My grandmother, Vera Jane Myer ("Janie") passed away on January 16th. She was a really neat lady who lived an incredible life. My brother, Kevin re-tells her story like this:
On January 25th, 1925, Walter and May Hennington brought a new baby girl to their small home in Rivera, California. Vera Jane "Janie" Hennington was born and a lifetime of love began.
Janie was an only child, but she certainly did not lack attenti
on. She remembers fondly the
train trips with her family to visit relatives in Illinois and to visit her father's friends on the Indian reservations. He lived with the Indians for a time, and visits to the reservation with him were quite an experience. Janie loved to go with her father on the train to the race track in Del Mar. She enjoyed watching the magnificent horses as they ran.
Janie and her mother were best friends, which continued throughout their lives. Every Thursday was their day together. Whether it was hair appointments, shopping or going out to lunch, they always looked forward to their time together. Many who saw them thought Janie and her mother, May, could be sisters.
en retold of the days she would visit her aunt in McFarland, California as a young girl. In McFarland, the almond orchards stretched farther than the eye could see, and Janie's favorite treat was the freshly roasted almonds her aunt would prepare. The smell of the almonds in the oven would always excite her and she counted the minutes until her aunt brought them out.
It was also in McFarland where young Janie first began her relationship with God. She watched from a distance as a local preacher gave a sermon and baptized several people in the irrigation reservoir near the house. When the preacher and the people left, Janie said, "I can do that." She walked into the reservoir, repeated the preacher's words and in ceremonious fashion, baptized herself. Then and throughout her life, when Janie saw a need of others or her own, she took care of it. She needed to be baptized, and well, she was just the right
person for the job.
Little Janie began her schooling at South Ranchito School, before moving on to Lynwood Junior High and Compton Junior College. It was the "six-four-four" plan back then. Six years of grammar school were followed by Junior High (7th - 10th grade), and Junior College (11th and 12th grade, and the first two years of college). Janie was an active and leading member of her student body at Compton. She was a member of the Tartarettes, a youth chapter of the Red Cross. She participated in the "Tomorrow's Secretaries" organization, and she was president of her sorority, Alpha Tau.
Janie was quite
the catch and didn't go unnoticed by the local herd of boys. Persuaded by a friend to attend a function of the Lynwood Methodist Church Youth Group, Janie found herself to be the object of attention of one particular young man named Jim. He offered her a ride home and she politely declined. She also refused t
o grant his request for her phone number and address. It was a successful brush off, or so she thought. Jim followed her home. In fact, he made a habit of following her home; from church, from school or from wherever he could find her. Janie finally relented and agreed to a night out with the persistent young Jim. They went out to a show and her stalker turned out to be quite a gentleman. The courtship had begun and would continue for seven years, including a brief little intermission called World War II.
Janie's father was skeptical about
Jim at first, or at least played it to seem that way, saying after their first meeting, "well, he's better than that other guy at least." One evening Jim and Janie's fathers played cards together. Nobody is quite sure what was said, but after that evening, Jim was number one with Mr. Hennington.
While Jim was serving away from home in the U.S. Army, Janie was serving as personal assistant to the Commander of the Naval Fuel Annex in San Pedro, California. The NFA was responsible for keeping the entire Pacific Fleet of the U.S. Navy supplied with fuel.
Jim knew early on that he was going to marry Janie, and declared thi
s fact on several occasions. Janie declared that he didn't know what he was talking about. But Jim was not about to give up. While home on leave, he told her once again that he was going to marry her. She agreed. It was unknown to Jim until much later that Janie had several suitors wishing to claim her as their own, but she always told them she was going to be marrying Jim. She just hadn't informed Jim of that. Maybe she enjoyed his continuous efforts to make her his wife, or maybe she liked to keep him on his toes. In any case, she said yes, and God surely smiled. They were married on April 17th, 1947 and were devoted to each other for sixty-three years.
On September 2
6th, 1949, Jim and Janie introduced Kenneth Jay Myer to the world. They lived in a duplex on Magnolia Avenue in Lynwood. The family was growing and it was time for a new house. The Myer family bought their newly built house on Muller Street in 1950 for $1,100. Shortly after, Jim was recalled to active duty with the Army and sent to Korea. After travelling with Jim to Ft. Lewis in Washington to see him off, Janie was suddenly home alone with a toddler and expecting a second child. As did many of the wives of servicemen in that day, Janie was strong and played her part well. On September 16th, 1951, Sherry Gay Myer was born. A year later, Jim returned from Korea and met her for the first time.
The Myer family continued to grow. Kenny and Sherry were introduced to Glen Ja
mes Myer on November 29th, 1953 and Debra Jane Myer on January 17th, 1958. Janie was in the full bloom of motherhood and she relished every moment of it. Janie had mastered the role of "Soccer Mom" long before the term was even invented. She made sure her children were delivered to and prepared for all of their activities. Dance lessons, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, diving lessons, swim lessons, Job's Daughters, and many other activities were often on the agenda.
Janie had it
all under control and made it clear to Jim early on that she was the authority on what the kids could and could not do. "Don't you tell them they can do something without talking to me first," she told him. Jim had to have things explained to him on a number of occasions. While on a family camping trip with the Boy Scouts, Jim set up an old army cot for Janie to sleep on. It must have been left over from the first world war, or so it seemed when it ripped and Janie fell right through the middle of it, with her arms and legs stuck up in the air. Jim needed an explanation that night of the appropriate levels of preparedness for such a trip. Everyone in the camp laughed about that one, though Janie reserved her laughter for a later time.
The Myer family included four children by birth, but also countless others throughout the neighborhood. Janie was a gracious host and never let her kids' friends leave hungry or unappreciated. The door was always open, there was always cake on the counter, and there were always cookies in the cookie jar. Janie sold Avon for a while, but never made any money because she sold it to Sherry's and Debbie's friends at cost. Hospitality was not her burden. It was her joy. She gave it her all.
Through the years, Janie's family has grown. She has welcomed sons a
nd daughters-in-law. She has held six grandbabies in her arms, and then held their babies, six great-grandchildren. She always listened with excitement and pride to the stories of accomplishment. She was always comforting when listening to the painful trials. She always had the right words for both.
God's model of love and service was lived out every day in Janie's home and in her relationships. She baptized herself as a child. She was (officially) baptized on April 1st, 1956 at the First Presbyterian Church of Downey. She is now at peace and at home with God, probably telling him to have another piece of cake. I imagine they are sharing tears of wonderful pride and joy as they look back on a life well-lived, at a family well-taken care of, and a world that was left a better place.
I will miss my grandmother so much. She really was an incredible woman who made a difference in the life of everyone who knew her.