Cover photo for Kenneth Jay Davis's Obituary
Kenneth Jay Davis Profile Photo
1937 Kenneth 2023

Kenneth Jay Davis

April 6, 1937 — September 5, 2023

Colonel Kenneth Jay Davis, 86, of Albuquerque, died unexpectedly on September 5, 2023, during heart surgery in Albuquerque, NM.

Visitation will be from 5 pm to 7 pm on September 19, 2023, at FRENCH-Wyoming. Funeral services will be held at 10 am on September 20, 2023, at St. Thomas Aquinas Church, 1502 Sara Rd SE, Rio Rancho, NM 87124, with Msgr. Douglas Raun officiating. A burial will follow at Santa Fe National Cemetery, beginning promptly at 12:30 pm.

Jay was born in Lawton, Oklahoma to Helen Mae Davis (Sarver) and Kenneth W. Davis on April 6, 1937. He completed his Bachelor of Science degree in Metallurgical Engineering at the University of Oklahoma in 1959, his Master of Science and Doctor of Philosophy in Metallurgy and Material Science at Carnegie Institute of Technology in 1962 and 1969 respectively.

Jay began his distinguished miliary career in the AFROTC at Oklahoma University and received his commission as 2nd Lieutenant upon graduation. After completion of his master's degree work at Carnegie, he began his active-duty career in the U.S. Air Force Weapons Laboratory working with enthusiasm on the material effects of nuclear particles on materials of construction used for rockets and satellites, including the use of underground nuclear testing for further understanding. Jay continued his work while being on active reserve in both the LEAPS in the Advanced Radiation Technology Directorate and the Nuclear Technology Directorate.

His penchant for leadership was recognized early on when he was responsible for resource management and overall program management of lab efforts funded by the Nuclear Defense Agency. In 1984 he was assigned to the Command Section and assumed the duties of Director of Wartime Planning. In 1985 Jay became the mobilization assistant to the Commander of the Weapons Laboratory. In May of 1990 Jay's meritorious service was recognized by President H.W. Bush through his award of the Legion of Merit where his 'singularly distinctive accomplishments culminate a long and distinguished career in the service of his country'.

Jay was employed by Computer Sciences Corporation from 1980 to 1990 and ultimately managed the Albuquerque office before leaving to return to Lawton, Oklahoma to manage the family businesses of Southwest Salvage, Wichita Hardware, and Surplus City. He proudly modernized the business' inventory systems before winding them down for retirement in 2018.

Jay never did anything by half measure and his hobbies were no exception. It is hard to imagine a more passionate supporter of the Oklahoma Sooners, Pittsburgh Steelers, or Pittsburgh Penguins. He and his father were lifetime season ticket holders of OU Football, and he relished his attendance during the 47-game unbeaten streak of the "Bud" Wilkinson era Sooners. He was a lifelong Sigma Nu fraternity brother. Jay was a highly accomplished tennis player and chuckled heartily when he annihilated his son's quests for victory against a 'much older opponent'. Jay accumulated a collection of audio recordings across his lifetime that included reel to reel, LPs, CDs, and MP3s from artists across all genres. He was the definition of an audiophile. Jay was a lover and connoisseur of the art of the west. His care of his gardens in homes in Albuquerque and Lawton was truly transformative. Jay also relished the adventure of travel with Ruthie. They especially enjoyed Santa Fe for the opera and visiting family around the world.

Jay is preceded in death by his mother Helen and father Kenneth 'Dozie' Davis.

Jay is survived by his sweetheart of 42 years, Ruthie. Theirs was a unique and special partnership that spanned the test of time and many of life's challenges. They enjoyed the social circles of the military, Lawton, Oklahoma and Albuquerque, NM including work with the Philharmonic Orchestra and Salvation Army in Lawton. They enjoyed skiing, sailing, and travel amidst career changes and medical developments - each learning from the other and drawing on each other's strengths. In the past 20 years Jay morphed into Ruthie's primary care giver, learning to curl her hair, give pedicures, and insert her earrings; all accompanied by her specific instruction. He became a grocer, cook, cleaning person, driver, and medical advocate with selfless dedication to making 'mom' happy. Jay's journey through the Rites of Christian Initiation of Adults at Our Lady of Assumption with Fr. Domme and his mentor Don Luna impacted him on the deepest level and gave further purpose to his immensely generous commitment to her. His son once described him as a living amalgamation of Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, and Jesus Christ.

Jay is survived by his cousins Suzanne Jones Crawford (Poole), Debra Gordon Jones, Russell Kent Jones, and his seven children, Catherine Davis of Oklahoma City, OK, Jennifer Davis of Jarales, NM, Stacy Iadevito of St. Charles, MO, Ryan Davis of Seattle, WA, Duke Gillingham of Brookside, NJ, Curt Gillingham of Loveland, OH, and Susan Gillingham of Albuquerque, NM. His grandchildren include Gabbi and Sophia Iadevito, Rachel (Alex) Rendon, Nadine (Brian) Fenstermacher, Madeleine (Tyler) Reeves, Olivia Gillingham, William (Lauren) Gillingham, Elizabeth Gillingham, Kate Gillingham, Stephen Gillingham, Quinton Raymond (TJ), Cameron Bobb. Jay had 8 great-grandchildren.

Honorary Pallbearers will be Gerry Stadler, Robert Henny, Robert Henning, Ralph Rudder, Billy Joe Yackeyonny, Brian W Mills, and Deacon Don Luna.

The family would prefer donations in lieu of flowers to either the Gary Sinise Foundation or Wreaths Across America

The family of Jay Davis wishes to extend sincere thanks to the whole medical team at Presbyterian Hospital for their compassionate and professional care of Jay and his family. We specifically thank Ryan W and Victoria - ICU Care Team, Noel the case coordinator, and Dr. Guilherme Marin, Dr. Adam Zachary Banks, Dr. Sirish Venkata Parvanthaneni, Dr. Keith Allen, and Dr. Kayvan Ellini.

To send flowers to the family in memory of Kenneth Jay Davis, please visit our flower store.

Service Schedule

Past Services


Tuesday, September 19, 2023

5:00 - 7:00 pm (Mountain time)

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Wednesday, September 20, 2023

Starts at 10:00 am (Mountain time)

St. Thomas Aquinas Parish

1502 Sara Road, Rio Rancho, NM 87124

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