By Kevin Wilson: CNJ staff writer
Alan “Al” Jolly loved people, a clean car and the Dallas Cowboys. But his greatest love was for airmen just finding their way at Cannon Air Force Base.
Jolly, a former Cannon airman, Realtor and car sales manager, died Tuesday at Plains Regional Medical Center. He was 79.
Born Dec. 28, 1930, in Denver, Jolly enlisted in the Air Force in 1951. Then 20, Jolly started at F.E. Warren Air Force Base in Wyoming, and soon became a communications instructor. He spent time at four bases, including Cannon and Hahn Air Base in Germany.
Jolly wasn’t a career military man, leaving the Air Force in 1955 as a staff sergeant. He relocated to Clovis, where he got a sales position at Doc Stewart Chevrolet and Buick. Within a year, he was the vice president and general manager.
Bill Kinyon, a longtime agent at Clovis Insurance Center, said the car dealership was one of the center’s clients, and he could tell from visits that Jolly was a “born salesman” and great motivator.
He continued in that position until his retirement in 1988, and later obtained his Realtor’s license.
However, he never forgot his time in the military. He and his wife, Freddie, organized a Christmas party for airmen. When Jolly addressed the airmen, he mentioned his 1952 Christmas at Cannon.
“That was something deep in his heart,” Freddie Jolly said. “He was an airman here and didn’t get to go home at Christmas time. He understood what it was like.”
The couple started handling the event in 1997 and raised $2,500 the first year. That total, Freddie Jolly said, jumped to $10,000 for the most recent event.
Kinyon said Jolly was the originator of a newcomers briefing, a 30-year tradition where he would meet new airmen for coffee and update them on what Clovis had to offer.
“He always had a special feeling for the enlisted guys,” Kinyon said.
He also served as the president of the Clovis Chamber of Commerce in 1973 and chairman of the Committee of Fifty in 1976 and 1977, and helped organize and raise funds for Cannon AFB Appreciation Day and numerous air shows.
“It was constant,” stepson Alain Burnett of Alamogordo said of Jolly’s community service. “He and my mom were going to functions weekly.”
Burnett called Jolly his mentor and noted that whenever he spoke, “the room got quiet (and) everybody listened.”
Freddie called her husband of 15 years, “a sweetheart and a half,” and bought a car and a home from him long before they pursued a relationship. But one argument they always had was over football — she was a fan of the Houston Oilers, and later the Houston Texans, and he stuck to the Dallas Cowboys. She said he went to one game at the stadium many years ago, but said the view was better on his TV at home and never went to a game again.
Tom Phelps, the current chamber president, said it was a “no-brainer” to award Jolly with the Ken Huey Patriot Award at the chamber banquet in January.
“He had an absolute love for the airmen,” said Phelps, who said he didn’t personally know Jolly until the two served on jury duty for a small case four years ago. “I think his record over the last number of years helping coordinate that Single Airmen’s Christmas party signifies his appreciation and respect and love for the airmen.”
Kinyon, also a neighbor, said he would see Jolly out during the days washing his cars and during the night on neighborhood watch.
“He watched the neighborhood like a hawk,” Kinyon said. “If anything was going on, he knew about it.”