Jerry Ray "JR" Stoddard
Jerry Ray Stoddard was born on July 1, 1946 to Robert and Lois Stoddard in Lennox, California. He was their first born, and two years later he became a big brother to Mary, whom he loved to torment as most brothers do. He never broadcasted this information to his own children, but he was a challenge growing up, so much so that his mother swore she was on Valium his entire childhood. He always loved to be outdoors though, fishing, hunting, camping, and playing on his grandparent’s farm. The love of the outdoors continued through his entire life.
When he was a freshman in high school, his cousin Steve convinced him to join the swim team. Being on that team showed him the value of working hard to be the best that he could be and making good friends. One of his quotes was, “Show me your friends and I’ll show you your future.” One of the other swimmers was Laird, who has been a true and loyal friend for 55+ years. Together they survived their high school years and beyond. Later in life, his swimming experience pushed him to become a coach at a swim club in Mission Viejo, California State University, Fullerton and then convinced by his sons to be the men’s head coach at Capital High School. His goal was not to always have the winning team, but to show the team how to try their best, have fun working together, and to be all around good people, lessons he had learned so many years earlier. He learned to be a man of character, fair and wise to all.
He worked several different jobs, learning how to fix anything or at least tried, before being drafted into the US Army in 1966. He was fortunate to spend his commitment of two years in Germany. After he got out of the Army, he went back to college, where he got his Bachelor’s Degree in Physical Education in 1971, and a Master’s degree with a double major in Anatomy and Physiology and a second major in Education Administration in 1972. In 1976, he was accepted into the Naval Flight Officer program and a year and a half later received his gold wings of a Naval Flight Officer, one of his most proud accomplishments of his life.
He was first stationed in Guam flying EC-130s. He spent three years there, earned 3000 miles of flight time, and advanced up the level of aviation qualifications to Squadron Navigator Evaluator, Airborne Communications Officer Evaluator and Mission Commander. He earned all of the highest qualifications an officer can achieve and was designated a Mission Commander while still a Lieutenant Junior Grade. During his time in Guam, he applied for the Space Shuttle Program and made it to the top 16. Though he never went into the program, he was proud to say he made it that far.
His other tours of duty were: Jacksonville, Florida, Hickham AFB, Ford Island, and Barber’s Point all located on Oahu, Hawaii, and retired in Crystal City, Washington D.C. He was a man of many accomplishments and was proud to serve his country and never regretted the decision to make it a career.
In his own words: “Before I left for Guam, I went through survival training in San Diego, California in 1975. I was staying at the Beach Cottages in Pacific Beach because there were no rooms available at the base. This was one of those times when fate takes over. I met the love of my life also staying at the Beach Cottages with her best friend, Meg. After talking for a while on the beach at the Cottages, I invited Carolyn out to dinner, but she wouldn’t go unless Meg could come along. That plan worked for me. We all piled into my Datsun 240Z sports car, with Meg curled up in the hatch back space, not an easy feat. After dinner at the Polynesian Restaurant, we chatted for a while back at the Cottages and agreed to get together when I was done with training. We dated for a few weeks before I had to leave for Guam. I tried to convince her to join me in Guam, but some months later I received a ‘Dear John’ letter from her. I understood the reasons why and I knew how hard that letter must have been to write. I promptly sent her a dozen red roses and said I would see her when I came home on leave, which I did during Christmas holidays a year later. But we did not get back together until I left Guam in January of 1978, nearly three years later. I was transferred to San Diego to go through S-3 aircraft Tactical Coordinator training, which lasted nine months. We were married in Carolyn’s sister, Susie’s backyard in Huntington Beach, California, July 29, 1978. This was the best decision I have ever made in my life. It also started an entirely new chapter in The Life and Times of J. R. Stoddard, children, the most rewarding thing in life.”
After spending three years stationed in Florida and the birth of his first child, Susan, he was transferred to Hawaii. He always said, “A tough duty station but someone had to do it.” Much time was spent at the beach watching him surf during his lunch hour and every weekend possible, while Carolyn and kids played in the sand. He and Carolyn added to the family with two boys, Eric and Robert. He was a very loving and attentive father—although the first year of Susan’s life, he didn’t change a single diaper, but he won the bet! Luckily, Carolyn stuck with him.
He was a man of many accomplishments, as well as a wonderful husband, father, and grandfather. In addition, he lived his dream of writing a book. Not just one book but four: Cougar Hunt, Cougar Camp, Cougar Canyon, and The Life and Times of J. R. Stoddard.
One of his favorite memories while the kids were growing up was the trips he made, one on one with each kid, a reward for good grades in school. He would take them out of school for the day and do something fun, usually whatever they wanted to do: shopping, hiking, biking, or skiing. He always made each one feel so special and that he was really glad to spend time with them. This was a gift that his children remember, the special bonds formed during their time together. Another treasured memory with his children, and later his grandchildren, was letting them falling asleep in his arms. He had this way of rubbing their head while singing his songs and watching them slowly drift off to sleep. He also loved to play the guitar for them and lull them to sleep, usually a John Denver song. He always felt that his family was the most important thing in his life. Spending quality time with them was a must and they all knew of his love.
Not only did his children benefit from his attention, but also the children’s spouses, family, friends, and co-workers. He always had a warm smile, intelligent eyes, and a quick wit. He was always willing to lend a helping hand. He thrived on learning, working hard, and being the best that he could be, instilling that same behavior in those around him. We all learned that he had an opinion on everything. One of his close friends knew that he might not always be right about the stock market in particular and for many years they bet $1.00 on the fact that he would be wrong. At the end of each year he would mail off the $1.00 and make another prediction.
He was always fixing, building, or creating something, a very resourceful and intelligent man. His thought was, “Why pay someone else to do it if you can do it yourself.” We all know he loved to save money. One example was the remodeling of his home. He and Carolyn moved to Washington and bought a view that came with a fixer-upper, much to the disappointment of his daughter. After looking at so many houses for sale, she had learned they had made a decision and said, “You can buy any house except that putrid green one!” It took him three long years to finish the remodel but he could proudly say he did it. He lived in that house for nearly 18 years. He loved to sit in his hammock outside or in his favorite recliner during inclement weather and watch the Sound go by. He died peacefully in the arms of his loving wife of 33 ½ years, after a valiant fight with pancreatic cancer.
Who has gained the respect of intelligent women and men
And the love of children;
Who never lacks appreciation of the Earth’s beauty
Or fails to express it,
Who follows his dreams and pursues excellence in each task;
And who brings out the best in others,
And gives only the best of himself.
A few of his favorite quotes:
He was a good man, respected by many, and truly loved. No amount of time with him would be long enough but we will treasure the memories we have of him. He will be greatly missed.
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