Jay Samuel Gaenzle
Passed away on September 11, 2019
CELEBRATING THE LIFE OF JAY SAMUEL GAENZLE March 18,1922 – September 11, 2019 Jay Samuel Gaenzle, the son of Walter and Loretta G. Abel Gaenzle, was born in Lancaster Pennsylvania on March 18 1922. He grew up in Altoona, PA where his father was the business manager of the local daily newspaper. The family moved to El Paso in 1938 where his father worked at the El Paso Times for many years and then as a Realtor.
Jay was the oldest of the Gaenzle’s 4 boys. He has 3 brothers, Gordon, Roger (d) and Ronald and 2 sisters, Gracetta (d) and Janet (d). The family moved to El Paso, Texas in 1938 when Jay was 16. All Jay’s siblings except Janet made El Paso their homes. Gordon and Ronald and many of their children are still there. The Gaenzle’s have left their legacy in El Paso.
Jay attended Austin High School, graduating in 1940 in the top 10% of his class, and then attended UTEP College of Mines for 2 years. He later completed college with a BA in Political Science while in the Air Force.
While attending UTEP he completed a flight training program the US Army sponsored, designed to pre-train fighter pilots. He enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Corp in 1942. His vision in one eye precluded him from qualifying as a fighter pilot. He was very disappointed because he loved flying and wanted to be a fighter pilot. However, he earned navigator designation readily in 1943. His 455th Heavy Bomber Group was deployed to North Africa from Boise, Idaho in January 1944. While deployed, the bomber group moved into Italy after the German forces left. He flew 50 combat missions, including over the Ploesti Oil fields, and other strategic targets over Germany, Austria, Hungary and Romania. He earned a distinguished flying cross, five air medals, the Purple Heart, Presidential unit citation, European Theater ribbon with battle star and the Bronze Star.
He earned the Purple Heart due to being wounded in the face and eye from shrapnel during a bombing run over Romania in which he rescued the gunner who was pinned down in the turret. He was very humble about his time in active duty. His children only recently learned of his heroic actions that saved the life of the gunnery-. He served valiantly in WWII, receiving these numerous medals of recognition for valiant actions in combat in 1944. He also served in the Air Force in active combat during the Korean war.
According to his incomplete memoir, after he returned to the USA, he was assigned to Gowen Field, Idaho, where he trained B-24 crews en route to Europe. Here he “met and married a beautiful blue-eyed blonde, Arleen” Betty Cammack. “The marriage produced two wonderful children, Kristine and Kurt.” At the end of WWII Jay elected to make the Air Force his career and was reassigned to recruiting duty in Kansas City, MO. The commander recruited Jay to join his squadron taking a group of P-61’s to Panama. Jay served as the Intel Officer. Daughter Kristine was born in the Naval Hospital in the Canal Zone.
The squadron was re-equipped with F-82’s and returned to Moses Lake, Washington in 1950 until 1953. From there the family went on to Hamilton Field near Navato, CA. Jay was attached to the Air Defense Command. In 1959 the family was transferred to Wheeler AF Base on Oahu, Hawaii for 4 years. He was then transferred to Ent AF Base in Colorado Springs, Colorado and NORAD in Cheyenne Mountain, Colorado. Jay served in the military for 25 years and retired as a Lieutenant Colonel in 1968 in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
He married Patricia Seamon in 1968 who had 2 daughters, Sandi and Cathy Brown. They built a lovely home in Black Forest, Colorado that he was particularly fond of. There were horses and dogs and a swimming pool in the tall pine trees. While there, Jay also did some glider plane flying in addition to light plane flying which he loved.
After retiring from the Air Force, he was a securities broker/manager for Integrated Resources Investments, and he also had a light plane dealership with Aero Commander. He loved flying and had his private pilot’s license.
He and Pat moved back to El Paso in 1975 where both his extended family and hers lived. He worked for a time at UTEP as Director of Development, and then as an executive VP at a local bank. There were many fun times at the Borealis house with children, grandchildren and friends laughing, swimming, doing crafts and eating figs from Jay’s prize fig tree. There were wonderful times up in Cloudcroft, NM at the cabin, “Ruff-E-Nuff”, horseback riding, playing tennis, fishing, hiking, going to shoot the guns, and Jay charcoaling steaks and hamburgers.
Jay retired and cared lovingly for wife Pat who became ill with emphysema until she passed away in 2006. He was devoted to her. Pat’s oldest daughter Sandi Clutter passed away in 2014. Sandi has 3 daughters: Renee, Lindsey and Kimberly who have beautiful children of their own. Pat’s younger daughter Cathryn Alanen lives in El Paso and has 3 grown children: Mayo, Nik and Mia, and one grandson. Jay adored them all.
Jay’s son Kurt is the senior engineer at the Materials Engineering Laboratory at the Naval Air Station North Island in San Diego, CA. He and his wife Elizabeth have a son Nikolai, 21.
Jay’s daughter Kristine Gaenzle Salamone is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in Ft. Worth, TX and is happily married to Jack Salamone since 2007. Prior to that she was married to John Peckham, who is the father of their 2 children, Russell, and Jennifer. Russell and his wife Elizabeth have 4 children: Katherine, 13, Jay, 11, Andrew, 9 and Violet, 6. They live in Austin, TX.
Jennifer is married to Carlton McLain in Fort Worth, TX. They have two girls, Emery, 12 and Madeline, 9. All of Jay’s children, grandchildren and great grandchildren, as well as Pat’s, are highly accomplished individuals. Jay was so proud of them and loved them all.
After living for 43 years in El Paso, on his 96th birthday he moved to Fort Worth, TX to be closer to his daughter Kristine. While in Fort Worth he was mostly quiet, napping and resting a lot. But he still had his “I can do it” attitude, insisting on doing his laundry as he’d done for decades. His only health issue was glaucoma, so he did not read much. He still enjoyed playing poker and mostly beating everyone. He still had that playful spirit.
He rarely complained, even when he fell several times and got some big bruises. He wasn’t wild about the food at his independent living facility. What he wanted was French onion soup, Coconut shrimp, filet mignon, fried chicken, good chocolate, Jiff p-nut butter, good coffee, “raisins with a little oatmeal,” ice cream, and lots of fresh fruits. A tall order for sure! But his daughter and son-in-law- Jack made sure he had those favorites, bringing him fresh groceries and prepared meals often each week.
Jay was always gracious and appreciative. “Thank you,” and “Remember I love you,” he said often. Hugs were freely exchanged.
He had courage and grace as he faced his final days. He never lost that twinkle in his blue eyes. After a family funeral in Fort Worth on September 21, 2019, a Memorial Service will be held in his hometown of El Paso, TX on October 12, 2019. Interment will follow at Restlawn Cemetery with full military honors.
Jay loved all animals, especially dogs and cats. So in lieu of flowers, please send a donation to the Pet Rescue of your choice.
We love you Jay. You will always be in our hearts. See Less
The Pet Rescue of Your Choice
- Memorial Service Saturday, October 12, 2019
- Committal Service Saturday, October 12, 2019