ALEXANDRIA, VA – Retired Air Force Colonel Jerome “Jerry” Joseph Palermino of Alexandria, Virginia passed away peacefully on December 31, 2019 in Washington, DC at age 87. Jerry is survived by his beloved wife of 56 years, Patricia “Patty” McMullin Palermino.
Jerry and Patty, a native of Hillside, New Jersey, were married on July 11, 1964 at St. Ann’s in the Pines Catholic Church in Browns Mills, New Jersey. Jerry was the loving and devoted father of his surviving children, Jerome “Jay” Joseph Palermino, Jr. of Alexandria, Virginia, and daughters, Beth Wilson (Robert) of Seattle, Washington, and Lisa Jones (Blake) of Leesburg, Virginia. He was also a doting grandfather to grandsons Evan, Cameron, Ethan, and Braden Jones, all of Leesburg, Virginia.
Jerry was born in Brooklyn, New York on June 14, 1932 (Flag Day) to Joseph Palermino and Ethel Santowsky Palermino. He graduated in 1950 from Peter Stuyvesant High School, a college preparatory school in New York City. Following graduation, Jerry enlisted in the US Navy as a seaman apprentice, the start of a distinguished, decorated, and honorable 26-year career in the US Armed Forces. While on active duty, Jerry earned a bachelor’s degree in history and political science, and master’s degrees in public administration, business administration, and business management.
After being honorably discharged from the US Navy in 1952, Jerry enlisted in the US Air Force and completed airman basic training at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas. In 1953, he graduated from aviation cadet school and was commissioned a 2nd Lieutenant in the US Air Force. Following rigorous flight training, he “earned his wings” and became an aircraft navigator.
Modern aviators rely on global positioning systems and other electronics, but Jerry was trained to use a demanding process that included charts, maps, and radar to determine flight routes and to guide aircraft safely to its destination. Jerry was a skilled and proven navigator because of his unique ability to remain calm, decisive, nimble, and inspire confidence in others during challenging circumstances.
Jerry enlisted with the expectation that he would be sent to serve in the Korean War. However, the Air Force had other plans in mind, and sent him first to the Philippines and then to Japan, where he served as a flight navigator on special ops missions throughout the Pacific.
Career and Family Man
After marrying his sweetheart Patty in 1964, Jerry was stationed at Hunter Air Force Base in Savannah, Georgia, where he served as chief of management analysis branch and wing briefing manager. Following the birth of twins, Beth and Jay, in 1965, the family then moved to Norton Air Force Base in San Bernardino, California, where Jerry served as chief of management analysis and pre-trial investigating officer.
He would later become the base operations flight examiner and receive promotion to the ranks of Major and Lieutenant Colonel. In 1970, as a Major, The Department of the Air Force awarded Jerry The Air Force Commendation Medal for Meritorious Service. In 1972, as a Lieutenant Colonel, President Richard Nixon awarded him The Bronze Star for Meritorious Service. A daughter, Lisa, was born in San Bernardino in 1969.
Jerry served in the Vietnam War with the 31st Tactile Fighter Wing in Tui-Hoa. As base closure officer, he closed Tui-Hoa and turned it over to the US Army-becoming a model for future base closures throughout Vietnam. Following the change of command, Jerry became the squadron commander in charge of 300 airmen, during which the base was put under martial law.
In 1971, the Palermino family moved to the Washington, DC area and Jerry was reassigned to the Pentagon. Two years later, Jerry was transferred to the Air Force Systems Command at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland and promoted to the rank of Colonel. In 1975, as a Colonel, President Gerald Ford awarded Jerry with The Legion of Merit for Exceptionally Meritorious Conduct in the Performance of Outstanding Services.
Life in Alexandria
Following Jerry’s retirement from the US Air Force in 1975, the Palermino family settled in Alexandria, Virginia. Jerry began a second career as a civilian, working in a senior position with the Mail Handlers Benefit Plan, a federal employee health plan provider. Up until his second retirement, Jerry commuted each day to DC by bus, where he was appointed “mayor of the 11Y,” an honorary title that fully characterizes his warm, witty, and gregarious persona.
Among his many, wide-ranging interests were reading, classic movies, history, sports, classical music, travel, good food, friends, family, and, most importantly, his dear Patty.
The professional US Air Force ethic consists of three fundamental and enduring core values of “integrity first, service before self, and excellence in all we do.” For those who knew and loved him, Jerry embodied those values throughout his well-lived life.
A visitation will be held at Demaine Funeral Home at 520 South Washington Street, Alexandria, on Friday, January 10, 2020 from 4 – 7 p.m. A Mass of Christian Burial will be held Saturday, January 11, 2020 at 11 a.m. at the Basilica of Saint Mary at 310 S Royal St, Alexandria. Interment with full honors will be held at Arlington National Cemetery on a later date. Details will be provided once a date has been assigned. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to Wounded Warrior Project at: support.woundedwarriorproject.org/.