John Chitty, founder of one of the most prominent garbage collection companies in central Iowa, died Saturday. He was 76.
John was born in 1941 in Stuart to a construction worker family. He graduated from Colo High School and began working in the construction trades, mostly in steam pipe insulation.
Mike Chitty, one of John’s children and a co-owner of Chitty Garbage Service, said his father was working part-time for a small garbage company in Ames in 1974 when he purchased the company, starting with one collection route and one truck.
It was around that time that municipalities were looking to shift away from landfills, and Ames was building plans for the Resource Recovery Center.
“Trash wasn’t just trash, it became an environmental issue,” Mike said. ”…With the Resource Recovery Center being the best in the world in 1979 and being one of the only ones, he was really proud to be proud of that and no longer needing a landfill.”
The company grew from that one route and two trucks over several years into one of the dominant garbage collection services in the area, and John was there for almost all of it. He never missed a day at work for more than 30 years, Mike said, only missing a day when he had to have his knee replaced.
Mike described his father as a quiet but driven man who explained little but taught a lot by example.
“It was impressive to watch, just good common sense,” he said. “That’s something to be admired because that’s not the way it is anymore.”
Mike said John was initially depressed after he retired in 2009, partially due to the loss of his work and because of some health problems caused by decades of hard labor. He and his wife Sharon, began spending their winters in Mississippi, with him spending much of his time fishing. John eventually began suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease, which caused complications that led to his death at Israel House Hospice Center.
Although Chitty’s name will remain alive on the thousands of bins his companies collects, Mike said people will remember him for his drive to make a service everyone needs, but no one wants to do, run without interruption.
“Everybody needs what we offer, but if you do it well, people don’t think about it much,” he said. “When you set your trash out this morning and it goes away every day for years and years and years, you take it for granted because it’s very consistent… He would pride himself on that consistency.”