Col. Sydney E. Key, USAF Retired
December 14, 1921 - January 31, 2018
Retired US Air Force Col. Sydney Erwin Key, 96, of Arlington, TX passed peacefully from this earthly life at his home surrounded by his loving daughters on January 31, 2018 after a brief illness. Sydney has now joined his beloved wife, Sherry, who at 91, passed away just three months earlier. Sydney was born on a farm near Kirkland in Childress County, Texas, to Jess A. and Naomi (Pieratt) Key on December 14, 1921. He graduated from Kirkland High School in 1939 and enrolled at Texas Tech in Lubbock to study architecture,
In early 1942, shortly after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, he entered military service as a pilot in the US Army Air Corps, His principal duties after getting his "wings" was as an Instructor Pilot in the C-47 aircraft carrying paratroopers and/or towing gliders with the 45th Troop Carrier Squadron. In the last months of World War II, he served as a pilot in the 15th Fighter Group in the Pacific.
In the spring of 1943, a fairy tale romance began that would lead to 73 years of marriage. While attending training at the University of Denver, Sydney was riding on a troop train with thousands of Army/Air Corps cadets and spotted this beautiful girl sitting on a streetcar waiting for the train to pass. He fell in love with her at first sight. Weeks later, he saw her by chance again at a store in downtown Denver and the rest is history. Sydney and Sherry were married on April 16, 1944.
In the early 1950’s, Sydney served three years as a pilot for an Air Search and Rescue Squadron in Alaska. He served in Korea in the late 1950’s as a pilot and engineer and then spent five years with the Air Force Ballistic Missile Division in Los Angeles involved with the development and construction of the first Minute Man missile sites, During the mid-1960's he was with NATO Headquarters located in Fontainebleau, France and was involved with Army missile site construction in Germany. He served in Vietnam in 1967 and Thailand in 1968. During his military career, he piloted a wide variety of aircraft and served on five continents. He was awarded the Legion of Merit medal and 17 lesser decorations during his career, earning a Command Pilot’s wings, and an Air Force Missile badge. Col. Key ended his military career filling major USAF Headquarters engineering assignments while living in San Antonio and Arlington, TX. After proudly serving his country for over 30 years, he retired in 1978.
Sydney was a graduate of Texas Tech with a Bachelor of Architecture degree and was a registered Texas architect until his retirement from the Air Force. As a result of his profession, he was awarded the first USAF Design Excellence Award medal at the Air Force Academy two years after his retirement for his major improvement of architectural design of structures on Air Force bases world-wide.
His other professional affiliations were with the American Institute of Architects, Institute of Urban Design, American Planning Association, and Society of American Military Engineers. Past civic organizations included the Jr. Chamber of Commerce, the American Legion and the Girl Scouts as a troop leader in Torrance, CA He and his wife, Sherry, were also past leaders of the Arlington Hi-Riders 4-H Club in Arlington, TX. He served as an Elder with the Redondo Beach Methodist Church in California. He was a member of the Childress Masonic Lodge for over 70 years as well as a charter member of the Fort Worth Scottish Rite and a member of the Moslah Shrine.
Through the years Sydney held strong ties with Childress County where he was born. He was a long time supporter of the Childress County Heritage Museum, donating his time to provide architectural services to the design and renovation of the old Post Office to the museum configuration. He later designed and carved the letters in the wood for the corner museum sign as well as helped to construct the sign and cut his cattle brand, Jk connected, into the lower right hand corner. In addition, he donated artifacts to the museum including a map of the eastern part of the county from Childress to the county line showing the families who owned/rented the farms in the early days up to about 1950. Sydney was also responsible for providing the entrance sign for the Kirkland Cemetery and assisted the committee with the Childress County Veterans Memorial project.
After his retirement from the military, he became heavily involved in family genealogy, tracing his family origins and connecting some lines for 15 generations. Sydney enjoyed a good game of golf in his younger years, but more recently he enjoyed playing Words with Friends on his IPad that his daughters gave him for his 90th birthday! He could play a variety of instruments, including the piano, organ and guitar, and, even though he couldn’t read a note of music, he could play just about any tune beautifully. He also had a talent for being able to fix just about anything! Sydney loved to tell stories of growing up on a farm in rural Texas and about his flying adventures as a pilot in the Air Force, but his all-time favorite thing to do was watch his favorite football teams (Dallas Cowboys, Denver Broncos, Texas Tech and TCU) on TV. He was an amazing father and husband who always put his family first. His support and love made him a hero to his daughters and grandson. He will be missed beyond measure by his entire family as well as his neighbors and friends.
Sydney was preceded in death by his wife of 73 years, Sherry; his parents, Jess A. and Naomi Pieratt Key; sister, Jean Parrish; and nephew, Gary Kim Parrish.
Sydney is survived by two daughters, Vicki Key of Lubbock and Cindi Key Moore and husband Tom of Burleson; a grandson Cody Key Moore and wife Kristin of Lubbock; a sister, Jo Beth Leonard of Fort Worth; nephews Dan Leonard (Toni) of Childress, TX, Toby Leonard (Roxanne) of Fort Worth, Terry Parrish (Sheila) of Longmont, CO and niece Kay (Parrish) Sutter of Fairview, NC, several great nieces and nephews, and his beloved pets: Anna Belle, Ginny and Squawker.
At Sydney's request, there will be no funeral service. Arrangements are being handled by Wade Funeral Home in Arlington, TX. Inurnment of Sydney's ashes, along with those of his late wife Sherry, will take place during a committal service with military honors at the Dallas/Fort Worth National Cemetery on Monday, March 12, 2018 at 2:30p.m. In lieu of flowers, the family suggests that memorial contributions in Sydney and Sherry's name be sent to the Childress County Heritage Museum, 210 3rd St. NW, Childress, TX 79201.
The following poem by John Gillespie Magee Jr., beautifully reflects his spirit as a military pilot.
“Oh, I have slipped the surly bonds of earth,
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I've climbed and joined the tumbling mirth of sun-split clouds -
and done a hundred things You have not dreamed of -
wheeled and soared and swung high in the sunlit silence.
Hovering there I've chased the shouting wind along
and flung my eager craft through footless halls of air.
Up, up the long delirious burning blue
I've topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace,
where never lark, or even eagle, flew;
and, while with silent, lifting mind I've trod
the high untrespassed sanctity of space,
put out my hand and touched the face of God."
Wade Family Funeral Home