Jerry Dean Dancer, loving husband of Elizabeth Joan (Freisberg) Dancer, passed peacefully at home, surrounded by family on October 15, 2019. A native son of Caney, Kansas, Jerry lived a long and wonderful life filled with love, family, faith, and patriotism.
Jerry’s life began on May 31, 1931, on a small farm outside Caney. Born to James Sylvane Dancer and Marjorie Alice (Tasker) Dancer, Jerry grew up as one of the four “Dancer Boys” — Jim, Charlie, Jerry, and Jack. In high school, he led the Caney Bullpups to victory as quarterback, teaming with Howard Henderson, a life-long friend, and retired Sergeant Major of the United States Army. In the summer of 1950, Jerry left Caney for a year at Kansas State University, followed by appointment to the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland.
On graduating from the Naval Academy and accepting a naval officer commission in 1954, Jerry married his high school sweetheart, Joan Freisberg, and began a loving partnership that thrived for decades. Jerry and Joan celebrated their 65th wedding anniversary on September 11, 2019.
At the Navy Flight School in Pensacola, Florida, Jerry began his military service as a naval aviator, initially flying the single-seat AD Skyraider attack aircraft. Jerry was the first aviator to catapult from a newly installed angled flight deck of the USS Midway (CV-41). Jerry flew with valor in many squadrons and commands, including VA-125, NAS Miramar, VA-126, NAS San Diego; VA-115, NAS Miramar; VT-25, NAAS Chase Field; and VAH-123, NAW Whidbey Island. Jerry earned an advanced engineering degree at the Naval Post Graduate School at Monetary, California.
At the start of the Vietnam war, Jerry transitioned his naval service from aviation to surface warfare and served with honor as the Navigator on the USS Oklahoma City (CG-5), then flagship to the Seventh Fleet. His duties included piloting the 14,000-ton warship through coastal waters to provide close-in fire support and shore bombardment for our troops and allies. Life Magazine featured the Oklahoma City on the cover of the August 6, 1965 edition.
Jerry’s naval career continued with distinguished service as Executive Officer aboard the USS Procyon (AF-61), providing at-sea replenishment of fuel and stores for warships engaged in the Vietnam conflict, a tour teaching navigation at the United States Naval Academy, and coordinating cold war naval operations and coastal defense on staff at the Navy’s Eastern Sea Frontier Command in New York City. At the same time, Jerry earned a Master of Business Administration (MBA) at Pace University and graduated with top honors.
Jerry’s commendations include the National Defense Service Medal with Bronze Star, Navy Commendation Medal, Navy Achievement Medal, Meritorious Unit Commendation with Gallantry Cross, Vietnam Service Medal with Silver and Bronze Stars, and Republic of Vietnam Armed Forces and Campaign Medals. Jerry’s service and qualifications place him in uncommon company as his military dress included the insignia of a naval aviator’s wings and surface warrior’s waves.
Jerry retired after twenty years of Navy service in 1974 and started a second career in engineering construction for Fluor Corporation and Norlight Telecommunications, working on high profile projects including petrochemical refineries, high-speed rail transit, and conversion of telecommunications infrastructure to fiber optic technologies. Jerry retired from his civilian career in 1994 and returned to Caney, Kansas, first making a home on the Caney Golf Club and then on 3rd Avenue. In the service of his hometown, Jerry was an active member of the Sacred Heart Catholic Church, Lions Club, and Historical Society.
Jerry is remembered for his gregarious personality, contagious sense of humor, and love of scotch. He was a devoted husband, loving father, fearless brother, and faithful friend. Jerry golfed, gardened, drew cartoons, read avidly, and created stain glass works of art. Jerry and Joan made life-long friends everywhere they lived, from Caney to Florida, Texas, Washington, Japan, California, Maryland, New Jersey, and Wisconsin.
Jerry is survived by his loving wife, Elizabeth Joan Dancer; three children, Elizabeth Kim Dancer, Mark Fredrick Dancer, and Cecily Ann Dancer; eight grandchildren, Michael Russo with wife, Heather, Jake Dancer, Clair Rogers, Thomas Rogers, Steven Dancer, Patrick Dancer, Alyse Matteson with husband, Alex, and Kirby Fracas with fiancée Bob Hamilton; and great-granddaughter, Nona Rey Russo.
May Jerry be eternally blessed with fair winds and following seas.
Reciting of the Rosary will be held Sunday, November 3, 2019 at 5:00 PM at Sacred Heart Catholic Church with the family greeting friends and family from 5:30 PM to 6:30 PM. Funeral Mass will take place at Sacred Heart Catholic Church on Monday, November 4th at 11:00 AM, with inurnment immediately following at Sunnyside Cemetery. In lieu of flowers, the family has requested that a memorial contribution be made in Jerry's name to Sacred Heart Altar Society or Harry Hynes Memorial Hospice. Memorial may be left with Potts Chapel. To leave the family a special message of condolence, please visit www.pottsfuneralhome.com.