Obituary of Gerry Jennings
P.E.O InternationalWhitewater, WI – Geraldine “Gerry” M. French Jennings, age 93, peacefully entered eternal rest on June 23, 2023 at Fairhaven Retirement Community, Whitewater, WI. She was born in Milwaukee, WI, to Merle and Irene (Batcher) French. Gerry lived in Cortland, NY when young but considered Paw Paw, MI, to be her hometown. Gerry started school cello lessons in the 6th grade, which led to taking private lessons in the 11th and 12th grades with Mrs. Baldauf. Gerry also twirled baton with her high school and college bands. She even competed in baton twirling competitions. Gerry’s parents were very supportive of her musical talent. After graduating from Paw Paw High School, Gerry completed a Bachelor of Music degree at Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo, MI, where she studied cello with Louis Potter. She continued her musical training in cello at the Juilliard School of Music, New York City with the world-renowned cellist Leonard Rose. She then transferred to Teachers College-Columbia University to complete a Masters in Music Education while continuing private cello studies with Mr. Rose.
Gerry taught music and other subjects her first year teaching in Niles, MI. During the following summer, Gerry went on a six week music study tour of Europe. On that tour she met Robert (Bob) Jennings. They struck up a romance and were married a year later. Gerry and Bob had three daughters Pam, Lisa, and Linda. After marrying, they lived in Michigan and South Dakota before landing in Whitewater, WI. Gerry played her cello as a soloist and chamber musician as well as in various regional orchestras as they moved from state to state. One of the highlights was serving as principal cellist of the Waukesha Symphony for 10 years. Gerry also taught private lessons to many outstanding students over 55 years. Gerry was a P.E.O member for over 50 years, being a founding member of Wisconsin Chapter CI. She was also a member of UW-Whitewater Faculty Dames helping host events.
After Gerry served at UW-Whitewater as an adjunct cello teacher for a few years, she returned to school teaching by establishing a new orchestra program in the Delavan-Darien school district. Gerry played a significant role in string education in southeastern Wisconsin over the years through her dedication in founding and leading this new string orchestra program for almost 25 years. Gerry served in various officer positions of the Wisconsin American String Teachers Association (ASTA). In 1992 Gerry received the ASTA State Award of Distinguished Service. Another musical venture through the years, was when Gerry and her vocalist husband performed in joint recitals sharing their love of music.
During Gerry’s retirement, she held different board positions in the Wisconsin Cello Society, which promoted cello playing in the state. Like her mother before her, Gerry was a staunch proponent of women’s right to vote and became an active member of the League of Women Voters. She helped in various ways to promote different voting issues. Gerry was a faithful member of the Whitewater Congregational-UCC for 57 years. She taught Sunday school, sang in the choir, and kept active on boards and committees until the age of 91.
Gerry loved to travel with her husband, family, and friends. Taking family camping trips to enjoy the great outdoors was one of Gerry’s pleasures. Gerry enjoyed tagging along when her husband Bob who led five Music Study Tours to Europe. They loved to meet new people and belonged to the UWW International Foreign Student Program, hosting foreign students for meals in their home. They also belonged to the Whitewater Gourmet Club, cooking meals using recipes from different regions around the world. Most of all Gerry and Bob enjoyed the thousands of musical performances they attended, the entertaining conversations with friends, and spending enjoyable moments with their family.
Gerry was predeceased by her parents, her infant son Brian L. Jennings, her sister and brother-in-law Ruth and Lew Ingersoll, and her husband of 56 years Robert L. Jennings. She is survived by three daughters: Pamela A. Reiling (Ross), Lisa J. Munson (Le), and Linda G. Jennings; three grandchildren: Amber Moore (Adam), Kirstie Foeller (Paul), and Kyle Reiling (Priscilla); five great-grandchildren: Israel, Madelyn, Arelyn, Colton, and Avery; two nieces: Carol Buchheit (Larry) and Janice Westerling (Cliff); and one nephew: Roger Ingersoll (Deb).
A family memorial celebration of Gerry’s life was held at Fairhaven Retirement Community on Friday, July 7, 2023, followed by interment at Hillside Cemetery. The Reverends Dr. David MacDonald and Luke Bocher officiated. Nitardy Funeral Home assisted the family. Guests may view the service virtually at http://client.tribucast.com/tcid/1312153354
Memorials can be made in Gerry Jennings’s name to:
Fairhaven Foundation - (contact Paul Kuenning 262-473-2140)
PEO Scholar Awards: Chapter CI\WI – PEO InternationalTo send flowers to the family or plant a tree in memory of Gerry Jennings, please visit Tribute Store