Gerald T. Harris, our beloved father, father-in-law, grandfather, great-grandfather, and friend, died peacefully at Aviston Countryside Manor on October 11, 2023 at the young age of 95. He was born in Herkimer, New York on March 25, 1928, the son of Myron and Ruth, nee Sterling, Harris. Gerald married Louise Arnold at Andrews Air Force Base Chapel on October 3, 1953 and she preceded him in death on November 1, 2012 and is buried at Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery. His oldest daughter, Vickie is buried with her mother and Gerald will be buried in the adjacent plot.
Gerald is survived by his daughters, Debbie Stewart and husband Steve of Clinton, MO, and Cathy Zollner and husband Mark of Hecker, IL; grandchildren, Jeanna, Jacob, Jared, Jeramiah, Sarah, and Stephanie and her husband, Cory Mueller; and great-grandchildren, Brayleigh Louise, Jaelyn Marie, and Jackson David.
Gerald retired from the U.S. Air Force as a GS-15 Supervisory Electronic Engineer. He served Nov. 1953 to Jan. 1986; three years in the military and then 30 year in civil service with the Air Force Communications Command and its predecessors. In 1950 he graduated from the Union College in Schenectady, NY with a Bachelor of Science degree in Electrical Engineering.
While assigned to the U.S. Air Force 1823rd AACS Group from Nov. 1953 to Feb. 1959, Mr. Harris as an engineer and technical manager, played a key role in the design, engineering and installation of the USAF’s first global communications system. During this timeframe, he accomplished high frequency propagation analysis and antenna design. He engineered the Transmitter Out-side Plant Facility at Sidi Slimane, French Morocco, and supervised its installation and test & acceptance. He was the Air Force lead project engineer on the Spain – Morocco – United Kingdom Tropospheric Scatter System which was the forerunner of the European Trans-Mediterranean Tropo System, and contained the first frequency modulated link in excess of 500 miles. He designed the Air Force’s first interlaced rhombic antenna for use on a Forward Propagation Ionospheric Scatter path, and supervised its installation and performance testing. He also evaluated and recommended for Air Force use a frequency stepping system which for the first time allowed critical Air Force FPIS circuits to function reliably without the disastrous effects of back-scatter. He also negotiated support from the National Bureau of Standards as the recognized experts in scatter transmission theory and by his leadership brought about the transformation from theory to practical application.
Mr. Harris was extremely active in various standards programs and was directly responsible for the preparation of numerous Air Force and Department of Defense (DOD) standards. He recognized the commonality between the Engineering and Installation (EI) Activities of the three Military Services (Air Force, Army, and Navy) and proceeded to establish a Tri-Service EI Standards Steering Group. He wrote its initial Charter and subsequently the Army and Navy adopted the AF Standards in total.
In addition to government service, Mr. Harris was active in professional, charitable, and church activities. He served as Chairman of the IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers) Communications Society Chapters in both the Utica-Rome, NY area and the Kansas City, MO area, and later as Chairman of the Kansas City IEEE Section. He was President of the Hickman Mills School for Retarded Children Parent Teachers Organization and was instrumental in negotiating with Missouri State Department of Education and Legislative officials for a new school. He was an aviation enthusiast and with a private pilot’s license, flew Cessna and Piper aircraft.
Most importantly of all, Jerry, as he liked to be called, was a wonderful husband, father, and grandfather; dedicated to his family, and willing to give a helping hand to any of us who needed it. He was a quiet man, but sweet and friendly to all those he met. Family was important to him, and we had always done different activities together as a family growing up.
Jerry and his wife, Louise’s first child, Vickie, had down syndrome, and they both dedicated their lives to making sure she had been well taken care of, and they had done a fantastic job.
He was a wonderful dad and greatly loved! He will be truly missed!
Visitation will be held Thursday, October 19, 2023 from 5 p.m. until 8 p.m. at Nordike Funeral Home in Breese.
Burial with full military honors will be held Friday, October 20, 2023 at 11 a.m. at Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery in St. Louis, MO.
Memorials may be made to the Autism Society of America or the Clinton County Special Olympics and will be received at Nordike Funeral Home, 150 N. Clinton St., Breese, IL 62230 who is serving the family.