It is with great sadness and immense pride that we announce the passing of long-time Summerville, SC, resident, SMSgt Jack L Gilbert, USAF (ret'd.). Sergeant Gilbert passed away at his home on Monday, Mar. 26, 2018, after a lengthy illness.
Born in Oskaloosa, Iowa, Sept.18,1923, he was one of five brothers and the son of Floyd L and Anna E Gilbert. The family relocated to Chicago, IL, sometime around 1930 and Jack spent his formative years on the South Side of the Windy City. He was a life-long fan on both the Chicago Bears and the Chicago White Sox. He dropped out of high school at 16 and spent the next few years serving in the Civilian Conservation Corp., one of FDR's programs designed to put Americans back to work during the Great Depression.
In February of 1942, he enlisted in the US Navy and reported for boot camp at Naval Recruit Depot, Great Lakes, IL. Further training at the Chicago Navy Pier and in Orlando, FL led him to becoming a flight engineer on Consolidated PBY Catalina flying boats. During the war, he served two overseas deployments in the Aleution Theater with VP-62 and Fleet Air Wing 4, at NAS Attu. When he mustered out in Feb., 1946, he was an Aviation Machinist Mate 1st Class and a rated Combat Air crewman.
After a short period of civilian life, He enlisted in the US Army Air Forces and was stationed at Roswell Army Air Field,, NM, where he served as a C-54 maintenance and aircrew member with the 1st Air Transport Unit, providing strategic airlift support for the atomic-equipped 509th Bomb Group. He remained at Roswell until being transferred to RAF Celle, Germany, in 1948, to perform aircrew duties with the 40th Troop Carrier Squadron, during the Berlin Airlift. As such, he logged 135 missions into the blockaded city as a C-54 flight engineer. He returned to the US in 1949 where he moved to the USAF Reserve's 437th Troop Carrier Wing at Chicago's O'Hare Field.
In June of 1950, SSgt. Gilbert was recalled to active duty when the 437th TCW was activated and deployed to Brady Field, Japan, in support of UN operations during the Korean War. He flew as a C-47 crew member during countless combat missions in Korea between August 1950 and late 1951. When he returned to the United States in 1951, he had been promoted to Technical Sergeant.
After a short period of leave at home in Chicago, TSgt. Gilbert was ordered to attend the MATS Flight Engineer School at Chanute AFB, IL, in preparation for duties as a C-124 flight engineer. After graduation, he received orders which led him to the 63rd Troop Carrier Wing, at Donaldson AFB, SC. It was during his time at DAFB that TSgt Gilbert was promoted to Master Sergeant. His duties with the 63rd TCW included service in the Suez Crisis, the Lebanon Crisis, the Congo Intervention, The Berlin Crisis, The Cuban Missile Crisis, and Operation Deep Freeze. When Donaldson AFB was closed in the early 1960s, the wing relocated to Hunter AFB, GA.
In 1965, MSgt. Gilbert was selected to cross-train as a flight engineer on the new Lockheed C-141A Starlifter jet transport. He was transferred to the 20th Military Airlift Squadron, at Dover AFB, DE, where he served as an instructor flight engineer and as a flight standards evaluator. While serving at Dover, He was promoted to Senior Master Sergeant, in 1967.
In 1969, Sergeant Gilbert's wife, Carol, was diagnosed with breast cancer. Despite the best medical treatment available at the time, she would succumb to the disease in 1970. The family had relocated to Robins AFB, GA where SMSgt. Gilbert was assigned to the 58th MAS. They would again relocate, in 1971, to Charleston AFB, SC, where he was assigned to the 76th MAS. They bought a house in the nearby town of Summerville, where the family remains to this day. SMSgt. Gilbert retired from the Air Force in August, 1973, after 30 1/2 years' service. During his military career, he served in three major wars and countless smaller actions. He logged over ten thousand hours flight time and was decorated 24 times.
SMSgt Gilbert and his third wife, the late Almeda "Mimi" Gilbert, were popular and long-time residents of Summerville. They loved the city's unique blend of small-town American charm, history, and culture. Both of their younger sons, Jack, Jr., and Michael, are graduates of Summerville High School. Michael still resides there with his family.
SMSgt. Gilbert and Mimi both spent many days and hours serving as civilian volunteers at CAFB and they were very active in the community up until her death in the early 2000s.
Sergeant Gilbert is survived by his three sons (James, Jack, Jr., and Michael) and two daughters (Vita Ann, and Bonnie) as well as several grandchildren and great-grandchildren. His sole surviving sibling is CMSgt Paul E Gilbert, USAF (ret'd), of Altus , OK.
His family would like to express their enormous gratitude to the people of Summerville for the many years of friendship and warmth that they have shown to SMSgt Gilbert and we would ask that, in lieu of flowers, donations be made in his name to The Wounded Warrior Project. Funeral services will be conducted in Greenville, SC, where SMSgt Gilbert will be interred with his late wives, Carol and Almeda, along with his parents and others, at Greenville Memorial Gardens, in Moonville, SC, at 2PM on Saturday, April 7, 2018.
Arrangements by PARKS FUNERAL HOME, 130 West 1st North Street, Summerville, SC 29483.