Richard J. Giddings

Obituary for Richard J. Giddings

August 31, 1936 - August 27, 2020
Amherst, New Hampshire | Age 83


Richard "Jerry" Giddings passed away Thursday, August 27, 2020 at Beverly Hospital in Beverly, Massachusetts. Jerry was born August 31, 1936 in Pierre, South Dakota to Richard and Genevieve (McMullen) Giddings.

He grew up in nearby Fort Pierre attending town schools, hunting pheasant with his mother and taking care of his grandfather's horses. During his high school and college years, Jerry helped build the Oahe Dam and worked for the Smithsonian excavating historical artifacts along the Missouri River. After graduation in 1958 from Northern State Teachers College, Jerry enlisted in the United States Air Force. With his newly acquired degree in Biology, Jerry was a natural fit for the Aviation School of Medicine at Brooks Air Force Base (AFB), Texas where he worked on the rhesus monkeys launched into space at the beginning of the United States' space program. During this time a mutual friend introduced Jerry to Janet Keating, an English teacher from Parker, South Dakota. A whirlwind romance followed and soon Jerry and Jan were engaged just as Jerry completed Air Force Officer Training with a commission as a Second Lieutenant. Jerry and Jan married in Derry, Ireland – a place with ancestral ties to both their families – in August 1960, and with a first assignment to Hahn AFB, they journeyed to Germany to begin their life together. For two people who had not traveled far from South Dakota, Europe presented so many new adventures and Jerry and Jan took full advantage.

For the next 24 years Jerry's Air Force career took his family all over the world. He was on assignment in Germany when the Berlin Wall went up; he completed two tours in Vietnam and was awarded the Bronze Star; he spent another assignment overseas in Japan and the Pacific; and he had multiple assignments stateside where he directed critical logistics support for strategic bombers and reconnaissance aircraft during the height of the Cold War. Along this wonderful journey Jerry and Jan also became parents to two daughters, Barb and Francie.

While on assignment in upstate New York in the late 70s, a weekend trip to Boston introduced Jerry and Jan to the beauty of New England. They instantly fell in love with the area and moved permanently to Amherst, New Hampshire in 1983 when Jerry retired from the Air Force. He and Jan enjoyed a busy life full of gardening, entertaining, and watching their family grow. During their years in Amherst, Jan envisioned all kinds of beautification projects for the house and gardens, and it was Jerry who made them happen with his beloved golden retrievers by his side. Later, Jerry and Jan continued to feed the wanderlust they started so many years earlier, travelling to all seven continents and visiting over 70 countries. However, when back in New Hampshire Jerry was known to enjoy a good cigar, a quality single malt whisky and was an enthusiastic home brewer for a number of years. He was also an avid bird watcher, participating in annual bird counts and volunteering at the Ponemah Bog in Amherst. Most importantly, Jerry was a wonderful father to his daughters – he encouraged them to be curious and brave and to have conviction, but he was always ready to provide his unconditional love and support when their best efforts didn't go quite right.

Standing well over six feet tall, Jerry cut a formidable figure to his grandchildren, who nevertheless knew him as a gentle, loving and supportive "Grampy", and he could always be found at every Irish dance competition, youth theatre production, piano recital, or soccer match. Regardless of how you knew him – Dad, "Grampy", Skip or Jerry – he was always present and eager to be an integral part of our lives and we were so fortunate to be part of his.

Jerry was predeceased by Jan, his parents and brother Larry.

He leaves behind his children Barb (Ken) Wolfe, and Francie (Urban) Gillespie; grandchildren Rebecca (Justin) Parker, Genevieve Wolfe (Michael Cook), Liam and Ainsley Gillespie; great grandson Bradaigh Parker, sisters-in-law Mary Giddings and Meredith Keating; and his cousins, nieces and nephews.

Interment will take place at the New Hampshire State Veterans Cemetery.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations to the New Hampshire Audubon.

Services Pending. Please check back for further information.

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Suggested Memorial Donations

  • New Hampshire Audubon
    84 Silk Farm Rd.
    Concord, NH 03301

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Cremation Society of New Hampshire

243 Hanover Street
Manchester, NH 03104
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