When you meet this smart-phone-savvy senior, you can hardly believe he is going to turn ninety at the end of the month. Accomplished Air Force pilot and author, Jack was born during the Depression. Jack’s dad was a carpenter and his mom worked at home for many years, but retired from Sears in her latter years. Around the time Jack was born, his parents were having a tough time financially and they moved in with his maternal grandparents which was on a farm in Edgewood, Texas. He spent five years there. The farm consisted of 400+ acres of corn, cotton, and sugar cane; it even had a sugar cane mill. There were two families from the Civil War who were living on the farm, each on one acre. Jack’s grandfather had given them the land and he would go to the store once a week for them on Saturday. Everyone on the farm had to pitch in; they would kill and clean the chickens by hand, even the children were involved. Every day, they would eat fried chicken, which they considered a “staple” and they always had some left over. The adults (parents and field hands) ate first and kids ate second. Usually, by the time the kids were able to eat, everything had been consumed except for the chicken. Jack still enjoys fried chicken to this day. He thinks the best is Church’s Fried Chicken because of its seasoning. At 62, Jack’s dad died in his sleep. His mom lived to be 83. His paternal grandfather lived to be 85.
Jack moved to the Dallas area at age 6. In 1946, he graduated from Hillcrest High in Vickery, TX. He decided to go to Texas Tech for college, and at that time tuition was only $25 per semester. Jack attended Texas Tech for 3 years and was a “starving” student. Later, he moved to Oklahoma State University and traveled 75 miles, 3 days a week to finish his business degree.
While Jack was in college, he met a beautiful sixteen-year-old named Carolyn. Jack was actually working for her dad at the time who was a district manager for a company that sold stainless steel cookware. They would have dinner parties for potential customers in order to sell the cookware. One night, he was cleaning up after a party, and in walks Carolyn. He said to her, “Where have you been all my life?” That line was the winner as they were later engaged and then married.
In 1950, Jack was about to be drafted into the military. Instead, he entered the Air Force as an enlisted man where he attended pilot training school for one year. When he finished, he came out as a Second Lieutenant with his pilot’s wings. He spent twenty-one years in the Air Force where he flew a total of 100 combat missions. In Korea, he was promoted to Lieutenant.
Jack was engaged to Carolyn during the war, but he didn’t make the first wedding date due to his deployment. They did finally “tie the knot” on August 22, 1953. The couple lived in Yuma, Arizona and from there went to France and Spain. Jack was a test pilot for a Spanish aircraft company that inspected and repaired aircraft for the Air Force. When Jack returned from Spain, he was an instructor pilot where he taught college graduates how to fly airplanes in the military.
Of course there are gorgeous children in this story. Jeff and Suzanne were both born in Yuma. Son, David, was born in Texas. Suzanne is actually the one credited for her dad writing his book as she had asked him to write down some of his stories. They also have two “adopted” children who belonged to a close relative. Their dad was an Air Force pilot who died in Viet Nam when they were ages two and four.
1956 was a great year and a tough year for Jack. D uring the same week, his son was born, he made Captain, and his dad died. He had to fly his own plane to Dallas for the funeral. I can’t even imagine what that flight was like, thinking about his wife at home with the new baby and then what was in store for him in Dallas as they laid his father to rest.
At age 42, in 1971, Jack decided to retire from the military. He had several “post military” jobs, including working for some high school friends at a leasing company. He did that for about five years. He also worked for a recruiting company who hired agricultural chemical salesmen. Later, he got back into leasing, and recruited big money customers for Mellon Bank. He helped broker 57 Burger King deals, a 707 airplane for Caroline Hunt and a $30 million stack of papers which were related to contracts for a security monitoring system. That was the biggest deal he ever brokered. He wrote a book titled, “Life on a Short Fuse” which was about a dramatic cover-up during the Vietnam War. He and his wife, Carolyn, traveled to Lions and Rotary Clubs to share their story. In fact, he would speak to anyone who would let him share about his book and his military career.
Eventually, Jack became a volunteer chaplain at an osteopathic hospital in Fort Worth. He has officiated over 50 weddings (his favorite) and 12 funerals (not his favorite). When asked about the most wild wedding he officiated, he was quick to share the story of a wedding on Lake Grapevine that was delayed by two hours because the flowers hadn’t yet arrived. Meanwhile, there was an “open bar.” By the time the ceremony took place, the entire wedding party was inebriated. The bride’s father paid Jack twice because he was so grateful to have it over with.
Carolyn had a long and successful career as well. She was a dental hygienist for 30+ years, mostly working with periodontists.
Since the couple has been married over 65 years, I felt it fitting to ask their best marriage advice. Here is what Jack shared:
- “Don’t ever hit each other” (they expected that from their children as well)
- “You are responsible for each other and you want the best for each other; always have that in mind”
- “Being faith-based is important; know the scriptures. God knows how marriage ought to be”
- “Give your children a faith-based start to life”
Carolyn and Jack’s children graduated from Bell High School and in total they have 13 grandkids and 8 great grandkids with one on the way. Their oldest grandchild was married in his “Papa & Mimi’s” house, in front of their fireplace.
Jack’s favorite color is blue and his favorite song is “I Can Only Imagine” by MercyMe. His favorite thing about the USA is that as a nation, America is the world’s greatest role model, even with its faults; he loves the diversity America offers. Jack has a great sense of humor and he told me that he prayed to God for wisdom and he got it. However, now, nobody wants it. If you get a chance, read his book. It is truly a gripping read.