A Tale of Two Uncles

Most families have a service member in their past who died in an American war. Gil and I realized that we each had an uncle, one a brother to my mother, one a brother to his mother, who had earned a reputation among his descendants for valor. These, in a highly abbreviated form, are their stories.

Jere Brown Coats


As a rebellious young man in tiny, rural Greenfield, Tennessee, Jere always threatened to run off and join the Navy. He was smart, handsome and charismatic, the only son alongside three daughters, and his parents had other ideas for him. So he left Georgia Tech without notifying the folks, bound for Pensacola Naval Air Station, where he trained to fly off aircraft carriers. He dreamed of one day joining the Blue Angels.

In his last letter to his sister Betty, my mother, he apologized for not keeping in touch. He wrote that he was with “the first all missile squadron carrying Sparrow ‘3’s” and Sidewinders, flying the supersonic F3H ‘Demon.’” Stationed at NAS Oceana at Virginia Beach, he died in a flameout on takeoff in May 1957, with not enough altitude for a safe ejection. He was 23 years old.


Gilbert Calef “Sonny” Procter, Jr.

Gilbert Calef Sonny Procter

The eldest of three siblings, Sonny had the reputation in the family of being somewhat stern, with a mean golf swing. He introduced his younger brother to a lifelong passion for golf. We don’t know much more than that he died on the operating table in an Army hospital in Italy during the Second World War. The procedure was supposed to be routine, the death was unexpected and it serves to highlight the fact that not all war casualties come in combat.


Filed under History, Home, Jean Zimmerman

7 responses to “A Tale of Two Uncles

  1. Thanks Ross, I enjoyed seineg those streets again.The place called Alibi Room on MacDougal was the Scrap Bar in the late 80s, where I spent many a wayward evening after getting off my bookstore job about 11:30, often not returning to Long Island City on the double R until the morning daylight. Youth!West Village, definitely on my itinerary next time I’m in the city.- Jonku

  2. I wrote you separately. Thank you!

  3. Jean, thank you so much for doing this. I means so much to me! I plan to send it to all members of our large family so thay might know a little more about Uncle Jere. Love you, Sandra

  4. Glad you liked it, Mom.

  5. Lori

    My father’s two brothers were both in the military in the end of WWII. One was in the Navy in the east coast fleet and the other was in the Army. Uncle Dick was in the Army for only a couple of years at the very end of the war and never saw action. Uncle Tom was in the Navy and served aboard ships as a flight technician.
    My mother’s brothers both served in the Army, but that’s all I know. I should find out more about them before they are all gone.

  6. M.

    Jean, This is such a touching Memorial Day remembrance. It means a lot to me, even though it brings back sad memories.

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