, utilizing many management practices that John was part of pioneering in the early 1980’s.
Mid-Continent under John’s management continued to operate Coal Basin until 1993, selling coal to the Geneva Steel Plant in Provo, Utah and Pohang Iron and Steel in South Korea, when a tragic mine fire occurred. Fortunately, no injury or loss of life occurred from this event. However, the economic impact of the fire was sufficient to make the mine uneconomic to reopen and operate in a depressed coal market. The difficult decision was taken to close the mine and reclaim the Coal Basin mine in accordance with the approved reclamation plans. John continued to serve on the Board of Directors of Mid-Continent and as a Trustee of the LS Wood Trust until his retirement in 2003. Mid-Continent continues its operations with respect to metallurgical coke and carbon products, which are ongoing to this day.
John was on the board of directors of Valley Federal Savings and Loan during the 1970’s. He and the other directors together with management of the institution were instrumental in helping hundreds of people to acquire a home and helping small businesses to expand. Likewise, he served on the board of directors of the State Bank of Albany in New York, which through a series of mergers became FleetBoston Financial. In 2004 FleetBoston merged with Bank of America, at which point John retired from the Board of Directors in compliance with an age limitation for directors of the combined institution.
John received the Distinguished Mining award from the University of Utah in 2001. Furthermore, John was on the Board of Trustees of the Colorado School of Mines from 1973 to 1975, and he received award of “Honorary Alumnus” award from the Colorado School of mines in 1982. John continued to be an active alumnus of the University of Utah, supporting the mining department by hosting students at his home when they would come to Colorado on field trips. John was also a member of the Old Timer’s Club for 45 years, a group of active and retired coal mining executives. John gave the Old Timer’s Watchman Award to outstanding seniors in the various mining engineering programs around the US; he presented 48 awards, more than any other member. John also was member of the Board of Directors of the National Museum of Mining in Leadville, Colorado for many years and strong supporter of museum.
John enjoyed boating, perhaps because he was a former naval officer, and he owned three boats over the course of his lifetime, with the last one being a 32-foot cabin cruiser named after his beloved wife, Jacqueline. The family enjoyed many trips to Lake Powell. In addition, John enjoyed skiing, hunting and deep-sea fishing with his children. Together with his wife Jackie, John enjoyed travelling, often with one or more of their children.
In 1970, John and his son Jim took flying lessons together and both obtained their pilot’s licenses. Over time flying became one of John’s favorite advocations, and he owned a succession of airplanes starting with a Piper Cherokee 140 and culminating with a Beechcraft King Air E-90. Altogether, John owned 8 different airplanes at various times. His love of flying was infectious and his other sons together with his wife Jackie all learned to fly. As an engineer, John was adaptable to new technology, becoming proficient at working on his computer and interfacing with the web.
His long-term true love was living with his wife, Jacqueline, and being with her. In turn both of them were devoted parents to their three children, and will be sorely missed. The two of them were inseparable. John and Jacqueline are now together again. May God bless you both.
Funeral Arrangements for John A Reeves are: Visitation is March 19, 4:00PM to 6:00PM at the Farnum Holt Funeral Home, 405 7th St, Glenwood Springs, CO. The Funeral Service is March 20, 10:00 AM at the First United Methodist Church, 824 Cooper Ave, Glenwood Springs, CO. Afterwards the Internment Services are held at the Rose Bud Cemetery, 3420 Grand Avenue, Glenwood Springs, CO.