Jack Hall Wattley died in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida on October 2, 2018, one week shy of his 96th birthday. He was born in Cleveland, Ohio and attended John Carroll University. He enlisted in the Navy in August 1942 and earned thirteen battle stars for his service on the USS Moffett in the Caribbean and the USS Melvin in the Pacific. He participated in the Battle of Leyte Gulf. Following WWII, Jack attended Mexico City College and later worked in Buenos Aires and New Orleans until he returned to Cleveland, where he met his future wife, Gloria López-Alvarez. They were married 63 years. They settled in Ft. Lauderdale where Jack opened three women's boutiques, The Tack Room, on Las Olas Boulevard, in Coral Gables, and in Boca Raton. Jack was involved in the community and served as Treasurer of the fledgling Ft. Lauderdale Museum of Art. Jack had a lifelong interest in tropical fish and in 1962 made his first trip to Amazonian Brazil in a single-engine prop plane. After traveling to various areas where he spent nights in native huts in indigenous communities, he found the fish he had been seeking in the Rio Juruá, the Symphysodon discus, on the advice of the Brazilian anthropologist Harald Schultz. These wild discus, along with specimens that he collected on subsequent trips to the Amazon, enabled Jack to begin a breeding program that after twenty years culminated in a new color strain, the magnificent Wattley Turquoise discus. He continued to work to improve the strain and pioneered a method to raise discus fry artificially apart from the parents. Jack wrote three books about discus that were translated into several languages. In addition to his work with discus, Jack raised and collected Dendrobates (poison dart frogs). He returned to South America several times with friends to explore Dendrobates' native ecosystems and co-authored a book on the subject. For 23 years Jack wrote a column about discus for TFH magazine, "Ask Jack". He was a frequent speaker at aquarium society meetings and a judge at discus shows and competitions around the world. Jack was a partner in a Miami-based business that bears his name, Jack Wattley Discus. He was affiliated with the company Tropical in Chorzow, Poland and endorsed tropical fish food formulas for the company. Jack is survived by his four children, Cynthia Wattley Washburn and her husband Greg; Alicia Wattley Carras and her husband Jim; Tom Wattley; and Pamela Wattley Schloss and her husband Chris; and eight grandchildren. His grandchildren called him Jungle Jack. They will miss the stories about his adventures in South America that ranged from wandering into a river full of piranhas to bathe and not understanding his indigenous friend shouting at him to get out of the water, to stumbling into a meeting of FARC members on a mountainside in Colombia. Jack was a gentleman and a loving father and grandfather and we will miss him dearly. In lieu of flowers, contributions to Rainforest Trust at rainforesttrust.org would be greatly appreciated.
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Published in Sun-Sentinel on Oct. 11, 2018.