The Life and Legend of Jerry Weiler
By Steven (son)
My father, Jerome Conrad Weiler, (Jerry), was born on July 15th 1924. He grew up in Bay City Michigan and enlisted into the service when he was 18. Dad was athletic and smart, and went into flight training to become a pilot. He trained at Eagle Pass Texas and was the youngest, and fastest, to earn his wings in the program.
Dad flew the P51-Mustang and served primarily in Italy, escorting bombers crossing into Europe. Although he was 19, he was a multiple ace and was promoted to squadron leader (the picture is Dad at 19 shortly after arriving in Italy in front of his P-51 “Betty Ann”, named after my Mom). When senior officers came through they would often request him to fly their wing. Dad completed approximately 50 missions even though they often lost a plane on every mission. The War was very hard and the people in Italy had little to eat. Sometimes when they returned after a mission they would see a flock of geese and fly over them using the prop-wash from the plane to knock some to the ground. The local people were very grateful for the geese and brought the pilots wine, bread and cooked goose!
After WWII, Dad returned to Michigan and graduated from the University of Michigan with Honors in just 2 years. He majored in accounting and later was sent to the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs earning a Masters Degree and graduated top in his class. Later he became the comptroller of the USAF and was also responsible for budgeting. He served in the Korean War and was Base Commander at Wake Island during the Vietnam War. (This picture is Dad with Bob Hope on Wake). During his service he received the Distinguished Flying Cross, Presidential Unit Citation, Air Force Outstanding Unit, the Silver Star and Bronze Star (5 times), among others.
Dad was also an avid golfer and outdoorsman. After returning from Italy, and while enrolled at the University of Michigan, he entered the annual University intramural golf tournament and won with a 73. Later he received a letter from the University Athletic Department congratulating him and asking why he was not playing varsity golf, shortly after that he was! Over his career in the Air Force Dad was the USAF golf champion several times. He won the Warwick Vase Tournament, the Bermuda Amateur, the Sir Alexander Walker Cup and numerous other golf tournaments, including the Texas Amateur. In the picture above Betty (his wife), pours champagne into the Warwick Vase to celebrate the win. When Dad retired from the Air Force and moved to Corvallis in 1969, his first 10 rounds at the Corvallis Country Club were 67 or lower.
Dad loved the outdoors. He was a terrific shot and won the USAF skeet championship several times. He constantly was taking friends and family out hunting, fishing, crabbing or just hiking. In this picture, sons Mark, Steve and Tom (left to right), have come back from a successful hunt, Dad shot the three geese in one fly over!
In addition to his military service, Dad retired from the Air Force in 1969 and taught accounting at Oregon State University for approximately 20 years. He is a Professor Emeritus of the Business School. He also was President of the United Way and very involved in the Corvallis Community.
At OSU he took over as golf coach from 1977 to 1979 when golf was going to be cut from athletics. To make his position official he was required to have a salary, so he did it for $1.00. Later after a new volunteer coach was found, Perry Overstreet, he donated the $1.00 back to the University. He also established the OSU scramble to raise money for the golf program. First through Dad, then together with Perry, he helped save the OSU golf program.
Mom & Dad had 5 children, 3 boys and 2 girls, all graduating with undergraduate and graduate degrees from OSU. The two oldest boys, Mark and Tom, went through the OSU Air Force ROTC program and both became top-gun fighter pilots in USAF. In fact, at one point Tom was the lead solo for the USAF Thunderbirds. The picture at right is Mark, Dad & Tom (left to right), on their way to the OSU Air Force ROTC Dinning In dinner, in 1973. Tom passed away in 2002 and my other brother Mark is a pilot for Southwest Airlines now. There is a scholarship established with the OSU Air Force ROTC program named the “Tom Weiler Athletic Award”. The athletic part comes from Tom playing on the Varsity Golf Team for four years at OSU, in fact he was the top golfer for OSU several years and could have pursued a professional career, instead he chose serving in the military like his Dad.
Tom was given a full military funeral with a 21-gun salute, fly-over, honor guard and a four-star general presenting his coin to his wife Sherrie. With the OSU Air Force ROTC’s consent the scholarship is being changed to include his Dad, and renaming it to simply the “Weiler Award”. If anyone wishes to make a donation they can contact Pam Powell, Assistant Director of Donor Relations at the OSU Foundation, (541-737-5820 Pam.firstname.lastname@example.org), or Captain Nathan Chang with the OSU Air Force ROTC Program, Detachment 685, (541-737-6259 Nate.email@example.com). The picture at left is Tom (#5), in front of his Thunderbird F-16 Fighting Falcon.
To me, my Dad was a great man, as a father, athlete, and in his service to our country and local community. He had determined worth ethic, very much appreciated nature, and always maintained a positive attitude. He was a strong advocate of the golden rule, doing unto others as he would have them do unto us. He also believed strongly in public service, to the military, the community and his fellow man. These things he instilled in us and is his legacy. A great warrior, friend to others, and Father. Dad is with Tom now, not of this earth but always with us, and not forgotten.