Jerry W. Ragsdale left his earthly journey and began his heavenly journey February 21, 2021. His life is an example of running the race with endurance and the hard work necessary to realize your dreams. Jerry was born in Marshfield, Missouri on August 4, 1947 to the modest family of Eugene and Vieta Ragsdale. His early life was marked immediately by striving above your circumstance through persistent hard work while daring to dream big. His gaze was lifted beyond Marshfield, first to The College of the Ozarks, fittingly known as Hard Work U, where students work to pay their tuition, room and board. From there he went to Dallas, Texas where he enrolled at Southern Methodist University, joined the Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity and earned a Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering in 1970. It was there that he met and fell in love with Sue Ward. They were married in 1970.
With a dual interest in civil engineering and the military, he developed a lifelong ambition of doing both at the same time. And doing them well. He began his business career as an engineer in real estate development and was also commissioned a Second Lieutenant in the Texas Air National Guard. To further his dream to succeed in both his career dreams, he went back to SMU where he earned a BBA in 1997 and an MBA in 1981. Jerry’s hard work resulted in rapid advancement in the USAF culminating in his promotion to Commander of the Texas Air National Guard, Brigadier General in 1998 and Major General in 2001. At the same time, Jerry was involved in helping develop the communities of Lake Forest, Dallas and Stonebridge Ranch in McKinney, among many others.
His military achievements include dealing with sweeping changes at Camp Mabry in Austin in the aftermath of 9/11 and deploying his command to aid the recovery of the people of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.
During the period of national downsizing of the military he was instrumental in obtaining the Predator aircraft for 147th Reconnaissance Wing and maintaining the C-130s for the 136th Airlift Wing. He visited Washington D.C. regularly to advocate for the force, garnering funding and equipment worthy of his mission for his fellow Texans. Jerry mentored his staff of the men and women under his command, instilling their pride in the state they served to equal his own love of Texas. Major General Ragsdale regularly said, “The greatest privilege I will ever have is to wear the military uniform of the United States of America”. His military awards included the Legion of Merit, Texas Legion of Merit, Meritorious Service Medal, Air Force Commendation Medal and the Texas Faithful Service Medal.
He was also an effective and wise mentor to many business associates. His business and civic achievements were honored as well. Jerry was a member of the SMU School of Engineering Executive Board, Vice Chairman of the Greater Dallas Veterans Foundation, a director of the Texas Youth Foundation and the Northwest Dallas Flood Control District.
Jerry was honored in a book from the College of the Ozarks entitled The Four Generals of Hard Work U and was given the Alumni Leadership Award and the Great American Award. He was named an Outstanding Alumni of Marshfield High School.
His legion of friends would tell you he was a man of great integrity and dignity. His wry sense of humor showed itself by naming the family dog Shiner after one of his favorite beverages. He was relentlessly positive and cheerful. Even at the hardest moments of his fight with Parkinson’s, when asked how he was, he would say in a strong, enthusiastic voice, “Perfect.”
Jerry will be missed by his family, his son Jonathon, and especially Sue, the love of his life, to whom he was married for fifty years. The Lunch with Rags group of fraternity brothers who, in his later stages, met with him every Thursday to break bread and remember shared experiences will think of him daily and treasure his friendship and unyielding courage in the face of his disease.
A memorial service to celebrate Jerry’s life will be held in May. He will proudly be interred in the Texas State Cemetery. In lieu of flowers, donations to honor Jerry should be made to the College of the Ozarks, Development Office Box 17, Point Lookout Missouri 65726.