Preston, Jerry N.

Jerry N. Preston

Jerry N. Preston, Major, USAF (Retired)

April 10, 1935 – January 27, 2023

Jerry N. Preston, 87, passed away January 27, 2023, at his home in Benkelman.

Jerry was born on April 10, 1935, in Doane, Nebraska to Everett Leon and Helen (Walsh) Preston. He grew up and received his education in Parks and graduated from Parks High School in 1952. Following high school, Jerry enlisted into the United States Air Force.

In 1956, Jerry married Josephine Barenberg, also of Benkelman. After their wedding, Josephine dropped Jerry off at Lackland AFB, Texas to attend the USAF Pilot Training Program and return to Benkelman. It was the first of many difficult responsibilities Josephine would incur throughout their military career. The intensity of the training and the fact that Jerry was required to live in the trainee quarters meant that they would have to live apart for the next 15 months. On April 24, 1957, Josephine delivered their first child, Julia, at the Morehouse hospital in Benkelman. Jerry was still in training and couldn’t be there, but, fortunately, both her family and his filled in for him. On March 11, 1958, Jerry graduated, receiving his commission as a 2/Lt and his pilot wings and the family was united once again. For them, that was just the beginning.

Following Advanced Training in Helicopters, they were assigned to Stead AFB near Reno, NV, where Jerry was selected as an instructor in the USAF Helicopter Pilot Training School. The relatively small base was intimate as was the Helicopter Squadron; it was almost like living in their own small town. New base housing had just been completed and everyone in the squadron lived on-base. Nearly everyone was young and most had small children. Most everyone was far from home, so families relied upon one another for support. Consequently, numerous life-long friendships developed that would continue throughout his life.

On December 14, 1958, their second child, Jeffrey, was born and on March 22, 1961, their third child, Jason, arrived. In November 1962, Jerry was assigned to a tour in Viet Nam, so he and Josephine packed up their newly expanded family and moved her and the kids back to Benkelman. One year later Jerry returned. Fortunately, they had been reassigned to Stead AFB again, so they returned to the Reno area to rejoin many of their old friends. In December 1969, after a couple of stateside assignments, Jerry received orders for a one-year tour in South Korea. So, once again, they packed all their stuff and moved back to Benkelman while Josie and the kids awaited the completion of that tour. In January 1971, they were assigned to their final military station at Scott AFB, IL. In 1972, they purchased the old state fish hatchery east of Benkelman which they fondly named “The Almosta Ranch.” Then in December 1973, after twenty years in the Air Force (five enlisted and fifteen as a commissioned pilot) and fourteen moves, Jerry retired as a Major, and they moved back to The Almosta.

Jerry had often said, “The secret to a successful military career for a family man is a strong supportive wife and understanding adaptable kids. I was blessed with both.”

They lived on The Almosta for nearly twenty-four years before moving into town. During this time, he was the manager at the ASCS (FSA) office in Dundy County for several years working with local farmers. He and Josie and several other people owned and operated the Skating Rink. He enjoyed skating and teaching others how to skate. He and Josie along with Walt Barenberg, and his wife, Sharon, owned and operated The Liquor Store for several years. After they sold The Liquor Store, he worked the counter at the Napa store. The thing he enjoyed the most was visiting with all the people he encountered. After the loss of his wife, Josephine, he spent the next five years travelling and spending time in Florida where he met several great friends.

He was preceded in death by his parents; wife, Josephine Preston; daughter, Julie Preston; great-grandson, Jerry Ramsey; brother, William (Bill) Preston.

Left to cherish his memory, Jerry leaves his son, Jeff Preston and significant other, Carolyn Graham; son, Jason Preston and wife Cindy (Criger) Preston; nine grandchildren, fourteen great-grandchildren; eight great-great grandchildren; and many nieces and nephews.

Rosary services will be held 10:30 a.m. (MT), Friday, February 10, 2023, followed by a Mass of Christian Burial at 11:00 a.m. (MT) both at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Benkelman with Father Matthew Eickhoff officiating. Inurnment will follow at the Benkelman Cemetery with military honors. Reception will follow at the Catholic Church. Cremation was chosen and there will be no visitation.


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