Stephen Joseph Jennings, passed from earth to heaven on January 24, 2018. He fought heart disease valiantly, but died of cardiac arrest at Harrison Medical Center, Bremerton with his wife and friends at his side.
Stephen was born December 7, 1935 in a log cabin in Sweetwater, TN, the only child of Paul and Margaret Jennings. While he grew up on a farm, he was thrilled when his parents moved to Northern Illinois in 1948. He attended Purdue University where he was elected Freshman Class President, and joined Sigma Pi fraternity. He graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Economics and was commissioned a 2nd Lt. in the USMC in 1958. He later earned a Master of Arts in Technology of Management from American University in 1969.
In 1958 he married Madelyn Wright and together they had two children, Kevin and Kimberly. They divorced in 1976.
July 2, 1977, Stephen married Kathleen Larkin Schwartz, who became his best friend, business partner and soul mate. They laughed, worked and travelled throughout 40-plus years of happy marriage.
In the Marine Corps, Stephen’s expertise was logistics and information systems. His was the concept behind what became the first real-time, on-line distribution system in the military. The majority of his assignments were at Headquarters, Marine Corps. His last two billets included Combat Service Support Officer, 1st FSSG, and finally Commanding Officer, Base Material Battalion, Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton. Kathleen surprised him at his retirement/change of command parade by having the Marine band play Hail Purdue as they passed in review. He was famous at Camp Pendleton for leading his supply troops on monthly “hikes”, to include firing the machine guns and other artillery, and was the first Camp Pendleton commander to take his own battalion, including the women Marines, through the live fire combat course. His buddies saw him run 10 miles a day on the Camp Pendleton hills, sometimes accompanied by his troops who needed to improve their physical fitness test scores by running with the boss until they could beat him.
Never one to sit idle, Stephen launched a corporate career with the software group of McDonnell Douglas and later with a defense electronics company, moving quickly to senior management roles in consulting and marketing. In 1989 he joined Kathleen’s career management coaching firm in Orange County, CA, serving as CEO, Chief Problem Solver and general all-around expert for The Jennings Company. He started and led 4 professional networking groups, cementing relationships for the long term. In between he was a commercial avocado grower.
When the Pacific Northwest beckoned with its clean air and gorgeous landscapes, Stephen and Kathleen relocated to Bainbridge Island in 1997. They designed and built a special home high on a hill overlooking Elliott Bay. He reveled in projects for landscaping, constructing fences and stairways, and growing his fruit orchard. You could find him any day on his lawn tractor “checking the acres”.
During this time he and Kathleen travelled, from local eagle sighting and tulip festivals to serious cruises to Europe, Asia and Australia. He especially enjoyed driving the scenic byways of the country, and made many cross-country trips on those blue highways.
Stephen participated seriously as a member of his church. In California, he served on the vestry and was Senior Warden for St. Margaret of Scotland Episcopal Church, San Juan Capistrano. He was a board member of the Episcopal Service Alliance of Los Angeles, and on the board of St. Margaret’s School.
On Bainbridge Island at St. Barnabas, Stephen served on the vestry, managed a major commercial kitchen installation, and was a key member of various parish functions. He had a ready ear for people with problems, and was known as a leader and teacher. He was the perfect “idea to project management” professional, ready to evaluate all options, hear all opinions, and then find the best solution. His family knows him for his silly jokes, hearty laughter, and love of Western and WWII movies.
Stephen was devoted to his family, cherished his wife, and rejoiced in his children and their children. He is survived by his beloved wife Kathleen and four children: Kevin (Patty) Jennings, Kimberly (Kevin) Wallien, Harvey (Mary) Schwartz, and Heidi (Tony) Franklin. He will be missed by 8 grandchildren: Shelby, Rachel, Collin, Derek, Jeffrey, Devin, Stefani, and Zoey, as well as two great-granddaughters Anya and Venice. He also leaves many cousins and aunts, and numerous good friends across the country.
Private graveside services with military honors will be at Tahoma National Cemetery. A Memorial Service at St. Barnabas is scheduled for Monday, February 19 at 11 a.m., with a reception to follow.
In lieu of flowers, donations in his name may be made to The Marine Corps Association Foundation, or to St. Barnabas Episcopal Church, designated for Capital Projects. Please sign the online guest book for the family. Arrangemnets entrusted to Cook Family Funeral Home.