Lt. W. Jay Laughridge, Jr. closed his eyes, climbed in the cockpit of his beloved P-51, and went "wheels-up" on one last high flight, "to reach out and touch the face of God."
When his wife and the last of his children arrived to tell him we loved him that Wednesday morning, he took a couple of long breaths, a deep sigh, and quietly left us. Dad was tired and ready, I think, to see his buddies again; "Pierre", Laing and Jolly, as he always called them.
His firm request was to be cremated with his time-worn A-2 flight jacket that still had his squadron's bold Red Ass emblem on the chest. Our hearts were torn to let this image of Dad leave us as well, but with a clear and strong sense of duty, we honored his request. We are sure there was a long line of pilots that recognized him in it as he climbed out of his P-51, the "Pug Ugly Jim", and greeted them on the flight line again.
A newly promoted 1st Lt. W. Jay Laughridge being congratulated by Gen. Otto P. Weyland.
W. Jay Laughridge Jr., age 85, passed away Wednesday, Dec. 2nd, 2009 at WakeMed Hospital in Cary, N.C. He had his faithful, loving wife and all his children by his side. Born in 1923 in Forest City, NC to W. Jay Sr. and Belle L. Laughridge, he was preceded in death by both parents.
Jay was a 1st Lt. and fighter pilot in the 9th Air Force, flying P-51’s and P-47’s (354th FG; 356th “Red Ass” Fighter Squadron) during WWII. He piloted 60 combat missions and 70 combat sorties that covered from the Battle of the Bulge to the end of the war in Europe.
Returning from the war he married his sweetheart, Joyce Marie Davis, from Rocky Mount, NC, and studied textiles at NC State before going to work at Rocky Mount Mills. He retired from a lifetime in the textile industry that ended with Johnson & Johnson in Gainesville, GA. He is survived by his dedicated wife of 63 years, Joyce Davis Laughridge of Holly Springs, NC; brother, James Palmer Laughridge of Marietta, GA; son, W.J. “Digit” Laughridge III and wife, Beth, of Campobello, SC; son, James L. Laughridge and wife, Vickie, of Fuquay-Varina, NC; daughter, Terri L. Thompson and husband, Larry, of Holly Springs, NC; Grandchildren(7); Christopher and Matt Laughridge of Campobello; and Meredith L. Cross, Esq. and husband, John, of Apex, NC.; Kalyn, Torin and Tanner Laughridge of Fuquay-Varina; and Chelsea Thompson of Holly Springs.
A portrait of Laughridge's P-51D Mustang "PUG UGLY Jim", by USAAF Retired Robert Wilson. Named for his brother who was fighting in Okinawa as a Marine.
Jay Laughridge was one of the Greatest Generation, and among this nation’s veteran Hero’s, who without hesitation risked everything, so we might enjoy the liberties and freedom we all share today. Known to his P-51 combat flight crew and fellow pilots as “Lt. Moe Stach” (because of his distinctive handle-bar mustache), he was, and always will be, this family’s hero.