James Chesley Garrison

James Chesley “JAY” Garrison,  age 100, of Flagstaff, Arizona, died  November 25, 2017 in Flagstaff, AZ. Jay was born November 20, 1917 as JC Garrison near Banks, Arkansas. His father, James Chesley, died when he was 8 years old.   He and his mother moved from Arkansas to California in 1935, when JC was 17 years old. 

In 1939, JC accepted Jesus as his Lord and Savior and 2 years later entered Pacific Bible Seminary in Long Beach, and began preparing for full time Christian ministry. During this time, he was introduced to Ruth Joy Valentine by a close friend and the couple married in 1942.

JC enlisted in the Army Air Corp in 1942 but because the military wouldn’t accept initials for a name, he officially took his father’s name:  James Chesley. Jay enrolled in Office Candidate School, graduating as a 2nd LT and in 1944, he trained as a bombardier onboard B-17s.  Even after WWII, Jay chose to continue in the Air Force reserve. His last assignment with the USAF was as the Air Force Academy liaison officer for Northern Arizona.  He retired as a Major in 1971. 

After Jay was honorably discharged from active duty, he returned to seminary studies at PBS. Jay was ordained into Christian ministry in 1947 and graduated in 1948. Jay’s first ministerial position was at the First Christian Church in Texhoma, OK.  In 1951, Jay moved his family to Flagstaff to become the minister at First Church of Christ (Christian).  Jay served as the Christian Church minister for 8 years. In 1959, Jay resigned from the ministry and began a career in public education. Jay completed four degrees from Ariz State College (now NAU) and both taught and counseled in the Flagstaff schools.  He retired from FUSD in 1981.

Throughout his life, Jay was always an accomplished athlete. He played baseball, basketball and ran track in Camden, AK. Jay also set a base record for pull-ups during his OCS training. After heart bi-pass surgery in 1981, he began to walk 4 miles a day around Buffalo Park, which he continued until age 91!

Jay loved the outdoors! During several of his summer breaks from FUSD, Jay enjoyed working as a Park Service ranger at Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument, where he began his love of bird watching. Summers also found him cutting firewood for winter and he hunted until he was 77 years old. Jay was also a great fisherman, enjoying both lakes & rivers in Arizona & Oregon. He even did a little white water rafting in Oregon, when he was 84!

Jay turned 100 on Nov 20th and was blessed by the birthday celebration of a lifetime!  More than 100 people came & honored him for his birthday with the gift of their love & appreciation for his life & legacy.  He truly was “100 YEARS LOVED”! When the whole crowd sang him Happy Birthday, he lit up with a great big smile! On Sunday, the celebration continued with lots of pictures and the family sharing communion with him. The day after his birthday, Jay also helped celebrate his youngest great-grandson Chesley’s first birthday!

A short five days after his 100th birthday, Jay slipped into a deep sleep and then passed peacefully into the arms of Jesus. So Jay is continuing his birthday celebration by celebrating with Jesus, his wife Ruth and many other friends and family who were waiting for him in heaven! 

Jay was preceded in death by his beloved wife Ruth who passed away in 2008.  He is survived by daughters Daun (Bill) Newman of Evansville, IN; Karen (Jim) Larsen of Talent, OR and son David (Valerie) of Flagstaff, AZ.  He is also survived by 8 grandchildren and 17 great-grandchildren.

Since Jay was able to be present at & enjoy his own Celebration of Life just days before passing, the family decided to have just a short graveside service on Saturday, December 16, 2017; 2PM at Citizens Cemetery, Flagstaff. In the event of in-climate weather, please check Norvel Owens Mortuary’s website or call them for an alternative service site. (www.norvelowensmortuary.com  or 928-774-2211)  In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in his name to Christ’s Church of Flagstaff, Missions ministry or Northland Hospice.

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