Joseph G. Vickers - Coronado Eagle & Journal | Coronado News | Coronado Island News: Obituaries

Joseph G. Vickers

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Posted: Thursday, July 18, 2019 4:45 pm

Jerry Vickers, a retired Navy pilot, commercial airline pilot, husband, father and fitness expert, died peacefully on July 4th, ever the patriot, at his home in Coronado of 50 years from metastatic prostate cancer. He was 88.

Born in Brooklyn, New York, Jerry graduated in 1953 with a Bachelor of Science degree in electrical engineering from the United States Merchant Marine Academy in Kings Point, New York. He went straight into flight training and earned his wings in Pensacola, Florida. Among his many accomplishments, Jerry was known for his prowess as a straight deck carrier Banshee pilot.

His Navy duties included a stint in Hawaii in the early 1960s when he and his first wife, Adella Kemp, and their two daughters, were stationed at Barbers Point. During his time in the U.S. Navy Reserve, he flew helicopters and transport planes, retiring as a lieutenant commander after 10 years of active duty and reserve service.

He and his family returned to San Diego in 1963 when Jerry embarked on a a three-decade career as a commercial airline pilot for Pacific Southwest Airlines (PSA, later USAir). Ever passionate about his profession, the longtime captain described his work in the air with elegant simplicity: “Best view in the world. Best job in the world.”

Jerry’s fellow aviators universally admired him for his interpersonal qualities as much as his professional mastery. “Without a doubt, Jerry Vickers was absolutely one of the classiest and most respected members of the pilot group,” noted John Silverman, a former Air Force pilot and fellow PSA pilot. “I genuinely admired Jerry as a leader who commanded respect without ever thinking along those lines. It was natural. If you lined up every pilot and flight attendant who ever worked with him, there would not be one negative comment about Jerry. He was a gentleman in every sense of the word. He had no enemies. Everybody loved him.”

Deeply committed to exercise, Jerry worked out with the Coronado Masters Swim Association and dedicated himself to strength training. He met his second wife, Sandra, at the Coronado Municipal Pool; they married after Adella’s death, and continued to support each other in their fitness pursuits over the next four decades.

Following the airlines’ mandatory retirement at age 60, Jerry became a certified personal trainer and indoor cycling instructor. He started Club 55, a strength training class for people 55 and older at Coronado Hospital’s Motion Center and helped manage the program for 10 years. He also taught indoor cycling at various gyms around San Diego and Coronado and his remarkable athleticism into his ninth decade inspired a loyal following in his rigorous classes.

Jerry also volunteered as a docent on the USS Midway, amassing nearly 3600 hours of service, education and engagement with the public. Of the many areas on the ship where he shared his knowledge, his favorite centered on the catapults.

He was a joy to work with; he was a joy to fly with,” said Rear Adm. Kenneth “Pete” Pettigrew, a Midway docent and former PSA pilot. “He was very highly thought of by everybody.”

Kristine Hays, the docent of the watch/manager aboard the Midway added, “We all loved Jerry, his kindness, his wonderful wit, and his willingness to be a mentor, a patriot and a friend to us all.”

Jerry Vickers is survived by his wife of 42 years, Sandra Vickers of Coronado; daughters Annie Vickers of Lancaster, Ohio, Katherine Nichols of Los Angeles, and Susan Whiting of Dallas; as well as six grandchildren, all of whom continue to look to him as a role model.

Services will be held at 11 a.m. on Saturday, Aug. 10, at Sacred Heart Church, 655 C Avenue.

In his memory, donations to the USS Midway Museum or Sacred Heart Church in Coronado would be appreciated.