Jennette celebrates 99 years of life
About 25 family members and friends attended a get-together in honor of his special occasion, which he described as “wonderful.” They ate an ice cream cake, topped with a “99.”
“It was the best birthday I ever had,” he said.
Jennette and his wife, Harriet (who has been in the hospital), have been married 76 years. Come May 23, it will be 77. Their daughter, Jan Langerman, and her husband, Roger, are his main caretakers. The Langermans have a daughter, Jennifer Sexton, who lives in Newport.
The youngest of four children of Mary (Kay) and Alexander C. Jennette (who worked for Thomas Edison at the Electric Light Company), Jennette survives his siblings, Harold, Dorothy (Jeannette) Mercer and Don. He lives on property that has been in his family since he was about nine. His grandfather, Alex Jennette, with the help of a neighbor, built the family cottage and the existing house was built to replace it.
An only child, Jan Langerman remembers as a kid spending summers at the cabin “baking in the sun” and packing picnics.
“This was the dream of my life to live up here full time,” she said. “I remember the taste of perch right out of Higgins Lake.”
The old cottage was held up on the corners by logs. When it was torn down the Jennettes put in a new foundation and added a garage. They also put in a longer dock built to accommodate the 100-yard shallows that lead to a dropoff.
“We had a pontoon for a long time,” Jan said.
She recalled the days when her husband, Roger, worked for a time with her dad at Consolidated Paper Company in Monroe. They would drive up on the weekends to see Harriet and Jan who spent the week at the lake.
“I was gonna teach,” Jennette said, adding he student taught for a while.
He wanted to be a physical education teacher, but since those jobs were scarce he took a different job to support his family. He said he worked as paymaster for Consolidated for more than 40 years and retired around 1977.
“I used to pass out the checks,” he said. “It was a good place to work. You could go anywhere in the United States and they heard of Consolidated.”
During a period while he was laid off, he worked construction running a jackhammer. It was a different type of work than that of paymaster.
“I tell you, you couldn’t hold a cup of coffee straight,” he said.
Jennette is known for his athletic ability. A graduate of the University of Michigan, he ran track and was a pole vaulter there and at what is now known as Wayne State University.
Through the years he stayed active, bowling in a league and playing in state tournaments. He played left field and catcher on a men’s baseball league in Monroe and on a traveling team.
When he golfed it was at the Monroe Golf and Country Club, of which he was a charter member. Later, he worked at the White Deer Country Club in Prudenville.
He also used to play pool at Ely’s Road House before it burned down. When asked if he was any good, he replied, “I thought so.”
He’s still an avid sports fan.
“Anyone who doesn’t watch U of M football is a traitor to God and country!” Jan commented about her dad’s love for the Wolverines.
In the last few years, Jennette has slowed down. He suffered a stroke about five years ago.
“We didn’t expect that stroke,” Jan said. “He was so healthy.”
Jennette admits to having a drink or two in his life. He recalled going to speakeasies during Prohibition. Some of his college buddies, whom he called “chemical engineers,” made gin.
These days, Jennette has the support he needs from his daughter and son-inlaw. Three home health care workers, Amanda Collins, Ashley Parker and Geri Bedger tend to him throughout the day.
His secret to living to the age of 99? He’ll tell you: “Don’t die.”
Yes, he said, he’s had a “very good life so far.”