Jerry Landess, 90, dies

Columbus, OH —¬†Jerry Landess, 90, of Portland, Ind., died Oct. 13, 2020, in Columbus Transitional Care in Columbus, Ind.

Jerry Landess died Oct. 13, 2020. USTA photo.

Born in Portland on Feb. 24, 1930, he was the son of Elbon and May (Boxell) Landess. He was married on Dec. 2, 1951, to Mary Rose Gelzleichter, who survives. He graduated from Portland High School in 1948 and served in the United States Army. He drove a truck for Marhoefer Packing Company for 27 years.

Mr. Landess won the Golden Gloves in Muncie, Ind., in 1947 and 1948. He also fought on the United States Army team. He fought for about eight years and was successful in his career with 124 wins in about 150 fights.

He also earned an Eagle Scout rank in the Boy Scouts.

His love of horses began as a young boy when he hung around the barns in the Jay County Fairgrounds and was hired to heat water for the 80 or so horses stabled there. In 1948 he drove his first horse, Butternut, in a race in Bourbon, Ind. He was hooked on harness racing and so began an outstanding career as a driver and trainer of Standardbreds.

He started his own stable, Landess Racing Stables, in 1950, proudly wearing the now familiar red, white and green silks. He became an icon of harness racing. Mr. Landess won 1,980 races and horses he’s driven won more than $2 million.

Some of his accomplishments are Indiana Driver of the Year at least 20 times; member of the Standardbred Board of Regulations for 19 years; director of the Indiana Trotting and Pacing Association for 14 years; speed superintendent for the Jay County Fair for 13 years; first recipient of Indiana Horseman of the Year in 1975; inducted into the Indiana Standardbred Hall of Fame in 1991; elected director of the United States Trotting Association for 28 years; received Sagamore of the Wabash in 1985 from Gov. Robert Orr, a Republican; received Sagamore of the Wabash in 1991 from Gov. Evan Bayh, a Democrat; and was the recipient of the Jay County Chamber of Commerce Lifetime Achievement Award in 2007.

He was a member of American Legion Post #211 in Portland, where he served as chaplain, and Portland Moose Lodge.

Mr. Landess is survived by his wife of 61 years, Mary; son, Gary (companion Shirley); daughter, Lisa Reyes; sister, Martha (Jim) Moyer; two grandchildren; three great-grandchildren; and several nieces and nephews. He was preceded in death by his son, Jimmy; brother, Gene; and grandson, Jerry Day.

Private family services will be held. Burial will be in the Green Park Cemetery in Portland. Baird-Freeman Funeral Home in Portland, Ind., is in charge of arrangements. Online condolences at

Memorial contributions may be made to the Jayland Trotting Association.

To read a story published when Mr. Landess received the Jay County Chamber of Commerce Lifetime Achievement Award in 2007, click here.

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