Mr. Jerry Cobb, 70, of Peachtree City
Jerry R. Cobb—a decorated Vietnam veteran and a community leader in aviation—died peacefully on Sunday, October 10, in Atlanta with his family at his side. He was 70.
Jerry will be remembered as an accomplished pilot who served his country and generously shared his love of aviation with numerous young people—in many cases personally teaching them how to fly and helping them develop successful aviation careers. Jerry introduced all three of his sons—and many neighborhood children—to flying in the family’s 1946 Globe Swift and nurtured them as they developed skills and confidence to fly solo as teenagers.
Jerry’s mentorship benefited many lives. Many of those he mentored became military or commercial pilots. Others drew on his rigorous lessons in personal integrity, discipline, caution, and courage in other careers. By helping young people accomplish something that seemed impossible, Jerry helped them gain the confidence to follow their dreams.
The journey from earth to sky was one Jerry was particularly well suited to lead. The son of Ralph Van Buren and Delana Ross Cobb and the brother of Molla Patricia Cobb, Jerry grew up on a farm his family had homesteaded near the small town of Hartford, Alabama. He worked hard building fences, taking care of animals, and harvesting crops with his parents. In school, he played piano, wrote creatively, and cultivated a lively, scientific mind. He earned a scholarship to the University of Alabama to study math and physics.
During the first week of classes, he met Ann Hulsey, who later became his wife. They soon became partners in a photography business, the proceeds of which Jerry used to buy an airplane. He regularly flew it back to the family farm to visit his parents, a journey he repeated throughout his life. Jerry graduated from the University of Alabama in 1962.
Jerry’s love of aviation and all things technical led him naturally to a military career, and his expertise enabled him to serve with particular distinction. After working briefly at NASA in Huntsville, Alabama, Jerry completed pilot training at Craig Air Force Base and was assigned to the 12th and 8th Tactical Fighter Wings and 555 Tactical Fighter Squadron from 1963 to 1966. He completed deployments to Naha and Udorn, flying 135 combat missions in the F-4 Phantom, a jet fighter. He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and six Air Medals for heroism and extraordinary achievement in aerial combat. On his return, he served as an Instructor Pilot for the 436 Tactical Fighter Squadron in Homestead, Florida, from 1966 until 1969.
At the conclusion of his military career, Jerry joined the airlines. His career, which began with National Airlines and continued with Pan American World Airways and Delta Air Lines, spanned three decades and took him all over the world. He developed an appreciation for other cultures and ways of life and shared these expanded horizons with his family. Jerry was an airline Captain who logged more than 25,000 hours in the 727, 737, 747, 757, 767 and DC-10 aircraft. He was one of the initial instructors for cockpit resource management at Pan Am and provided training for a Space Shuttle Crew for NASA. He retired from Delta as the Chief Line Check Airman for the 737 in January 2000.
After his retirement, Jerry devoted himself full-time to volunteer work and community service. He drew upon his love of aviation in his work on the Airport Authority for Falcon Field in Peachtree City, where he served as chairman for several years, overseeing airport expansion and safety improvements. In addition, he served for numerous years as the Director of the Great Georgia Airshow, which he helped grow from a small-scale operation to a major regional event. During this time, he and Ann frequently hosted impromptu parties at the family’s hangar, which became a beehive of activity for the civil aviation community. These activities brought him great personal satisfaction and many new friends.
Jerry struggled with heart disease for many years. His scientific background, self-discipline, and interest in technical aspects of his care enabled him to play an active role in his treatment, and he was able to extend his life beyond what many expected. On his last day, he was aware that the air show he helped direct for so many years was in progress. On short notice, its organizers arranged a touching tribute: In the final minutes of the airshow, family and friends gathered under clear blue skies to celebrate Jerry’s life and spirit. Above, a Missing Man formation—an aerial salute in which one airplane slowly peels away from the group—was flown in his honor.
Jerry is survived by his wife, Ann Hulsey Cobb; his three sons, Ross Hulsey Cobb, Thomas Dillon Cobb, and John Spencer Cobb; and extended family, including Kevin James Francis, Jinny Dodd Cobb, Michael John McCann, Michael Reese Courington, Tricia Courington Wood, James Edward Courington; as well as the many friends and colleagues he considered family.
A gathering in honor of Jerry will be held at the Falcon Field Terminal Building in Peachtree City, Georgia, on Sunday, October 24, 2010, at 3 p.m. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made to the Falcon Field Memorial Fund designated for the Jerry Cobb Memorial. Funds will be used to purchase airplane-themed playground equipment for the airport terminal playground. Donations can be made online at www.falconmemorial.org. Please be sure to include on the memo line “Cobb Memorial.” If you have any questions, please contact Jillian O’Connell at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 770-487-2225.