We are deeply sorry for your loss - the staff at Davis-Watkins - Fort Walton Beach
Our Family's hero, CWO 3 Ronald "Ron" James Exley made his homecoming journey to heaven May 23, 2022 at the age of 83 in the comfort of his home in Fort. Walton Beach, Florida.
Ron began his life at home in the loving arms of his parents, Virgil Leo Exley and Opal Adele (nee Scoville) Exley, on May 25, 1938, in Lyndon Station, Wisconsin. He would later attend Fall River High School and work at a local foundry in Fall River until his 18th birthday when he completed his goal to join the U.S. Army. Ron completed basic training at Ft. Leonard Wood, Missouri in July 1956. Ron would go on to be a part of many units but his longest assignment was to the 82nd Airborne and Special Forces Green Berets in Ft. Bragg, North Carolina and 101st in Ft. Campbell, Kentucky, as well as many bases in Germany. Ron graduated Flight School in 1966 at Fort Rucker, Alabama. This began his love of flying the UH-1 "Huey'' helicopters and later his CH-47 "Chinooks", this also led to him enduring five tours during the Vietnam War. In 1970, his exemplary pilot skills led him to be picked as one of four Army UH-1 pilots from Ft. Bragg chosen to participate in a special joint branch mission in Vietnam, later to be known as the Son Tay Raid. After the mission, he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and known as the 1st Huey pilot crazy enough to fly under the refueling plane and then refuel mid-flight.
Upon returning from the Raid, he traveled to Ft. Walton Beach and, on Dec. 24, 1970, married his love, Jeanette; with her two teen daughters that he took as his own, relocating his new family back to Ft. Bragg. Later, Ron and Jeanette would welcome another daughter, Melissa, to the mix. Ron and his family would continue being stationed at Ft. Bragg, with the exception of two and a half years, which was spent stationed in Tehran, Iran where Ron was tasked by the U.S. with training the Iranian Imperial Army helicopter pilots under The Shah. He was awarded the Imperial Iranian Army Aviation Wings. Then back in Ft. Bragg in the summer of 1978, Ron retired from the U.S. Army after twenty-two years of service, then he and his family moved back to Fort Walton.
Ron enjoyed working many years as Warehouse manager with Edwin Watts Golf Shops and as the department manager at Lowe's in Ft. Walton Beach and in the Tampa area for a short time. He welcomed four grandchildren to whom he adored. Books! You could hardly ever catch him without a book or two within arm’s reach. He enjoyed playing cribbage, even in tournaments, but his favorite competitors were his son-in-law, Jerry; brother-in-law, Dave; his niece, Jeanna; and recently, his great granddaughter, Sierra.
Ron is survived by the love of his life, his wife of fifty-one years, Dora Jeanette (nee Alberson) Exley; his daughters, Cheryl (Jerry) Warner and Melissa Exley-Sharp; sister, Sherri (Dave) Norenberg; brother-in-law, Kenneth Field; sister-in-law, Jean Alberson; his aunt, Mary (nee Scoville) Miller, Grandchildren, Alisha (Chris) Hamilton, Sean (Megan) Warner, Rhiannon Sharp, Skyden Sharp; great-granddaughter, Sierra Warner; as well as two nephews, eight nieces, and several great and great-great nieces and nephews.
Ron is preceded in death, but welcomed with open arms, by his parents, Virgil and Opal Exley; his sister, Gail (nee Exley) Field;and his loving daughter, Teresa Mills.
A Funeral Service will be held at Davis-Watkins Funeral Home, 113 Racetrack Road Northeast, Fort Walton Beach, Florida, 32547, on Monday, June 6, 2022, beginning at 10:00 a.m. A visitation will be held a half hour prior at 9:30 a.m. Graveside interment will immediately follow at Beal Memorial Cemetery, 316 NW Beal Parkway, Fort Walton Beach, Florida, 32547, with full military honors.