Obituary: James Jennings, 1929-2020 | Obituaries | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

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Obituary: James Jennings, 1929-2020

Devoted grandfather and longtime therapist believed in treating everyone with love and compassion

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James Jennings - VERA CHANG
  • Vera Chang
  • James Jennings

James Edward Jennings died on Friday, October 23, at the end of his daily two-mile walk around the Colchester bike path.

Jim (Dr. Jennings) was born to James and Evelyn Jennings in Brooklyn, N.Y., in 1929. His childhood was, in his words, marked by “enormous freedom” and mischief. He often regaled his daughters with stories of his childhood exploits — such as being a precocious 5-year-old who asked his mother for a nickel to buy ice cream only to use it to ride the trolley with an older friend, or the time he set the bathroom curtains on fire.

As a teenager, he worked a formative stint as a soda jerk. Grown-ups confided in him and talked about their problems, laying the groundwork for a lifetime of listening and being there for others.

He was ordained as a Catholic priest in 1956 and was a pastor at St. Mary’s Nativity in Flushing and Our Lady of Refuge in Brooklyn.

Feeling that the priesthood was not his true calling, he expanded his education, earning a doctorate in clinical psychology at St. John’s University in New York and then completing a clinical internship at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in the Bronx.

His practice in Manhasset, N.Y., was packed from day one. He worked with individuals, couples and families as a marriage and family therapist. In 1992, he was introduced to the Enneagram, a model of understanding personalities, which he enjoyed immensely and understood deeply.

On Columbus Day weekend in 1972, he met Eveline Morrissette. There she is, he thought to himself upon seeing his future wife. That weekend he told her that he would marry her; she told him he was crazy. They liked to end this story by saying, “We were both right.”

In 1975, they married and moved to Port Washington, N.Y., where they spent many happy years raising their two daughters, Diana and Kerri-Ann. Three decades later, they moved to Montpelier, Vt., where he enjoyed walking, skiing and taking in the surrounding beauty.

In 2012, Dr. Jennings earned another title, Poppy, upon the birth of his first grandchild, Caroline Emerson Clayton. Poppy, along with Eveline (Mémé), cared for Caroline during the week. He would proudly push her in a stroller or bring her to music classes — a testament to the vitality he possessed as an octogenarian. Being a grandfather was a role he cherished and expanded as his subsequent grandchild, Wilder James Clayton, was born in 2014. When his beloved Eveline passed in 2016, he moved to Colchester, where he lived with Diana and her family. He took great pride in — and was astonished by — the fact that earlier this year, at age 90, he became a grandfather for the third time, when his daughter Kerri-Ann welcomed a baby boy, Søren Edward Apodaca. Family meant everything to him, and he felt incredibly blessed to spend his older years close to his daughters and grandchildren.

He thought and spoke often (at great length!) about the interdependence we all have on each other. He truly lived with humility and gratitude, seeing Christ in others and treating all whom he met with love and compassion. May his memory live on forever in our lives and our hearts.

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