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1950 Louis Deak Childress 2024

Louis Deak Childress

April 30, 1950 — February 24, 2024


Louis Deak Childress, 73, passed away peacefully in the early morning hours of February 24th, 2024 at the hands of Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS, a.k.a. “Lou Gehrig’s Disease”). He hated his first name, always went by his second, and like Lou Gehrig, he often described himself as the luckiest man on earth. His passing leaves an enormous void in the hearts of his family and friends. However, the story of his life is also testament to the amazing accomplishments made by this Lynchburg, Virginia Gentleman.
Deak was born at the Virginia Baptist Hospital on Rivermont Avenue on April 30th, 1950. He was a standout student athlete as a young man, excelling at basketball, football, and track & field; even helping lead the E.C. Glass Hilltoppers basketball team to the 1967 Virginia State Championship.  It was during high school that Deak and Mary Sue Duckworth found each other, setting into motion their lifelong romance. 

Deak’s ability and drive in both the classroom and gym led to his acceptance to the College of William & Mary, where he was a two-sport athlete for the Tribe’s football and basketball programs.  Notable was Deak’s opportunity to experience lessons in leadership and preparation by three legendary NCAA and NFL football coaches: Bobby Ross, Marv Leavy, and Lou Holtz during the 1968 & 1969 seasons. Although Deak’s athletic career ended early due to injury, he continued to excel in the classroom, graduating in 1972 with a Bachelor of Science in Biology from William & Mary, a school way too good for the “dumb kid from Lynchburg,” as Deak would describe himself over the course of his life.

Deak was truly a fan and student of the rapid development ongoing at that time in the fields of aviation and space exploration.  He was both inspired by, and the product of, things like NASA’s Gemini and Apollo space programs, and pioneering aviators like Chuck Yeager. So, after working a small handful of unfulfilling jobs, he decided to follow his dreams by seeking out a commission as a US Navy Officer and becoming a Naval Aviator. 

Deak again excelled, earning the much coveted “fighter pilot” pipeline within the larger Naval Aviation training program.  He first flew the F-4 Phantom; and flew it well enough to be selected to become a Navy Fighter Weapons School (a.k.a “Top Gun”) student, as evidenced by his very subtle “TOPGN 82” vanity license plates.  He was subsequently one of the first handful of pilots selected to lead the Navy’s training program for the brand new F/A-18 Hornet; He would go on to fly the Hornet for roughly the next thirty years, racking up more than five thousand hours of flight time and countless arrested landings (a.k.a. “traps”) onboard Navy aircraft carriers.

Due at least in part to the U.S. Navy, Deak and his family had a series of adventures so remarkable they often seem unbelievable. Deployments. Family moves every two-to-three years.  Serving as a Squadron Commanding Officer. Serving as the Commanding Officer of Naval Air Station – Lemoore, California; one-of-two bases that the Navy identifies as “Master Jet Bases” based on their size and capability. Taking assignments in Italy, Germany and ultimately as the US Naval Attaché to France, rubbing elbows with a staggering cast of international diplomats and senior military officers.  Generally speaking: the kind of men and women who make you wonder what they’re really up to, and how in the heck they got so smart and looked so good. All this and more from an extremely humble, small town kid from Lynchburg, Virginia.

Above all of his professional accomplishments, he was always most proud of his family, stating, “Marrying Mary Sue was the best thing that ever happened to me.” Their love story, which began on the basketball court at E.C. Glass, was cemented in marriage on August 29th, 1970 and went on to celebrate more than fifty three years of joyful and loving companionship. 

Deak was predeceased by his loving parents, Fred and Shirley Childress.  He was stubbornly loyal to his mom & dad, but also to his siblings: his brothers Braun and Fred; and his sister, Mendy.  Deak is survived by, and was a proud father to, Brent and Christopher Childress. He was a doting grandfather for six grandchildren: Isabella (16), Dylan (14), Ava May (12), Annalisa (12), Zoe (12), and Lawson (7). He will be dearly missed by all of these and many more.

Rest in Peace.

We love you.

In lieu of flowers, the family asks you to consider donating to the ALS Association ( or the Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society ( 

A Memorial Service be held at 2:30 p.m. on Saturday, April 27, 2024 at Westminster Presbyterian Church, 1022 Floyd St., Lynchburg, VA 24501, followed by a reception at Boonsboro Country Club, 1709 B C C Drive, Lynchburg, VA 24503.

Tharp Funeral Home, Lynchburg, is assisting the family. 

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Service Schedule

Upcoming Services

Memorial Service

Saturday, April 27, 2024

Starts at 2:30 pm (Eastern time)

Westminster Presbyterian Church

1022 Floyd St, Lynchburg, VA 24501

Reception to follow at at Boonsboro Country Club, 1709 B C C Drive, Lynchburg, VA 24503.

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