General Gerald “Jerry” Childress passed peacefully in his sleep on July 7, 2022.
Jerry was known to many across the nation and locally as a leader, mentor, educator, volunteer and avid supporter of many community groups. His contagious work ethic and positivity will be greatly missed.
Born August 11, 1930, Jerry started his life in a modest coal miner family farmhouse in an area of Southwestern Virginia called Camp Creek, Dickenson County. As the oldest boy of six children to Logan and Hettie Childress, he was a dedicated brother and consummate supporter of his family and their rural upbringing. Education and public service were key to their family values. Jerry wanted to be an Agriculture and Shop teacher and was able to join the ROTC program at Virginia Polytechnic Institute (now Virginia Tech) where he attained his degree in Agriculture Education and was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Army. Upon graduating as a proud and supportive Hokie, he served in the Field Artillery and the 82nd Airborne branches of the Army. He later went on to graduate from the National War College while simultaneously obtaining his Master’s degree from George Washington University in International Affairs.
He ultimately achieved being one of the youngest promotions in non-wartime to Brigadier General. Some of his highest honors included the Legion of Merit, Bronze Star, Meritorious Service Medal, Air Medal, Joint Services Commendation Medal, Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal and eight Vietnam Service medals. After 25 years of active-duty service and a distinguished military career in the Army, he retired in 1977 and soon after, became the Superintendent of New Mexico Military Institute. Jerry was most proud of his time and tenure at NMMI. While there he grew the student population and worked with the board and legislature to fund and oversee multiple building projects including the Toles Learning Center and the Godfrey Athletic Center. His love of the school and persistent interaction with its alumni ranks culminated in numerous continuing scholarships and campus improvements including the Daniels Leadership Center. His efforts resulted in New Mexico Military Institute ranking as one of the top high school and junior college military academies in the country, embodying its motto of “Duty, Honor and Achievement”.
His service around the world for his military duties, which included foreign land conflicts, shaped him as a leader who was passionate about people and kindhearted to all. Never one to be idle, he also embarked on a variety of business and philanthropic projects to support Roswell, New Mexico, his true home, as he embraced its people, culture and community - serving for all. His lifelong love of golf, and his 65th birthday gift to a Golfsmith school for club making, led to the Cool Star Golf shop where people from all over New Mexico and beyond came for golf clubs, repairs and plenty of banter!
Jerry will not only be remembered for what he did with his life, but more so for the countless lives he impacted along his way. Whether it was the service to his country, the White House, the Pentagon, helping coin the Army slogan “Be All You Can Be”, the leadership of New Mexico Military Institute and Wentworth Military Academy, the Betty Ford Center, Roswell Rotary Club, Salvation Army, or as a founder of First Tee of Southeastern New Mexico - Jerry never lost his humble roots and Can-Do Attitude.
Jerry is survived by his partner and loving wife of over 65 years Martha “Marty” Childress, his brother Byran Childress, sister Vicey Quillen, daughter Jane Harvard (husband Jeff Harvard), son Gordon Childress (wife Lauri Childress), grandchildren Jeremy (wife Ally Harvard), Julia Harvard (fiancé Connor Robertson), Nicholas Childress, Hadley Childress, great granddaughter Stella Harvard and his many good friends throughout Chaves County and beyond. The family would also like to recognize the Boys of Autumn Friday lunch group, past and present, which Jerry looked forward to every week. Jerry’s family would especially like to thank his kind and loving helpers: Isabel, Veronica, Susan and Viola.
Many say and affirm…We have lost one of the GREAT ones!
He would want us all to remember to treat others as we would like to be treated and most importantly…