GERALD EMILE PITCHFORD
Gerald Emile Pitchford, son of the late John and Inez Hunter Pitchford, passed away in his wife's embrace in Santa Fe, NM on February 18, 2021.
Gerald was the eighth of twelve children (four sisters, eight brothers), ten of whom lived into adulthood. The seven surviving boys all served in the US military. The children were all raised at the family residence on St. Charles Avenue, Natchez, MS, which has remained the same family residence since 1919.
Having been raised by a staunch Catholic family, Gerald graduated from the Cathedral School in 1953, at age 17. Gerald drew his compassion for his fellow human beings from his uncle, Monsignor Charles Hunter who was honored by the NAACP for activism in the Civil Rights Movement.
After graduation, when Gerald was unable to enlist in USMC in Natchez, due to filled quotas, he hitchhiked 90 miles to Monroe, LA, to take the USMC enlistment oath. The enlistment people knew they had an enthusiastic and fitting candidate and drove him all the way back to Natchez for his parents' consent, as he was underage. Upon signing and being sent to New Orleans, he was put in charge of several recruits, and they were sent to San Diego for basic training. Before his enlistment, Gerald had never traveled more than 20 miles outside of Natchez.
Early in his basic training, he and his siblings, 2nd Lt. John Pitchford, USAF, 2nd Lt. Charles Pitchford, USMC, Richard Pitchford, USMC Recruit Trainee, and Navy Seamen Tom and Frank Pitchford, were given emergency leave to attend the funeral of their father. Gerald always said that his four years in the Marines in San Diego, CA changed the course of his life and exposed him to different possibilities for his life's work.
Gerald, as well as all of his brothers, used the G.I. Bill to go to college. Gerald attended Louisiana Tech, majoring in Engineering before transferring to Ole Miss, where he changed his major to Accounting. After graduating, he was employed by Haskins-Sells in Houston, TX, and enrolled in the South Texas College of Law. He became one of a select number of professionals who hold both a CPA degree and a JD degree. He practiced law, and in his spare time helped manage his brother's bar in Houston.
In 1971, he accepted a position with the U.S. Defense Department Audit Agency. He agreed to go to Saigon, South Vietnam, partly motivated to find out information about his brother Jack who had been held prisoner by the North Vietnamese at the "Hanoi Hilton" since December, 1965. When Jack was released on February 12, 1973, Gerald was able to reunite with him on the following day at Clark AFB. Miraculously, half a century later in spiritual Santa Fe, Gerald met the young teenager who had worn Jack's POW bracelet and had prayed for seven years for his safe return.
Later, Gerald worked for USAID and had assignments in Central America. He coordinated biannual Parliamentary Congressional meetings between the U.S., Canada, and Mexico. He served as staff consultant on the Foreign Affairs Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives for eighteen years, with a specialty in twenty countries in Africa. Yara always kidded him that he had an "Indiana Jones" kind of job at this stage in his career.
Gerald is survived by his soulmate, his broken-hearted wife Yara, whom he married in the historic Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis in 1987. He is also survived by his brother, James Pitchford, and wife, Leigh; his sister, Judy Pitchford Bartley; and many beloved nieces and nephews. Yara wants to thank three magnificent angels who made Gerald's final journey as painless and peaceful as possible…Michele, Carmella, and Emma.
Gerald will be joining his large family, some dating back to the late 19th century, in the Natchez City Cemetery.
Burial will be at a future date on the Old Jewish Hill overlooking the magnificent Mississippi River.
Published in Santa Fe New Mexican from Feb. 24 to Feb. 26, 2021.