Jerry “Pops” Ward Allen, age 85, passed away on March 20, 2023, surrounded by love and family in his home in Avon, Connecticut.
Jerry was born in Hackett, Arkansas in 1937 to Word Monroe Allen and Hettie Jane Kating Allen. A misunderstanding of his father’s first name led to Jerry’s and his son Brad’s middle names being incorrectly spelled as Ward. Apparently not wanting to leave his daughter Dana out of the family naming error tradition, Jerry misspelled her middle name on her birth certificate, a secret he kept for 40 years.
Raised in Fort Smith, Arkansas, Jerry and his brother James got to Texas as soon as they could, becoming proud Delta County boys when they moved to Cooper, Texas, the town Jerry’s youngest grandson was named after in his honor. After losing his mother as a teen, Jerry was fortunate enough to get taken in by the Rowe family, being well-fed and well-loved by matriarch Katherine and forming a lifelong “kin-to-kin” connection with the beloved Rowe siblings Don, Butch, Avon, Buddy, and Karen aka Tooter. One of his lifelong claims to fame was being present when the first man in Delta County to ever wear short-legged britches showed up in the Cooper town square.
During high school, Jerry was a poultry judge, so dedicated to his duty that he dumped his prom date on another fellow so he could judge a poultry contest in Central Texas. He graduated from Cooper High School and was the first in his family to graduate from college, earning his Bachelor of Science degree in accounting and sociology from East Texas State University, which is now Texas A&M-Commerce but he would never claim to be an Aggie.
In 1960, he married the love of his life, Clara Nell Vandever, and they moved to Paris, Texas shortly thereafter. These 50 years of adventures included aiding and abetting his wife’s various escapades, most notably driving the getaway car in the infamous Juarez, Mexico poblano pepper patch heist with his dear friend and brother-in-law Buddy Mullins and his wife Robbie.
In his 70s, after his wife’s passing in 2010, Jerry opened his mind and heart to other adventures, moving cross country not once but twice, to California and Connecticut, where he expanded the local vernacular to include “fixin’ to’s,” “reckons,” “yee-haws,” and tales of tornadoes, ‘possums, and the glory of chicken fried steak.
A proud veteran, Jerry rose to the rank of E7 Sergeant First Class, serving for 23 years in multiple branches: the Air Force, where he was stationed in Thule, Greenland for a year, the Army, and both the Air Force and Army Reserves. He had a long career as an accountant at Campbell Soup and at the Texas Highway Department. He was a member of the Baptist Temple and Ramseur Baptist Church in Paris, Texas, where he served as an Awana volunteer for church youth.
With a fighter’s spirit, Jerry faced and overcame significant health challenges over the last half of his life: a brain aneurysm, a major stroke, lung collapses, and heart issues, but Heaven help us whenever he got the sniffles, which foretold the end of the world.
He enjoyed bowling and was a writer of short stories, focusing on his Arkansas childhood and based loosely on tales from his father, an actual train-riding hobo. He was an armchair farmer and loved researching and planning gardens with his beloved daughter-in-law Kerry and then harvesting vegetables, however, eating said vegetables was not among his favorite things. He was a huge fan of hillbilly music plus early rock n’ roll, which, according to his very strongly held beliefs, died in 1964 when the Beatles came to America and forever ruined the genre.
Jerry never met a stranger – or a buffet that he didn’t try to eat out of business. He loved getting free stuff, particularly his annual epic quests for Veterans Day freebies that were documented on social media, and he could extreme coupon with the best. He was a baseball fan, exceptionally proud of his son’s youth teams, and he could beat the pants off anyone who was foolish enough to challenge him at Trivial Pursuit.
He loved his ever-expanding modern family with all his heart and embraced the silly at every opportunity. His kids traveled with him at bedtime to Timbuktu and Kalamazoo in the elaborately constructed bed-tent tunnel he built. In the winters, even after working all night as a dispatcher during snow and ice storms, he would come home in the morning to play, building massive snow forts or pulling the kids down icy roads on old oil drum lids. On Halloween, he hauled in loads of dirt to turn the family lawn into a graveyard, built haunted mazes out of appliance boxes, and performed as a Mad Doctor in a backyard shadow theater.
Jerry tortured his children through adulthood with his horribly off-key version of “You Are My Sunshine” and encouraged them to read Edgar Allan Poe and Isaac Asimov at far too young an age. He hyped his kids up about the opening of the original Star Wars movie for months and, when it turned out that he had to be away at Army Reserve summer camp on opening night, he convinced his wife to drag two kids under the age of 7 to the theater way past bedtime. He saw the show simultaneously in Michigan and then called the kids at midnight afterward to relive the experience over the phone, firmly instilling the Jedi mindset of good over evil that his children still live by today.
He gave his family and many friends memories and hilarity to last a thousand lifetimes: getting half a haircut, mistaking waffle batter for gravy, and performing the most awkward before-meal blessings that ended up with everyone being scolded for giggling (“Lord, bless us, bless this food, and … give us more of it.”). He was so deeply, deeply loved, and he will be missed dearly.
Jerry was preceded in death by his parents; his wife; a daughter, Tammy Renee Allen; his brother James Allen and sister-in-law Katherine Avon Rowe Allen; and many beloved aunts, uncles, cousins, in-laws and outlaws from the Allens and his wife’s Vandever side of the family.
He is survived by his daughter, Dana Barcellos-Allen and daughter-in-law Kerry Barcellos-Allen; his son, Brad Allen and daughter-in-law Carla Allen; 15 grandchildren and great-grandchildren: Paige Allen and Matt Farmer; Chase Allen and Shaylin Begley-Allen; Reagan Kreie and Halsey Stephenson; Noah Kreie; Justin Anderson, Rosa Olvera, and Jaxson Anderson; Jordan Anderson; Dillon Anderson; Faith Anderson; Cooper Barcellos-Allen; Mikhaila Rhyan Shay-Rivera; his pets Joey, Charlie, Betty, and Moon; a bevy of much-loved Allen and Vandever nieces and nephews; and countless friends and loved ones across the country and the world.
Texas funeral services will be at Fry-Gibbs Funeral Home in Paris, Texas: visitation on March 24, from 6 to 7 p.m. Funeral services on March 25 at 11 a.m. with Pastor Allan Hubbard officiating. Interment will follow at Evergreen Cemetery. A Connecticut memorial service will be held in April at First Presbyterian Church of Hartford with the Rev. Nancy Baseel officiating.
In lieu of flowers and to honor Jerry’s military service, the family suggests donations to Hire a Hero, a veterans job placement organization, hireahero.org.
Online condolences may be sent to the Allen family by visiting fry-gibbs.com.
Welcome to the discussion.
Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.