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1927 John T. Udegraff 2023

John T. Updegraff

January 28, 1927 — November 25, 2023

Independence, Kansas


John T. Updegraff

January 28, 1927 — November 25, 2023

John T. Updegraff, age 96, went to be with the Lord on November 25, 2023 surrounded by his family. John was born January 28, 1927, in Sigourney, Iowa, the son of Curtis Gavitt (C.G). Updegraff and Alice Elizabeth (Brooks) Updegraff.

John was born and raised in Sigourney, a small farming town in Southeastern Iowa. His father, C.G., was a prominent lawyer, farmer and horseman, so John and his siblings spent many hours on the family farm hoeing the garden and tending to the stock learning good old fashioned work ethics and values that served them all well.

In 1945, John graduated high school and soon thereafter was on a bus to Fort Hood for Army basic training. He served during World War II in the U.S. Army in France and Germany.

In 1951, John married Nell Drucilla Ragan. They moved to Iowa City where John was able to attend Iowa University on the GI Bill and also worked summers in construction with his brother Ambrose.

John earned a Bachelor’s of Science (1951) and a Juris Doctor (1954) from the University of Iowa. He was admitted to the Iowa State Bar June 18, 1954, and throughout his thirty-six year career as a lawyer, became licensed to practice law in four more states, Illinois, Kansas, Missouri and Texas.

In 1954, John and Nell returned to Sigourney, where John practiced law with his father, C.G, and his brother, Nathan, under the firm name Updegraff and Updegraff Attorneys at Law.

John and Nell started their family with the birth of their first son, John, Jr. born in 1955. In 1956, John and Nell moved to Chicago where their second son, Mark, was born in 1957. John joined the legal department at Wilson & Co., Inc. headquartered in downtown Chicago.

In 1961, the couple moved to Kansas City, where John joined the legal department of Sinclair Oil Corporation and then in 1965 transferred to the home of Sinclair, Independence, Kansas. Through several mergers, Sinclair became Atlantic Richfield Oil Company (ARCO) and, in 1970, John transferred with ARCO to Texas, first to Richardson/Plano handling general oil and gas matters and then to Houston where he was responsible for environmental and labor law issues for ARCO’s refining and chemical plants in the Gulf Coast Area. He was also responsible for regulatory matters involving ARCO’s interest in the Trans-Alaska Pipeline. In 1976, John was appointed VP, General Counsel of ARCO Pipeline Company and the couple returned to Independence where John was responsible for all legal matters involving the Lower 48 operations of ARCO Pipe Company and played a key role in the oil pipeline industry. He was often a speaker at meetings of The Association of Oil Pipelines.

Following retirement, in 1989, John and Nell decided they wanted a place where family and friends could gather together. They purchased a lake house on Grand Lake and had many great times with the family making many fond memories.

Alongside his professional accomplishments, John was active in many church, social and civic groups. He was a longtime member of the First United Methodist Church of Independence, serving on many boards and committees, and was awarded the The Cross and Flame in recognition of outstanding service to children and youth in the Church. He was also a member of the Masonic Lodge, volunteering as a Mirza Shriner to help transport children and their families in need of specialty pediatric care to hospitals as far away as Kansas City. As a Life Scout, John encouraged the couple’s sons, John Jr. and Mark, to be active in Boy Scouts and to attain their Eagles, which they did. John himself was as an adult leader with Troop 23 at FUMC Independence and also served as a Commissioner with Quivira Council, and in 1987 was awarded The Silver Beaver Award by the National Council for his distinguished service. John was also very active in Lions Club volunteering for many work days at Kiddie Land at Riverside Park and receiving the Melvin-Jones Fellow award and in 2017 was recognized for his 40 years of service to Lions. John also served on the City’s Planning and Zoning Commission and on the William Inge Festival Committee. John also served for 20 years on the Board of Directors of First Federal Savings and Loan Association. In addition, along with his father, C.G., he was a longtime member of the Sigourney Odd Fellows

John was a loving and caring spouse, father, father-in-law, grandfather, and friend. He was loved beyond measure. He will be dearly missed and forever in our hearts. John’s legacy will continue to live on through his children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren.

John was preceded in death by his wife Nell, his son, Mark Ragan Updegraff, his parents, sisters Rachel and Hannah, brothers David, Nathan, Ambrose and Josiah;. He is survived by sisters Rosalind, Mary and Rebecca, brothers James and Curtis, son John T. Updegraff, Jr. and daughter-in-law Peggy S. Updegraff, his grandchildren Megan E. Updegraff, J.T. Updegraff and his wife Tracy and their children Wyatt John and Charlotte Belle, and Curtis M. Updegraff and his wife Marena and their children Liam and C.G., Amanda Massena, Derek Massena, Ragan Updegraff, Kevin Updegraff.

A funeral service will be held at First United Methodist Church in Independence on Saturday, December 2, 2023, with Rev. Sangyeop Han of the First United Methodist Church officiating under the direction of the Webb & Rodrick Chapel. There will be a family visitation at the Church, from 10:00 to 10:45. Memorial donations may be made in the memory of John to the First United Methodist Church, 200 South Pennsylvania Ave, Independence, Kansas or Boy Scouts of America. Friends may leave online condolences at

To order memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of John T. Updegraff, please visit our flower store.

Service Schedule

Past Services

Funeral Service

Saturday, December 2, 2023

11:00am - 12:00 pm (Central time)

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