ForeverMissed
This memorial website was created as a place to share stories, photos, and memories of Jon. Since we cannot yet gather together to share these with each other, please use this space to add pictures and your favorite memories. Go to the STORIES tab or use the tribute window below. We learn a little more about Jon from each other and his sons get to see a different side of their dad.

Please visit the LIFE tab to see Jon's obituary.

When we're able to arrange a memorial gathering, we'll post the information here.
Posted by Joe Airo-Farulla on April 25, 2021
We met Jonathan briefly through Gene and Phyllis and Lisa when we were all living in Dunedin in the 70s. He was mostly gone in his adventures in outdoor activities so we only heard about him through his parents. It's amazing that he was able to combine is studies in medicine with his love of the outdoors. It's a shame that he had to pass away at such a young age. My wife, Joelyn, passed away not quite six months ago, but she joins me in spirit in passing on our condolences to his family. I have emailed Phyllis separately some time ago,
Posted by Yong Lin on February 23, 2021
This came as a total surprise. I took Dr. Levitt's classes during my first year of graduate school in 2016. His passion for science education and helping students succeed is unparalleled. BCM has lost an amazing educator. My thoughts are with his family.

Yong Lin
Posted by Lindsay Schwarz on February 11, 2021
It’s hard to imagine Jon is no longer stirring sauces or baking some wonderful dessert. There were very few topics Jon couldn’t discuss, because he’d been everywhere and tried everything. For real. Not just someone giving sociable commentary. Accomplished in so many fields but as a previous post said, modest. My story is eating a 5-star meal in Kelly and Jon’s dining room across from a very large python. The meal, pure artistry; the snake, adventurous and exotic. Jon’s passing is a profound loss.
Posted by Cate Kelly on February 7, 2021
Jon was my brother-in-law. He was a good man. Kind, thoughtful, creative and intelligent. He was passionate about his cooking. One story sort of sums up Jon for me. When my dad retired, he took over the cooking while mom continued to work. He discovered he really enjoyed it, so he took over the cooking for dinner parties as well. Jon spent lots of time talking to dad about how to prepare things, answering questions, making suggestions. He even gifted dad with complete recipes for each course of a dinner party - complete with easy to understand instructions on how to prepare each. Jon's kindness towards dad, his willingness to help him succeed and share his passion for cooking sort of captures all aspects on Jon to me. His death at 64 is incredibly unfair and he will be sorely missed.
Posted by Dianne Carroll on February 1, 2021
We will be forever complexed by Jon’s passing. So surreal. Anything I say I feel will be inadequate at this time. Paul and I send our love and sympathies to you and your family.
Posted by Kimberly Swan on January 21, 2021
From the Swannies: Kevin, Kimberly, Rud, and Wade

What an amazing friend, Father, Husband, community leader, educator, scholar and man of many talents gone too soon!!! Our family was blessed to meet Jon, Kelly, Ryan, and Christopher at WBLL!!! We were blessed to be on the same tournament team with them for many years!!! Jon dedicated so many years to WBLL....even after his boys had aged out. We all remember him in his umpire gear and he is the reason Rud was able to get his first job umpiring. That truly came to fruition as this past summer...due to Covid...his summer job was cancelled. But thanks to Jon, Rud was able to go back to College Station to umpire.

Kevin has told many stories as President of WBLL....he relied on Jon as Jon had the calm confidence....no nonsense approach to many issues they faced as board members

We could always count on the Levitt family to participate in all of the Warriors/Wildcats parties and events. We have fond memories of the “Wigs and Wine” WBLL fundraisers!!!! We could always count on Jon bringing amazing dishes and or pastries to any party The Swannies hosted!!!! We always looked forward to the Christmas pastries from the Levitt family!!!

Our hearts are saddened by the untimely passing of Jon, but we know his adventurous spirit lives on in Ryan and Christopher!!!! What an amazing Father and Mother you have!!!! Kelly....our prayers and support will forever be with you. We know Jon was your soulmate and pray for our Lord’s loving arms to wrap you in peace and comfort. We are here for you in whatever way you need us to be.

With much love, compassion, sympathy, and prayers....

Kevin, Kimberly, Rud and Wade Swan
Posted by Phyllis Levitt on January 20, 2021
Before Gene and I thought of having children we visited a friend, Saletan, studying at Princeton. Saletan took us to a small memorial building. The three of us were crammed inside the hollow structure which had incredible acoustics. Gene, Jon’s father, had a beautiful singing voice. The two men sang “David the King”:
      David the King
      Was mov-ED and griev-ED
      He went to his chamber,
      His chamber, and wept,
      O Absalom, my son,
      My son...

I have never forgotten my emotional response to that dirge. Little did I think that one day I would be mov-ed and griev-ed to weep, O Jonathan, my son, my son.

However, I feel fortunate to have my beloved daughter, Lisa, in my life.

— Mom
Posted by Leo Costello on January 18, 2021
From Westbury Little League website:
Dear families,


It is with infinite sadness that I write to you with the news that a long-time member of our community, Jon Levitt, has passed away. Jon was a scientist, and a deeply modest person, who liked to tease me for being long-winded, so I will try to brief here. To put it simply: Westbury Little League would not be what it is today without Jon Levitt's work and example. In addition to coaching his sons Ryan and Chris through Westbury, Jon was Umpire-in-Chief here from 2009-2017, staying on even after his sons had graduated, out of his commitment to the league. During that time, Jon mentored hundreds of umpires and exemplified in every way the values of volunteerism, fairness and sportsmanship that we strive to impart to our kids. He umpired more little league games than anyone I’ve ever known and a generation of children have been able to play in a safe, fair environment because of his work.

Jon Levitt was one of the best, most honorable people I’ve ever known, and I think that part of his passion for umpiring, which he pursued at many levels, proceeded from his sense that it was an opportunity to create a pocket of fairness in the world. Jon took umpiring with tremendous seriousness no matter how relatively important or insignificant the particular game might have been. He taught umpires to always react to what they actually saw happen, not what they expected to happen. If he was a stickler for the rules, and he most certainly was, it was not out of a desire for control or pettiness, but rather in the spirit of safety first of all and secondly in ensuring that things, at least on that field, on that day, be done the right way. One of his favorite quotes on the field, said in full Irish brogue, was from the movie The Quiet Man: “The proprieties at all times.” Like any umpire, like any human, Jon made mistakes. But he was always ready to admit them and put things right. Jon also kept his lively sense of humor on the field. He retained, I think, a particular fondness for Little League because of the beautiful absurdity that can only occur when 3-12 year-old children play baseball.

For all of this, Jon was very humble and never sought attention or recognition for all his work, for the countless bruises he got from foul balls, for the long, hot days umpiring tournament games to raise money for the league. One of my favorite memories, however, is of Jon on the day we recognized him when he retired from the UIC position on Closing Day in 2017. Jon allowed himself a modest but definite smile as he walked off of M2 with more than 200 players chanting “Blue! Blue! Blue!"

In addition to his passion for umpiring, Jon had many interests and talents. He was an Associate Professor of Immunology and Pathology at Baylor College of Medicine where his research focused on prostate cancer. Jon was also a chef of extraordinary talent. I am not exaggerating in the least when I say that the multi-course dinner he once cooked for me at his house was the most beautifully prepared meal I’ve ever had. Jon was an artist in the kitchen, nothing less. Jon also loved a good glass of Scotch, a running joke (perhaps he might not like the baseball pun there, however), a philosophical debate and most of all good company and friends. Above all else, however, he was a devoted, loving husband to his wife Kelly and father to Ryan and Chris. Please keep them all in your hearts and when you are at the fields, pay tribute to him by a simple “Thanks, blue,” when you see an umpire.

In mourning,
Leo Costello, UIC, Westbury Little League
Posted by Jay Nylund on January 17, 2021
Long before Dos Equis had the "Most Interesting Man in the World" there was Jon Levitt. From being a young skiing instructor bouncing between hemispheres following an endless winter, to co-owning a restaurant, earning 2 advanced degrees in diverse fields, scuba diving under Antarctic ice, to being able to quote the Little League Rulebook the way a Rabbinical Scholar can quote the Torah. I knew Jon as a man committed to "Getting it Right." No matter the situation, he was undaunted by popular opinion if it was opposed to what he thought was the right way to do something. I'll always remember his explosive laugh, huge smile, and his iconic green Subaru (maybe one of 5 Subarus in Houston?). We shared the commonalities of having two sons the same ages who played at Westbury Little League and we were both teachers (me in a middle school and of course Jon at college). From the time Mark and Chris played teeball together, with Jon's great patience and energy to teach 6 year-olds how to play baseball right, to when our youngest sons "graduated" Little League at age 13, I got to spend 7 Springs and Summers coaching and parenting with Jon on baseball fields. Jon had the rare gift of perspective among Little League parents, and was a fantastic role model for those young boys. He never forgot it was a game, but he loved to compete as much as anyone. I've never before known someone who truly enjoyed umpiring, but Jon was that rare bird. I had looked forward to seeing him among my friends from those days when it was reasonable again to do so. My life, and my family's lives, are richer for having known him, and the world is a poorer place without him.
Posted by David Spencer on January 14, 2021
It’s hard to imagine a world without Jon Levitt, who was a truly dedicated teacher, family man and friend. My first recollection of him was wondering who this highly confident individual was taking on most of the Immunology faculty in numerous scientific debates while he was only a graduate student. He was clearly someone who had enjoyed a richer palette of experiences than the average academic. He frequently entertained his peers with stories about scuba-diving under the ice in Antarctica and delighted our palates with tasty baked treats and (literally) handmade ice cream. Jon was a man of principal and was virtually unmovable if a request went against his view of things, which was usually correct. We had so much to catch up on, and now it is too late.  Jon’s untimely passing is an incalculable loss. 
Posted by Thomas Lee on January 13, 2021
Dr. Levitt.

It's been a few years since I graduated from BCM's Immunology program. One thing I recall is your contribution to the growth and development of the student body at BCM. Your enthusiasm and passion for immunology were infectious and your knowledge was boundless! Your classes were one of my favorites throughout the curriculum! I am grateful to have studied under you Dr. Levitt and you will be missed. My condolences to his family and friends.

My Sincere Condolences,
Thomas Lee
Posted by Vanaja k on January 12, 2021
As Jon's "lab family", we are still in shock and disbelief! Personally, I am at loss of words to express my sadness at Jon's sudden passing. It feels like yesterday that I met Jon in the hallway on my first day at work in 2012. We started talking and talked for nearly two hours on topics ranging from Immunology to South Indian wedding traditions. All I can recollect from that initial conversation is my amazement at the breadth and depth of his knowledge and the willingness and patience to share with people around him. Since then, I never had a conversation with Jon where I haven't learned something new. He encouraged, guided, helped and supported me in multiple ways. I am forever grateful. He will be truly missed. Great loss to Science! Our prayers and thoughts are with his family!
Respects,
Vanaja Konduri
Posted by Bill Burhans on January 11, 2021
Thank you Jon for all the great experiences at Westbury Little League and together as Warrior families.  I learned so many things from you, your detailed knowledge of the rulebook was unparalleled. Observing your mental toughness and discipline as an umpire/coach and listening to your stories of New Zealand, Antarctica, California, and about Baylor research resulted in my utmost admiration for all you accomplished in life. Kelley and I were also lucky enough to experience your iron chef skills.  It is a huge legacy, many will remember you and your unique qualities forever.  May God bless Kelly, Chris, and Ryan in their journeys ahead. Deepest sympathies from the Burhans Family - Bill, Kelley, Liam, Quinn.
Posted by DandJ Hixon on January 10, 2021
Dear Kelly, Ryan and Cristopher, We just heard the news, I have been trying to get hold of Jon recently as Julie and I wanted to keep touch after so many years. Our thoughts are with you. I am sitting at the dining table where we shared Christmas dinner with Jon and a host of folks back in 1989. It feels like yesterday when Jon stayed with us on his return from Antarctica. At least one of us managed to pass Organic Chemistry and got a degree. I remember our trip with you to Yucatan and watching the ants carry corn chips up the wall of the motel as we enjoyed margaritas, and driving on the deserted motorway reading all the signs that said Don't Molest the Signs! I have a few photos to share with you if you can let us know where to send them. Wishing we could share a hug with you, with love from Doug and Julie
Posted by Tania Nicholson on January 8, 2021
This news made me so sad as only just in the past couple months I started searching for Jon as I knew him to get in touch. I knew him as Jon when he worked for my father Tony at TLBegg and Sons in Dunedin New Zealand. During this time he appeared in tv in New Sealand playing Hyper Olympics ha ha ,,,,that is one of many memories I have. He was a lovely man who always had time for me as a kid and I have many fond memories. I am so sorry for your loss and my thoughts are with all his family and friends
Regards
Tania Nicholson (nee Begg)

Leave a Tribute

 
Recent Tributes
Posted by Joe Airo-Farulla on April 25, 2021
We met Jonathan briefly through Gene and Phyllis and Lisa when we were all living in Dunedin in the 70s. He was mostly gone in his adventures in outdoor activities so we only heard about him through his parents. It's amazing that he was able to combine is studies in medicine with his love of the outdoors. It's a shame that he had to pass away at such a young age. My wife, Joelyn, passed away not quite six months ago, but she joins me in spirit in passing on our condolences to his family. I have emailed Phyllis separately some time ago,
Posted by Yong Lin on February 23, 2021
This came as a total surprise. I took Dr. Levitt's classes during my first year of graduate school in 2016. His passion for science education and helping students succeed is unparalleled. BCM has lost an amazing educator. My thoughts are with his family.

Yong Lin
Posted by Lindsay Schwarz on February 11, 2021
It’s hard to imagine Jon is no longer stirring sauces or baking some wonderful dessert. There were very few topics Jon couldn’t discuss, because he’d been everywhere and tried everything. For real. Not just someone giving sociable commentary. Accomplished in so many fields but as a previous post said, modest. My story is eating a 5-star meal in Kelly and Jon’s dining room across from a very large python. The meal, pure artistry; the snake, adventurous and exotic. Jon’s passing is a profound loss.
his Life

Jonathan Michael Levitt, PhD - 1956-2021

Jon Levitt, age 64, passed away surrounded by his family on Saturday, January 2 in Houston, TX from complications following surgery. He was a multi-talented, passionate person who lived with integrity and will be greatly missed.

Jon was born in New York, NY in 1956 and in 1970 moved with his family to New Zealand, which became his adopted country and always held a large place in his heart. New Zealand was where he became an expert skier and scuba diver and developed his love of photography and passion for cooking, which led him to co-own a favorite college restaurant called The Governors. He graduated from the University of Otago, in Dunedin, NZ, in 1984 with a Bachelor of Science in Psychology.

He returned to the U.S. in 1986 to further his education and, as it turned out, to meet his spouse and life partner, Marydee Kelly. Jon and Kelly were married on June 22, 1991 in Sausalito, CA. Their honeymoon in New Zealand included skiing several mountains and bungee jumping off a bridge in Queenstown 229 feet above a river (twice). Jon made their wedding cake, a traditional three tier New Zealand fruit cake (very different from a typical US Christmas fruitcake) with fondant icing and hand painted flowers, and the couple traveled with the top tier and shared it with friends they visited while traveling the country.

Jon completed a Master of Arts in Marine Biology at San Francisco State University in 1990, after which he served as part of a research team in Antarctica, spending 3 months diving under the ice in McMurdo Sound to help document the slow recovery of the ecosystem following the military base’s former destructive practice of dumping barrels of waste off the edge of the ice at the end of each summer season. He was able to do more than just dive while there and returned with an amazing collection of underwater and above water photos of wildlife and ice and rock formations. One “extra-curricular” activity was joining the Lake Vanda Swim Club which requires skinny dipping in the frozen lake. Jon received both the National Science Foundation Antarctic Service Medal and the Department of the Navy Antarctic Service Medal for his work.

While Jon loved marine science, he desired a deeper understanding of how things work and this led him to pursue a PhD in Immunology at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston TX, where he graduated in 2000 and has been on the faculty since 2002. In addition to his significant contributions to the understanding of MHC Class I molecule expression and dendritic cell biology, Jon was a comprehensive immunologist who taught immunology with a passion to all levels of learners. 

An associate professor in the Department of Pathology & Immunology and the Department of Urology, Jon was a decorated educator, having received a Fulbright and Jaworski Faculty Excellence Award in Teaching and Evaluation (2013) and the 8-Stranded Beta-Barrel Jelly Roll Award for Best Lecturer in the BCM Graduate School (in both 2014 and 2015), and been honored as a Member of the Academy of Distinguished Educators at BCM (2013).

Jon and Kelly welcomed two sons into the world: Ryan in 1998 and Christopher in 2000. These two chaps completely stole Jon’s heart and were the center of his world. Both of them share their dad’s love and passion for learning and teaching.

As his sons were growing, Jon became involved in their baseball activities and, to the surprise of his wife, developed an interest in Little League umpiring. After umpiring with Westbury Little League for a couple of years, he served as the Westbury Umpire-in-Chief (UIC) for 7 years and eventually became a District 16 umpire donating countless hours to the game.

Jon was well known for his exceptional cooking skill, expressed in incredible multi-course dinners, elaborate Christmas cookies from “Chez Levitt,” delicious Thanksgiving feasts, and the annual liquid nitrogen ice cream welcome parties for new students. Students were invited to submit flavor suggestions that Jon would combine and improvise upon to turn into surprisingly delicious and unusual flavors including lychee, prickly pear and honey, and Guinness and mint.

Jon’s sense of honor, ready advice, friendship, and the contributions he made wherever he went are all irreplaceable gifts. He will be greatly missed.

Jon is survived by his wife Kelly, his sons Ryan and Christopher, his mother Phyllis Levitt of Santa Rosa, CA, his sister Lisa Levitt (Paul Campbell) of Dunedin, NZ, his nephew Max Levitt-Campbell of Dunedin, NZ, and his niece Myra Levitt-Campbell of Melbourne, Australia.

We look forward to sharing our grief and memories together in person when it is again safe to do so. In the meantime, please share your favorite memories, stories, and photos on the memory page his family created (jonlevitt.forevermissed.com) They thank you.

In lieu of flowers, please make a donation in Jon’s name to a charity you wish to support.
Recent stories
Shared by cornelius raats on January 25, 2021
Hi there,
My name is Cornelius Raats and write from Dunedin, NZ. I remember Jon from our studies in Psyg. The department had a lovely old house next to the main Psyg building and some of us in the know had obtained keys so we could study there in the evening. There were only 5 or 6 of us at the time so some time more talk and discussion then nose in the books. Jon also had a heavy leather coat, real Gestapo style, that originally had belonged to a friend of mine who had it made in Holland for on his motorbike. I wonder whether he took it with him to the States. I also remember his father in the Psyg department. Furthermore we also did some skiing together at Coronet Peak and stayed in the Otago Ski Club hut and one day went in my car for the day to Wanaka to ski at Treble Cone which had just opened. We finished very tired that day as there were no chair lifts yet just 3 very long tow ropes so going up was harder then skiing down. Must have been round about "74 or "75. My condolences to all his family and fiends. R.I.P. Jon.  

Remembering Jon

Shared by Chris Bland on January 14, 2021
My wife (Wendy) and I met in grad school and, as she was a student in Immunology, I was always invited to the Immunology department parties where Jon would demonstrate how to make liquid nitrogen ice cream! Jon’s liquid nitrogen ice cream was fantastic, and the (always hungry) grad students and post-docs never left disappointed, but the best part about those little celebrations was just enjoying Jon’s generosity of spirit and warmth; he really cared about his students, staff, friends, and colleagues, and it came through. I will never be able to enjoy a dish of homemade ice cream again without thinking of Jon. Over the years, we (as did many of the students at BCM) came to consider Jon and his wife Kelly as friends. Jon was an amazing cook and we could always count on him to bring something delicious to a party. Years after graduation, Wendy told me how on her first Thanksgiving away from home at BCM, Jon and Kelly invited her to Thanksgiving dinner and how much happier and less alone she felt because of their kindness. I will never forget the time Jon (upon learning that Wendy and I were traveling to Toronto to visit family) asked us to smuggle back as much Sambal Bajak (a type of Indonesian chili sauce that’s not sold in the US) that we could find! We ended up sending him two cases and as a thank you Jon prepared us a fantastic (and very spicy) dish of southeast Asian green beans. People like Jon are a rare gift to the world, and we are all poorer for his absence, but better people for having know him. Goodbye Jo

Make the call

Shared by Sam Lopez on January 8, 2021
John,

We not have agreed on every call but I always respected you call. Cause you knew the rule book from top to bottom. Westbury LL will not be the same without you. I always knew when I put on the um uniform I with you and was in good hands. Thank you and we love you