Lt. Colonel Ora Jerome “Jerry” Baird
Commander, 17th Tactical Airlift Squadron
Jerry Baird was born March 14, 1927, to Ora and Alice Baird in Yakima, Wash. He was raised in the Northwest and graduated from Jefferson High School in Portland. He attended University of Portland before receiving his BS degree from Syracuse University.
He enlisted in the Army Air Force Cadets in 1944 and the Naval Aviation Cadets in 1945. “OJ” (as he was known in the Air Force) was commissioned a 2nd Lieutenant and received his pilot wings in 1949. Colonel Baird flew combat missions in the Korean War and the Vietnam War. He participated in the Lebanon crisis of 1958, the Congo crisis in 1960, and the Cuban and Laos troubles of 1962. Colonel Baird flew most of the cargo planes of the era and had a total flying time of over 8,000 hours. He especially enjoyed flying the C-130. Upon retirement he flew fire tankers and DC-6's out of Medford for a couple of years.
Colonel Baird married Ruth Huddleston July 15, 1950 in Nashville, Tenn. while stationed at Sewart Air Force Base. They were married for 57 years until Ruth's passing in June, 2007. Together they served in many Stateside and European assignments including a posting of several years at Top of this Pagevreux Air Base near Paris, France. The couple enjoyed a special assignment when Jerry served as an Assistant Professor of Air Sciences at Grove City College in Pennsylvania.
Colonel Baird served as the Operations Officer in deep cover squadrons and flew many covert missions. His last assignment was in Alaska where he was the Squadron Commander of ski-equipped C-130 Transport Aircraft. He supervised and flew missions including flights to the Aleutian Islands and Air Drop Support to Greenland Radar Stations and Arctic Rangers throughout the North.
Upon retirement from the Air Force in 1972, Jerry and Ruth bought a bookstore. They ran Bookland's Crown and Quill in Medford. for 13 years as well as Bookworld in Salem, Jerry became active in the Medford community delivering Meals on Wheels for nine years, serving on the Jackson County Board of Equalization, and two terms on the City of Medford Budget Committee.
After retirement and the death of his beloved wife, Ruth, Jerry became more involved with Sacred Heart Church duties and services. It is there that he met Barbara Driscoll who had also been widowed after a long 50+ year marriage. They married November 12, 2008 and enjoyed a sweet 5-year marriage until his recent passing. They enjoyed their time together gardening, cooking, entertaining, traveling, and trouncing each other at gin rummy.
Colonel Baird was a member of a number of military organizations including the Air Force Association, The Military Officers Association, The Dadaeleons, The Firebirds, and Heavychain Group of Stray Goose International. Jerry also belonged to the Knights of Columbus and was a past member of Rotary International.
Jerry Baird is survived by his wife, Barbara; his son, Mark Baird, of Gold Hill; and daughters, Sue Larson (Paul) of Rochester, Minn. and Anne Adderson (Chris) of Medford. He leaves behind five beloved grandchildren and five great-grandchildren. A son, James, preceded him in death. He will be dearly missed by all including his step-children and step-grandchildren.
Colonel Baird passed away May 15, 2014. He was 87 years old and a long-time member of Sacred Heart Catholic Church. A funeral mass followed by a reception will be held at 10:30 a.m. Friday, May 30, 2014 at Sacred Heart Catholic Church. Interment will take place June 2, 2014 at Eagle Point National Cemetery for close family and friends.
Colonel Baird served on the board of Magdalene Home, a special, safe-haven for pregnant or young mothers. Contributions in his memory can be made to: Magdalene Home, P.O. Box 255, Medford, OR 97501.