DENVER, Colorado — Ed Jelks, 99, passed away peacefully on the evening of December 22, 2021, in Denver, CO, where he had been living the past three and a half years to be close to his son and family. In accordance with his wishes there will be no visitation, funeral, or other service. Horan and McConaty Funeral Home, Centennial, CO, has assisted the family with cremation arrangements. Condolences can be posted to their website.
Ed was born September 10, 1922, in Macon, GA, son of Oliver Robinson Jelks and Lucille Jarrett Jelks. On August 12, 1944, he married Juliet Elizabeth Christian, who preceded him in death. His parents and a brother, Oliver Jr., also preceded him in death.
Surviving him are a son, Chris (Joan) Jelks of Aurora, CO; two grandsons: Devin (Devin) Jelks and Scott (Heather) Jelks; and two great-granddaughters: Olivia and Amelia Jelks, all living in Parker, CO.
As a Navy hospital corpsman in World War II, Ed was stationed at Acorn Navy Field Hospital on Guadalcanal, and at Mobile Hospital No. 6 at Auckland, New Zealand. After completing officer's school at Notre Dame University, he was commissioned Ensign in May 1945, and was honorably discharged with the rank of LTJG in November 1945.
Ed spent more than 50-years as an archaeologist for the Smithsonian Institution, the National Park Service, The University of Texas at Austin, Southern Methodist University, and Illinois State University. He conducted excavations at both prehistoric and historic archaeological sites in Texas, Louisiana, Virginia, Illinois, New York, Wyoming, Newfoundland, and the Marshall Islands in the South Pacific. He authored or co-authored numerous published articles, monographs, and books. His wife Juliet accompanied him on many of his field projects, where they worked as a team. They compiled and edited Historical Dictionary of North American Archaeology, which was named a Library Journal Best Reference Book in 1988.
Ed took an active role in professional archaeological societies. He was a founder and a president of both the Society of Professional Archeologists and the Society for Historical Archaeology. He served as president of the Texas Archeological Society and the Illinois Archaeological Survey. As the U. S. representative for anthropology to the Pan-American Institute of Geography and History, an agency of the Organization of American States, from 1977 to 1993, he chaired meetings of the Institute's Archaeology Committee in Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Brazil, Costa Rica, Mexico, and Puerto Rico.
Ed held a B.A. in English, an M.A. in anthropology, and a Ph.D. in anthropology, all from The University of Texas at Austin. Among his awards are the J. C. Harrington Medal for Contributions to Historical Archaeology, the Clarence Webb Award for Contributions to Caddoan Archaeology, and the Distinguished Service Award of the Society of Professional Archeologists. He was a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and an Honorary Research Associate of the Smithsonian Institution. He was listed in Who's Who in America (1982-1997) and in Who's Who in The World (1984-1989).
Ed was Professor of Anthropology at Illinois State University from 1968 until his retirement in 1983, where he established and directed the Midwest Archaeological Center and was a member of ISU's Million Dollar Club for having secured more than a million dollars in extramural grant and contract support for ISU's research program.
Ed was a Director of the McLean County Historical Society and was Society President from 1983 to 1985. He served on both the Illinois Historical Preservation Commission and Normal's Historic Preservation Commission. He was an organizer and first president of both the Neighbors Association of Normal and the School Street Neighborhood Association. The Town Council named him Normal Citizen of the year in 2004.
Over a period of about 40 years, Ed and Juliet were host parents to dozens of international students. In 2000 they were awarded a bronze plaque in Beijing by the Chinese Ministry of Culture for their efforts in supporting Chinese exchange students.
In 2018, after the death of his wife Juliet, Ed moved to an independent living apartment at Legacy Village in Castle Pines, CO. While there he started a Resident Council and a popular sing-along activity for the residents. Ed enjoyed being close to his family and getting to know his young great-granddaughters.
A group of Ed's former students and colleagues recently created the Edward and Juliet Jelks Scholarship at Illinois State University. Those wishing to donate in memory of Ed can do so at: https://scholarshipfinder.illinoisstate.edu/scholarships/edward-and-juliet-jelks-scholarship/.
Ed will be fondly remembered by the many people whose lives he touched.