• August 19, 2019

Landgraf works, hunts with equal fervor - Odessa American: Local News

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Landgraf works, hunts with equal fervor

Head of civil engineering firm has hunted birds and big game all over the world

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  • Man of Many Enthusiasms

    John Landgraf of Landgraf Crutcher & Associates stands next to a lion he shot in Africa June 4 in his trophy room. Landgraf and his wife Beverly often visit their 14,000-acre cattle ranch near Fort Stockton and he has hunted a wide variety of birds and big game throughout the U.S. and the world.

Posted: Sunday, July 7, 2019 5:00 am

John Frederick Landgraf is a man of many enthusiasms who avoids extremes and is not easily defined other than to say he embraces life in all its humor, passion and complexities.

The 68-year-old native of Silsbee, in East Texas, drew inspiration as the eldest of seven children from watching his dad Lester work as a civil engineer for the Texas Highway Department and he earned a degree in that field at Texas A&M while serving in the Corps of Cadets and becoming an Army second lieutenant.

Landgraf did two years of active duty in the Corps of Engineers at Fort Belvoir, Va., and was a reservist for eight years, after which he worked for the Schrickel, Rollins & Associates engineering company in Arlington. He joined the City of Odessa in 1978 and with fellow city engineer Drew Crutcher formed Landgraf Crutcher & Associates a year later.

Landgraf and his wife Beverly often visit their 14,000-acre cattle ranch near Fort Stockton and he has hunted a wide variety of birds and big game throughout the U.S. and the world.

He was on the original building committee that planned the $6.2-million expansion of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Catholic Church which was finished in late 2017. The Landgrafs have three children and six grandchildren.

“I think any extreme is hard to live with,” he said. “I couldn’t go hunting all the time or be with the grandkids, work or go to church 100 percent of the time. Balancing those things out gives you ways to refresh and renew yourself so you can participate in everything.”

Certainly, work is a big part of Landgraf’s life at the 521 N. Texas Ave., firm where he is president-CEO, having bought out Crutcher 10 years ago. Supervising 26 engineers, AutoCad draftsmen, survey crewmen and administrative staff members, Landgraf plans water and sewer lines, streets, landfills, storage tanks, parking lots, subdivisions and other projects.

The employees are part-owners of the company, which averages $3 million to $4 million in annual revenues.

“We do everything outside the building,” Landgraf said, noting LCA is helping with the burgeoning Marriott Hotel & Conference Center across the street. “We’re working on two big sewer line projects for the city with over $40 million in construction costs and four water line jobs for the Ector County Utility District with over $20 million in costs.

“We did all the engineering on the original Mission Country Club development and we’re working on multiple subdivisions like D.R. Horton and Desert Ridge. The housing here is going crazy.”

Landgraf has also helped close friend Larry Lee’s Leeco Properties build numerous restaurants in Southwest Texas and New Mexico.

While most of his work these days is administrative and managerial, he still enjoys confronting engineering problems and solving them. “I had a lot of math and rigorous repetitive things at A&M that taught me to think, go through the process and get the answer,” Landgraf said.

“I like solving problems and then seeing the results of that,” he said, explaining that the facts an engineer discovers determine the solution. “The facts of nature are the same no matter where you’re working.”

In the alley behind his office is a building for company dinners and other social events that is full of Landgraf’s trophies – a lion, leopard, rhinoceros, elephant, Cape buffalo, zebra, baboon, hyena, hippopotamus, crocodile, giraffe and all types of antelopes in “The Africa Room” with geese, ducks, pheasant, caribou, a mountain goat, an elk, an alligator, a black bear and all species of North American deer in the adjacent room.

He began by hunting squirrels in East Texas and has pursued game in Mexico, Brazil, Argentina, Turkey, New Zealand, Australia, Scotland, Alaska, Canada, six African countries and the most exotic locale, the mountains of Mongolia.

Landgraf hunts pheasants in Kansas and South Dakota with Roy Allen, Gary Haner, college roommate Fletcher Kelly of Richmond, Lee and relatives. “I love the camaraderie, being outside and the challenge of shooting efficiently,” he said.

“Shooting is absolutely a sport.”

Landgraf’s favorite rifle is a Remington Model 700 .30/06 bolt-action with a Leupold 4 1/2 by 14-power telescopic sight and he uses a Mauser Model 98 .375-caliber H&H Magnum bolt-action with an illuminated Trijicon sight or a French Capuis .375 double-rifle for the biggest game, which is required in Africa.

He hunts birds with a Weatherby over-under or a camouflaged Benelli semi-automatic, both 12 gauge shotguns. Landgraf’s taxidermists are Jimmy Fontenot of San Angelo and Gary Damuth of Brady.

He and his wife go to the Brooks Ranch 40 miles south of Fort Stockton once a month and two or three times a year the whole family of 14 people goes there to stay in the 1946-vintage four-bedroom ranch house and work cattle.

Currently tending 215 mother cows and other stock, they have Ranch Manager Hector Sanchez and day workers push the cattle into a pen where they rope, brand and vaccinate, though not from horseback. “We enjoy being outside, out in nature with no telephones or cell service,” Landgraf said.

“It’s just nice to be down there. We grill out and I do the cooking, which I really enjoy. My father-in-law, Conoly Brooks Jr., and his wife Peggy didn’t have electricity till the Rio Grande Electric Cooperative brought it in 1956. They had a generator that charged a battery to give two hours of power.”

The ranch has no oil or natural gas production.

Landgraf has always been outgoing, so much so that he was elected president of the student body at Silsbee High School and social secretary of his senior class at A&M, planning parties and other events. “I have always liked people,” he said.

But that natural gregariousness never nudged him toward politics. He leaves that to his son Brooks, an attorney who is the 81st District representative of Ector, Andrews, Ward and Winkler counties in the Texas House of Representatives in Austin.

“I never had any interest in politics, but I’m glad Brooks is doing it,” Landgraf said. “I’m real proud of him. He really cares about representing the people in District 81. He had wanted to be involved in politics his whole life. He always showed a strong interest.”

Asked if he ever kibitzes his son about what to propose, oppose or support, Landgraf chuckled and said, “No, I let Brooks take care of his business.

“But I do like to hear some of the inside stories. I don’t want to see sausage or legislation being made and there is a whole lot of sausage made in Austin.”

The only other attorney in Landgraf”s family is his brother Charles of Washington, D.C., who specializes in insurance. The Landgrafs’ other children are Mary Louise Krebs of Kingwood, in northeast Houston, and Elizabeth Cliburn of Boerne, northwest of San Antonio.

City Councilwoman Peggy Dean said Landgraf “is one of the best storytellers I have ever known.

“You don’t swap stories with John,” said Dean, a CPA. “He tells all the stories, but they are great stories. If it’s not funny the first time, he embellishes it the second time.

“He is a great volunteer. I have been in Odessa for 29 years and I’ve noticed that he volunteers for almost everything. I think John would do about anything for anybody who needed help.”

Dean said Landgraf goes on a major hunting expedition each year and those trips keep his ability as a raconteur refined. “He is the life of the party,” she said.

“There are always people around him listening to his stories and no matter how many times you hear them, they’re always funny. I’ve worked with him for almost 30 years. He is a good engineer, very knowledgeable, and he is concerned about his employees and customers.”

Allen said Landgraf “has a great personality and is always in a good mood.

“We have hunted together a lot and we’re on the boards of Grow Odessa and the West Texas Safari Club,” said Allen, a commercial Realtor who works for the Investment Corp. of America. “You could properly call John a chef. He has raised thousands of dollars for charities by having delicious dinners for four to six people with all kinds of courses.”

Allen said those causes have included saving endangered wildlife, supplying game wardens and contributing to Ellen Noel Art Museum. “We’ve been to Mongolia, Spain, Australia and Canada hunting,” he said.

“He has climbed Mount Kilimanjaro (in Tanzania) and he has a big book collection with a lot of books signed by the authors, including one signed by Mother Teresa.

“John is the type who will go out of his way to help you any way he can,” Allen said. “If you’ve got a problem or are down on your luck, he will be one of the first guys to step forward and help you. Some guys get on your nerves after a while. John is not that kind.”

Crutcher said Landgraf “has always been a man of his word” and was a good partner when they were in business together.

“He is a good engineer who looks out for the best interests of his clients and he has never done anything that he thought would be a stain on the community,” said Crutcher, a fellow St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Catholic Church member who was inspired to become a Catholic by Landgraf and City Personnel Director Gene Gerber.

“I’ve been on a lot of hunts with John for pheasant, dove, quail and deer,” Crutcher said. “When you need to build a fire, make a camp or clean the kill, he is always the first one to jump up and get in there and do it. He volunteers for the hard tasks and never waits around for somebody else to do them.”

Landgraf’s other hobbies are fishing in Texas and Louisiana and reading books about hunting like “Uganda Safaris” by Brian Herne and biographies of leaders like British Prime Minister Winston Churchill (1874-1965) and U.S. Army Gen. George S. Patton Jr.

“What I like about Patton is his love for and fascination with history and his relating history to current events, particularly his ability to make a monumental decision and go forward,” he said, referring to the World War II leader who lived from 1885 to 1945. “He backed up on very few of the decisions he made.”

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