Family & Friends
James “Jim” Jennings, F94845, who served FMCA as national secretary from 1998 to 2000, passed away on July 21, 2007, after a brief battle with lung cancer.
Jim was born on October 15, 1935, in Kalamazoo, Michigan. He attended Comstock High School, where he met his future wife, Shirley, when both were in the ninth grade. They became friends while serving as class vice president and secretary, respectively. “We met working together, and that’s the way we went through life “” doing things together,” Shirley said. Later they began dating and were married in 1956 in Kalamazoo. Jim died just six days before their 51st wedding anniversary.
Jim attended Western Michigan University, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in teaching and a master’s degree in educational administration. He earned a Ph.D. in educational administration from Michigan State University.
He began his teaching career at Galesburg Elementary in Galesburg, Michigan, in 1956 and also worked as assistant football coach. After several years, he applied for and received the position of school principal at just 26 years of age.
Jim was an administrator in several Michigan school districts until 1993 and taught education courses at Michigan State University Graduate School. He served as president of the Michigan Elementary & Middle School Principal Association. He also received the Distinguished Service Award from the Michigan State PTA Association.
Jim and Shirley began camping in 1967 with a 17-foot Frolik camper. In 1972 they purchased their first motorhome, a Winnebago. “Jim had just gotten his doctorate, and (the motorhome) was our gift to each other and our family. Our family just loved to travel,” Shirley said.
According to son Mark, Jim would decide which direction they’d be traveling “” north, south, east, or west “” and then ask the family to suggest specific destinations. “I used to give my father lists of all the museums, battlefields, etc. I wanted to see,” Mark said. “My father would work all of our requests into the trip. He also made sure we hit every national park in each region we visited. We never had a schedule. We just bounced along seeing the country.”
The family’s favorite destination was Yellowstone National Park. Jim and Shirley spent their honeymoon there and returned more than 20 times over the years, both with and without their children and grandchildren. “When we went traveling, (Yellowstone) was always in our plans,” Shirley said.
Jim and Shirley acquired their second motorhome, another Winnebago, and joined FMCA in 1987. They quickly became involved in the association. The first chapter they joined was Michigan Knights of the Highway. At one point, the Jenningses belonged to 18 FMCA chapters at the same time. “We liked to support them as we would go visit so that they would build up their membership. And we were always active,” Shirley said. Jim served as a chapter officer in many of these groups, and hosted rallies and devised or revised chapter bylaws, among other duties.
Full-time motorhoming seemed a natural progression for the couple. When Jim retired in 1993, they decided to try an extended trip to see whether the lifestyle suited them. They joined FMCA’s Full Timers chapter during the association’s summer 1993 convention in Blacksburg, Virginia. By that time, they had bought the first of two Fleetwood American Eagle motorhomes they would own.
For starters, they planned to travel in the motorhome for six months and return to their stationary home in Westland, Michigan, for six months. That first trip lasted eight months. “Our full-timing friends told us, ‘It’s time to get rid of your house when you’re out that long,'” Shirley recalled. They embraced the full-time lifestyle from then on.
The couple put countless miles on their second American Eagle when Jim was an FMCA national officer, Shirley said. “Jim loved serving; he loved FMCA. We both did,” she added. “It was a fun time, and so enjoyable. All the wonderful friends were the best part.”
In addition to his position as national secretary, Jim served on FMCA’s Long Range Planning Committee, Nominating Committee, and Constitution and Bylaws Committee.
“We had a dream life,” Shirley said. “We did exactly what we wanted to in retirement. How many people can travel and live out their dreams? I am very blessed.”
In addition to Shirley, Jim leaves three sons, Mark, Brad, and Todd; two daughters-in-law; five granddaughters; and one grandson. The family suggests that memorial donations be made to any local cancer fund or hospice organization, or to Angela Hospice, 14100 Newburgh Road, Livonia, MI 48154-5010. FMCA friends may contact Shirley at 9883 Sunflower Lane, South Lyon, MI 48178.
“Let’s Celebrate” At NEAR
By Jim Burns, F256885
Members of the Northeast Motorhome Association (NMA) gathered July 11 through 14, 2007, at the Sussex County Fairgrounds in Augusta, New Jersey, for the 15th annual Northeast Area Rally. A total of 460 coaches attended the event.
Since it was the area’s 15th anniversary, and because the Northeast Area spans the border between the United States and Canada and includes members who hail from eight states and five provinces, the theme “Let’s Celebrate” was chosen by rally organizers to celebrate the occasion and emphasize the compatibility of the countries. When enjoying a rally such as this, it’s as though no border exists. Everyone joins together as one to volunteer and make sure the rally goes well.
The rally masters for this event were our newly elected Northeast Area vice president, Sam Allen, and his wife, Pat. With help from NMA second vice president Steve Sponenberg, Sam and Pat kept the rally moving along smoothly.
Let’s face it: a rally of this size could not be handled by just a few people. A large cadre of volunteers, who could be recognized by the yellow volunteer tags they wore below their name tags, helped make the event a success. At one point it seemed as though everyone I encountered was wearing a yellow tag, even some who sported first-timer red tags as well. Volunteering is a good way for first-timers to get a feeling of what goes on during a rally. All the individual volunteers deserve a pat on the back.
Three or four days before the rally the parking crew arrived at the fairgrounds to lay out the area where they would park the coaches “” family, handicap, volunteers, vendors, VIPs, etc. “” under the direction of Byron “Dutch” Souder, parking crew captain. Of course, the layout could not have been done without the use of golf carts and radios, which were expertly handled by Gloria Demers and Bonnie Carson. Parking for display coaches, VIPs, and outdoor vendors was handled by the team of Roger Merrill and Al Thorpe. The indoor exhibitors were taken care of by the Long Islanders chapter under the direction of Andrea Sponenberg, who did an amazing job of getting the vendors settled into their proper booth assignments.
Thursday, Friday, and Saturday mornings, members of the Maine Wheels chapter, guided by Tim and Vornie Colbath, stood at the ready with coffee and doughnuts and a “good morning” greeting for everyone. Each morning during this time we were entertained by the Frustrated Maestros–NE Yankee Doodle Dandies, performing under the wing of Joan Bamberger. The group also appeared during the ice cream social on Friday, which was hosted by Dave and Diane Buker of the Green Mountain Chapter, with help from members of the Mountain Laurel and Granite Staters chapters. After they served 800 people in less than an hour, volunteers loaded up a couple of golf carts and delivered ice cream to other volunteers and vendors who were still on duty. During all this, the Mountain Laurel chapter, headed by their president, Joan Jaroch, sold 50/50 raffle tickets. Drawings were held on three nights, with three winners each night.
Walt Olsen of the Hudson Islanders chapter prepared the daily newsletter and also oversaw the crew of at-large volunteers, who were ready to pitch in when needed, setting up chairs and tables for entertainment, seminars, and the Red Hat Tea. Speaking of the Red Hat Tea, this gathering, which was chaired by Mary Dammers, was held on Saturday and turned out to be a great success. Stories were told, and iced tea, lemonade, and cookies were enjoyed by all. Best of all, a $1 donation collected from each attendee was given to Ginny’s House in Newton, New Jersey, a center for abused children.
Seminars covered many topics, including battery and chassis maintenance, insurance, RV weight safety, copilot towing tips, RVing in Alaska and Mexico, and different craft projects. Staff members from FMCA’s Cincinnati headquarters also were in attendance to conduct sessions about the current affairs of the association; how to become involved as a national director, chapter officer, secretary, or treasurer; and the many benefits of belonging to an FMCA chapter.
Getting everyone where they wanted to go during the rally was handled by Bob Mills of the Allo Quebec chapter, with help from the New York Centrals chapter. Two trams were in operation, each sporting an American and a Canadian flag.
In the vendor building, FMCA merchandise was handled by Rick Pasetto of the Northeast Pacers. NMA door prizes were under the care of Sylvia Plaisted of the Penn-NY Mixers chapter, who gave out approximately 45 prizes each day while having a great time meeting a lot of new people. Holly Stivaly and fellow Knot for Busses Only chapter members, along with members of the Jersey Gems chapter, were on the job from Tuesday to Saturday handing out goodie bags, collecting locator cards, and providing information about local places of interest. Scotty McBeth, the Northeast Area’s member-artist, kept watch over the NMA merchandise booth, selling the souvenir T-shirts he designed.
Thanks are due to our entertainment chairman, Lou Snow, and his wife, Lucille. The performances started on Wednesday evening, with the witty Gary Adams serving as master of ceremonies. Songwriter, pianist, comedian, and vocalist Cahal Dunne captivated the audience with his songs and stories.
Thursday’s entertainment began with the opening ceremony parade. Participants included those carrying chapter colors and state flags; police and fire personnel; veterans; the youth group; and a Marine Corps color guard carrying the American and Canadian flags, which they presented while Joe Pereira sang the national anthems of both countries. The youth group, led by Lori Lindfors, marched in wearing pirate costumes that they had made that morning.
Thursday evening we heard from Patrick Tobin, a Frank Sinatra impersonator, who, with his relaxed style and great voice, made everybody think it was Ol’ Blue Eyes himself. We also had the pleasure of listening to the sounds of Tom Jones, Lou Rawls, and Engelbert Humperdinck coming from the talented Atoa Ripley. Friday night brought on Patsy Kline and Dolly Parton through the talented voice of Donna Lee. Jimmy Mazz, with his rich and elegant voice, performed songs in the “Rat Pack” style and impersonated Kenny Rogers, Johnny Cash, and others as well. Saturday we heard the likes of Neil Diamond from a truly great artist named Charlie Lask, who related well to the audience and put plenty of emotion into his performance. Last but not least, Elvis (actually Ray Guillemette Jr.) delighted the entire audience, young and old.
Each night before and after the main attractions, we were entertained by the New England All Star Band, who played music to dance by or just listen to.
We all know that our rallies could not be successful if it weren’t for some key people who put in their time unselfishly, and this starts with the NMA officers and volunteer leaders. Thanks to them, as well as all volunteers who made the 2007 NEAR such a success.
Make sure you mark your calendar for the next Northeast Area Rally, August 7 through 10, 2008, at the Essex Junction Fairgrounds in Essex Junction, Vermont. The theme for this rally will be “Dixieland Jazz.” We hope you can join us for a tootin’ good time.