Gary Joe Higgs of Wheaton, Missouri, son of the late Chester Oliver Higgs and Marguerite Hoyt Higgs, was born July 21, 1938.
He graduated from Wheaton High School in 1956 and attended Drury College and Southwest Missouri State College prior to enlisting in the United States Air Force March 1959. He was accepted as an aviation cadet and entered navigator training at Harlingen Air Force Base, Texas. He was commissioned a 2nd Lieutenant in August 1960. After attending Radar Intercept Officer School and serving with the 2nd Fighter Intercept Squadron, Long Island, New York, LTCOL Higgs was selected for pilot training and received his pilot wings at Williams Air Force Base, Arizona in 1964.
LTCOL Higgs served in a variety of tactical fighter assignments over the next six years. These assignments included three tours at George AFB and two tours in Southeast Asia with the 431st and the 555th Tactical Fighter Squadrons. In 1970, he was assigned to the Air Force Plant Representative Office, Mc-Donnell Douglas Corporation, St. Louis, Missouri. There he was one of the first USAF pilots to check out the F-15 Eagle and he was the on-site project officer for a special F-15 test program; Project Streak Eagle, which led to the setting of eight world class time-to-climb records for the United States.
LTCOL Higgs spent a majority of his career logging more than 4,300 hours in various fighter aircraft. These included the F-101, F-4 and the F-15. He flew over 250 combat missions, including 158 missions over North Vietnam. His military decorations include the Legion of Merit, the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Meritorious Service Medal, the Air Medal, the Air Force Commendation Medal and the Outstanding Unit Award.
In June of 1970, Joe married the woman of his dreams, his soul mate for eternity, Jaclyn Harter. For the past 36 years they cherished each moment together, falling in love over and over again. Joe and Jackie thoroughly enjoyed their retirement years, traveling the world and basking in the love of their children and grandchildren. They greeted everyday as an adventure whether sitting at the kitchen table enjoying a glass of wine or walking hand in hand through the streets of Rome.
In April of 1979, Joe fulfilled a life-long dream by retiring from the United States Air Force and returning to his roots and the hometown he loved. Those who knew Joe knew he lived his life by the core values of honor and integrity. He never knew a stranger and was always willing to lend a helping hand. Joe was very active in the community serving on the Wheaton School Board, past Worshipful Master of the Comfort Masonic Lodge #533, and was very instrumental in the organization and functions of the Shoal Creek Watershed Group as well as the Wheaton Centennial Project. Joe and Jackie, working side by side, owned and operated the Wheaton Tractor Company for a number of years providing a valuable service to the farming community.
Joe was called home early from this life February 1, 2007, at Barnes Jewish Hospital in St. Louis, Missouri, at the age of 68. He was surrounded by family and friends until the end. Joe is survived by his loving wife of 36 years, Jaclyn Higgs; a son Lieutenant Commander Robin Higgs and wife Denise of St. Augustine, Fla.; two daughters, Jaclyn Kellye Higgs of Oakland, Calif., and Shanna Payne and husband David of Aurora, Mo.; a sister Betty Lamberson and husband Ralph of Wheaton, Mo.; and step-mother Ruth Higgs of Wheaton, Mo. As well as his four precious grandchildren, Jacob, Aidan, Kaya, and Isabelle who will all sorely miss their Papa Joe.
Friends are invited to the visitation that will be held Tuesday Feb. 6, between 6 and 8 p.m. at the Buchanan Funeral Home, 301 Euclid Ave Monett, Mo. Funeral services will occur Wednesday, Feb. 8 at 1 p.m. at Buchanan with burial services to follow at the Maplewood Cemetery, Exeter, Mo.
Donations in lieu of flowers can be made to the Air War Courage Foundation in the Memory of Lieutenant Colonel Gary J. Higgs. The Air War College is an affiliate of the Red River Valley Fighter Pilots Association (RRVA) and for over 30 years the RRVA has provided scholarship assistance to dependents of U.S. military personnel killed-in-action, missing-in-action, prisoner-of-war or killed while performing air crew duties in a non combat aircraft accident. The RRVA's guiding principles are Pride of Patriotism and Defense of the Constitution.
AIR WAR COURAGE FOUNDATION
P.O. Box 1916
Harrisonburg, VA 22801
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