In Memoriam

Jerome Frederick Runnion
27 October 2017

On 27 October 2017, Jerome Frederick Runnion was killed in an auto/motorcycle crash in the Great Smoky Mountains. His wife, Kathleen, who was riding with him, survived. Jerry was a singular individual and was the model, no, the embodiment of tenacity. He was an unforgettable character who challenged the authority of those in the "molding of young men" from his first opportunity during BCT. As a wrestler in intramurals, he thoroughly enjoyed Unarmed Combat class, Judo, and anything else that required the up close and personal touch. Later in life, he became a 5th Degree Black Belt in Isshinryu Karate and a 2nd degree black belt in Judo. After a rather brutal First Class year of tours, confinements and restrictions, he graduated. While last in the Class, he still graduated as an Officer and Gentleman. Jerry was indestructible. He completed Navigator training at Mather AFB and was assigned to B-52's at 'Why Not Minot?', which included multiple combat deployments to Southeast Asia. Then, in 1974, he transferred to Kunsan AB as a backseater in the F-4E. He was honorably discharged in 1976.

Transitioning to civilian life, Jerry returned to his beloved Chicago, where he began a career as an environmental engineer, specializing in industrial particulate emission control. Now characterizing himself as an "ash man," he traveled to client sites throughout the U.S., Eastern Europe, and developing nations. After a corporate merger, he and Kathie relocated with his company to Knoxville, Tennessee. With the move and home in the hills, his image transformed from "urban gangsta" to Appalachian "good ole boy." He developed a profound interest in the UT Vols, and square dancing. As always, though, Jerry retained his life-long hobbies of wood working and ceramics with his "man-cave" being his home shop. Sadly, shortly after retirement, came this tragic end. His wife, Kathie, was badly injured in the accident and is still recovering. Jerry leaves behind his wife, son, five stepchildren, sixteen grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. The funeral will be on Tuesday, 5 Apr 2018 at 2:00 PM, at the Broadway Rose Mortuary, 1421 N. Broadway, Knoxville, Tennessee.

The nature of Jerry's departure had a familiar ring to Classmates in CS-13. They may recall the incident of the return from Golden to Denver on rented Mopeds, Labor Day, 1965. Peace, Jerry.                                                                                                              (Ken Bowers and Jim Clark, Classmates)

His nickname was Troll and those of us who had the opportunity to get to know him knew this as a term of affection. To graduate last in the class with class and dignity and in the reception line to get diplomas, gift the Chief of Staff with his hat in classic Troll flair, was a mark of his style. I have heard from the rumor mill that that hat sat on a statue in the Pentagon for some time as well. If any of our classmates can confirm that 50 years later, it would free up some of my curiosity/whatever happened to space in the grey matter.

UPT at Reese AFB in Lubbock Texas was our first duty assignment and the story I recall may have been the start of his woodworking hobby. Driving around the plains and cotton fields of West Texas, Troll spotted an abandoned wood telephone pole. He gathered it up and somehow got it to his BOQ room where he explained that he was going to carve a tiki out of it. I don't know if he completed it, but somewhere outside of the town of Lubbock there may remain some evidence of his Troll imagination. Unfortunately, he departed UPT early. But he left an indelible mark on my memory and my imagination. I too am still inspired by his tenacity, and courage to try what may seem ridiculous, like making a tiki out of a telephone pole, or an airplane out of a rock.                                                           (JB Schroeder, Classmate)

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