Widgetized Section

Go to Admin » Appearance » Widgets » and move Gabfire Widget: Social into that MastheadOverlay zone

Billy Joe Gentry

By Staff, 07/7/21 2:35 PM

Billy Joe Gentry was born on May 15, 1932, to Gladys Marie Reece and Joseph Byers Gentry in Hempstead County, Arkansas. Born at home weighing 13 pounds, his heroic qualities quickly became obvious.  At the tender age of 5, he made his initial contribution to his family’s upkeep by shooting his first game bird, which was followed by countless squirrels, swamp rabbits, and other game.  That same year, he joined his family in the cotton fields, his daily haul equaling that of a grown man.  In his early school years, he rescued his younger sister when she fell into a river on the way to school.  As a 4thgrader, he quietly attended an academic competition, where he won first place in the mathematics event and was awarded a certificate his mother cherished. In addition to these notable feats during his childhood, he spent many enjoyable hourstrudging through the woods with a game bag and a shotgun, hunting squirrels.

Billy Joe graduated from Hope High School in 1950 and joined the U.S. Navy. He attended radio school, which led to Morse code being a way he (unsuccessfully) tried to communicate with his teenage daughters in later life. He then attended Officer Candidate School and flight school and achieved a commission in the U.S. Marine Corps.  At the age of 19, he was awarded his wings as a Naval Aviator at a time when most pilots had Ivy League educations.

Billy Joe attended Oklahoma State University where he earned a B.S. in Money and Banking.  He completed post-graduate work in Economics at OSU and the University of Chicago. He graduated at the top of his class and participated in think tanks and other strategic initiatives as a student.

While at OSU, Billy Joe met Peggy Ellen Groover, who agreed to marry him in 1962, shocking his friends who were convinced that she must have proposed to him, given his shyness. He often referred to her as a little red hen because he admired her hard-working industriousness.  Bill and Peggy had two daughters and lived in the Dallas area for 59 years.

Bill ended his professional career with Metropolitan Life Insurance Company with his induction into their elite Sales Hall of Fame in April 1992 and his retirement in 1993. He and Peggy took off across the U.S. in their big blue truck, visiting all 48 of the contiguous U.S. states, plus Alaska.  They flew to Hawaii.

Bill was a lifelong outdoorsman, spending many weeks of every year hunting deer and elk in Texas and Colorado. He loved to hunt squirrels and catch fish in East Texas with his friends and spent much of his leisure time preparing for each outing. He was also interested in new technology, painting, and reading history and other books.  He was a deep thinker who could often be found combining his interests by sitting in his recliner, deep in thought, while simultaneously using a finger strengthener to keep his trigger finger ready.  Bill was a longtime practitioner of mental calisthenics and could average a long column of numbers in his head, to the amazement of his daughters.

Bill is survived by his wife of 59 years, Peggy.  He is also survived by his sister, Alice Arnett, of Emmet, Arkansas.  His love of wordplay and reading that he fostered lives on in his daughters Lisa Ormsbee (Bryan) and Linda Aull (Michael). His legacy also lives on in his grandchildren: his grandson, Joseph Duebner, who carries on his love of and excellence at math; his grandson, Luke Ormsbee, who carries on his compassion and devotion to his family; and his granddaughter, Arden Ormsbee, who carries on his fierce independence and determination.