Clarence John Cummings, known as “Big John” was born on January 5, 1942, the son of Robert Cummings and Pam Smith Cummings. He died on the morning of April 13, 2021 after a long illness. His long-time care-giver, Ben Heinlein, is making the arrangements.
Raised in Webb City, MO and Carrollton, MO, he was a star basketball player at the Carrollton High School. He attended the University of Central Missouri in Warrensburg, MO and graduated from Pittsburgh State University, Kansas. After working as a barge deckhand on the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers, he also worked as a bouncer at the Levee Bar. His height and size made him an intimidating physical presence which hid his deep sensitivity and kindness for anyone in trouble.
Early on, he had a passion for photography he also remained deeply interested in the history of the Southwest Missouri mining industry. He built his own home uniquely designed for his size and tastes and invested many hours in rehabilitating houses in his Westport neighborhood. Later on, he developed his artistic skills of turning metal salvage into creative figures. Many of his interesting pieces are in Kansas City and around the country.
His longest career of almost 30 years was as salesman for Knopke Brothers Contractor Supply where he faithfully served customers including General Motors and Ford as well as in Saudi Arabia. He took great pride in his knowledge of equipment and parts and many of his customers became lifelong friends. After retiring, he worked for the Airgas company serving many of the same customers.
He enjoyed helping not only his customers but also his neighbors and a host of friends. Having a large and caring heart, John made an impact on everyone he met. Neighbors talk about how he would shovel the entire block after a big snowstorm, or do repairs for those who could not afford or were not able to do them. His generosity will be gratefully remembered by many people, and he has left a large and positive impact on the Kansas City which he loved.
John is survived by one brother, The Rev. Dr. Sudduth Rea Cummings and his wife, Charlotte, of Tallahassee, FL.
A visitation will be held on Wednesday April 21st from 5-7pm at Signature Funerals, 406 E. Bannister Rd. Kansas City, MO 64131, Ste D. In lieu of flowers, Memorial Contributions may be made to The Children’s SPOT at St. Lukes Hospital.
One of the kindest, generous man was hidden behind his giant presence. He was a great friend and business associate.
Larger than life in both personality and stature, he was well known around KC, especially in the industrial sector and will be missed dearly.
Behind a gruff exterior was one of the most caring and giving individuals I have ever known. He would give you the shirt off his back. His wide array of knowledge on many subjects was truly astonishing.
I’ll miss him, but knowing what he’s been through, I’m sure he is free now and is walking among the giants! For that I am happy.
John… he was my friend, co-worker (twice), boss for a while, and mentor from time to time. We always had fun together and man did he like to stir the pot. He would call to tell me some funny thing at all hours of the night. I have one of his first tin men and I owe this good man a lot of gratitude. You will be missed my friend.
I was one of John’s caregivers he was funny and a very generous man. I truly enjoyed caring for him. He had some amazing stories he shared with me we enjoyed music and movies together. I will miss him.
I first met “Big John” when he worked at the Levy and many years as a neighbor in West Plaza. He was a great neighbor and I always enjoyed our little meetings out in his shop where he created his amazing works of art which can be found in yards in our little hood. His heart was as big as he was and he will be misted by everyone, RIP Brother!
John used to call on me at Ford. He was very knowledgeable about equipment. A great guy!
I knew John as a little boy in Webb City, Mo. and was later connected to him through our business, Independence Audio . He was a lovely man and I enjoyed talking with him a few months before his death. He will be greatly missed.
I started as a customer of John’s and he was a great friend for 30 plus years. He will be sadly missed by many in this world. He was the toughest guy I have ever met and the most kind and generous as well, that it indeed an unusual combination. My wife Lisa taught kindergarten for 30 years and she loved frogs, we are the grateful recipients of one of John’s metal figures, a prehistoric frog welded from nuts and bolts. RIP John, glad the pain is gone.
John, if I only knew what I was getting into when I moved across the street.
Thank you for the sculptures, being so generous with knowledge and lending tools. You were always perceptive and generous in big and small ways. I truly enjoyed our many long talks in the shop. Kansas City and especially west plaza will not be the same without you.
So sad to learn of John’s passing. I’m so grateful to have know John and we shared many great times together. He was a customer, but a much greater friend. Always remembered with appreciation and gratitude for the many Christmas gifts of champagne glasses and Christmas bells all monogrammed with our names Carl and Ann.
Forever Grateful and Forever in our Prayers,
Carl & Ann Calcara
Owner Felix Camera & Video Stores
I went to high school with John (or Bruno as he was known in HS). We were good friends–all 6 feet 10 3/4 inches of him and all 5 feet 2 inches of me. When I would come home from college he would call and see if I wanted to go to the movies “to get away from the parents.” Didn’t believe that for a minute–he wanted to spend time with me. He was a truly kind person and a great friend. Even though we hadn’t seen each other in years and it had been about 5 years since we had talked, I will miss him. Often think of him, and now wish I had tried harder to keep in touch. Rest in peace, John–with love from “Little One”
I knew Clarence (John) in high school and we were on the same baseball team during that time. A nice guy who put up with a lot because of his size.
John was a wonderful friend to me and my daughter when we were going through a difficult time and she was a “tiny little thing”. He was so kind and giving and never asked for return. I have missed him terribly these past years and wish I could have given him a kiss and a hug. He showed me what a difference a loving attitude could bring to this world. Those who knew John were definitely blessed and fortunate.
John was a life long friend. We were fraternity brothers and graduated from PSU together
We spend a lot of time together