Obituary of Cledith Mae Jennings
Cledith Mae Jennings passed away on June 24th surrounded by beauty and held in love. During her life of nearly ninety years many of her biggest challenges turned to good fortune. At the age of four her mother passed away and her father disappeared, leaving her and her younger sister in the hands of relatives who were unable to provide for them. Cledith’s midwife (whom she had been named after) and husband agreed to adopt the two girls. They grew up on a farm in Oklahoma, loved and nurtured by the older otherwise childless couple.
Cledith attended Oklahoma A&M College where she met and married Al Jennings.
After the Korean War they lived in Southern California. Al’s brilliance and military training with the first computers set him on a successful entrepreneurial course that provided well for Cledith and their four children, Bill, Tamozelle, Scott and Ricky.
When all but Ricky had left home, Cledith and Al divorced. Cledith began a Master’s program studying Special Education, focusing specifically on autism. Her love and dedication to youth extended beyond the devotion to her own children and grandchildren; it reached those she taught and all who benefited from the time she sat on the Board of the Dubnoff Center for Child Development. Delighting in children was a lifelong joy. When asked she could accurately guess the age of a child up to the month.
After eight years of separation, Al Jennings wanted Cledith back. She agreed to remarry him with conditions, one of which was that they purchase 50 acres. Al would have preferred to be by the sea but Cledith chose a hillside in Penn Valley. During those years as a single woman she developed a feminine strength that was uncommon in her generation. So Penn Valley it was!
In 1994 their home was finished complete with tall counters for Al and short ones for Cledith. By then she was 67 and passionately proceeded to create lush and colorful gardens, rock walls, koi ponds and waterfalls with interesting stony paths that wound through the grounds. This was not her first attempt at gardening. Her former home and garden had been the choice location of three wedding receptions. Cledith was an accomplished pianist. Music ignited her and made her move. She was a regular at Summerthyme’s listening to Motoshi’s harp. Many summer nights she danced with her daughter to the music of her favorite Nevada County band, Dream and the Dreamer and could often be seen hobbling up with her cane to put a tip in the jar of Craig, the pianist at Sergio’s.
Throughout her life she was a talented seamstress designing complicated drapes and curtains as well as her own wedding dress. Her home was artistically arranged and welcoming as she enjoyed gathering friends and family around her.
In her last decade Cledith was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. A few years later Al passed away only after he was assured that Cledith would be well taken care of. Her children supported that wish with enduring attention to detail in all aspects of her care. Over the next years as the disease erased her memories, Cledith’s essence emerged more and more. Her compassion, humor, empathy and innate sense of what was right became her luminous qualities. Her wit remained acute while her infectious smile was often followed by the urge to kiss, even strangers. Cledith continued to be a self-described indiscriminate lover of food, gratefully receiving whatever she was served. With unfading graciousness she never forgot to thank someone for even the smallest of tasks.
In the end as her energy waned and she claimed she was “not worth a hill of beans,” she tenderly said farewell to those around her. She was loved and had indeed become the essence of love.
Cledith is survived by her sons Scott and Richard Jennings, daughter-in-law Jean Jennings, brother-in-law Harold Layman and their families. A Celebration of Life will be held for Cledith on Sunday, September 10th from 1:00-4:00pm at 151 Union Square on Mill Street in Grass Valley.
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