DELAVAN - John Jeninga, age 96, passed away peacefully on Jan. 7, 2018. John was born March 3, 1921 in Heerlen, The Netherlands. He was the seventh child born to Jan and Boukje Jeninga. John spent his childhood years in Heerlen, enjoying many adventures with his 7 brothers, Ate’, Paul, Sjoerd, Andres, George, Fred and Ted, and his 2 sisters, Metsie and Dina.
John will be forever known for his smile, his pranks, and his jokes. He stated that if he could make someone smile everyday, then his life had been worthwhile. He loved nothing better than sitting down and chatting with someone and he never met a stranger.
John’s passion was in math and science. He attended the Technical College of Heerlen from 1939-1943, graduating with a degree in mechanical engineering. WWII was ongoing when John graduated. He did his internship in the coal mines in the Netherlands, which included doing work for the Germans. His boss instructed him to cheat on the reporting to the Germans as they were providing the Germans with inferior coal. This was their way of resisting.
Upon graduation John joined the firefighters in Holland as a volunteer. This listed him as a public servant, preventing him from being picked up and made to work in Germany. As a public servant with papers, he was able to travel to places to get information from underground workers and bring it back to his brother who worked in the underground. During the war John’s parents put their own lives at risk by harboring defecting German soldiers, young Jewish children, and home-sick Americans. When Heerlen was liberated by the Americans, John joined the American Army to help fight for liberation of Northern Holland. The US army gave him a gun but instructed him not to use it. He left the Army in May 1945 after the war ended.
After the war John worked for a company that produced parts for coal mining machinery, then moved to Utrecht, The Netherlands to work for a company that made earthmoving equipment. He was especially proud of his work with this small entrepreneurial company involved in gold and metals. The owner was quite an entrepreneur with strong ties to Prins Bernhard of Holland. John had developed a new type of lift shackle as well as a super strong gold metal variant. He demonstrated to Prins Bernhard how the shackle could be hooked to the gold ring he designed and could lift an entire car. After the owner of this company died, he and Eve made the decision to join his brothers and sisters in the United States. His first job in the US was working as a temp on the assembly line at Ajay along with working on a mink farm. John next went to work at Sta-Rite for three years eventually moving to Ajay to work full time as a design engineer. In 1965 John and his younger brother George started Jeninga Brothers Wire Products. He continued working full time, devoting time evenings and weekends to their new company. In 1970 John began working for Foreway in Milwaukee. During his career he designed and patented many improvements in golf carts and ball retrievers. John left Foreway in 1973 to dedicate his energy full time to growing Jeninga Brothers.
John met his future wife Eve in Heerlen in 1939 when she was 14 and he was 17. John would spend Sundays at Eve’s home playing games and visiting. They were married in June 1949 and lived in Utrecht where the first of their three children were born. Housing was scarce after the war so John and Eve initially lived apart until they found an apartment in September 1949. The economy in Holland struggled after the war. John decided there would be more opportunities in America. In March 1957, John and Eve moved to the United States, traveling on a ship called the “Groote Beer” or the Big Bear. They settled in Delavan, Wisconsin and became life long members of Delavan Christian Reformed Church. Three more children were born after the move to the United States. John loved spending time with his six children and his one regret was that working to support his children reduced the time he could spend with them. John loved to play. He made go-carts for his kids to ride on. He and son Ed had a great time shooting potatoes from a potato gun in the park. He loved camping, cooking sausages over the fire and telling stories to his grandchildren. He was an avid soccer fan and attended all the local games of his grandchildren, cheering them on loudly. When interviewed later in life, John was asked what he was most proud of in his life. He stated “I have the best kids in the world”. John also loved music and was a member of the church choir until the age of 92.
John is survived by his wife, Eve; six children: Mary Reyenga (John), John Jeninga (Karen), Maryann Lundin (Bill), Bernice Zaehringer (Don), Ed Jeninga, and Annette Drefs (Matt); 16 grandchildren: Chris Reyenga, Corrina Haringsma (Jared), Hillary Miersma (Harlan), Leon Goytowski (Michelle), Nadine Osburn (Robert), Theresa Ware, Eric Lundin, Ben Lundin, Steve York, Sam York, Ashley Schneider (Nolan), Nicole Zaehringer, Kelsey Houser (Kyle), Jake Drefs (Alli), Adam Drefs and Lena Drefs; 22 great grandchildren and 2 great great grandchildren.
Funeral Services will be held at 11:00 A.M. on Saturday, February 3, 2018 at Delavan Christian Reformed Church, 850 Oak Street in Delavan. Visitation will be held from 10:00 A.M. until the time of the service on Saturday at the church. Burial will take place at Spring Grove Cemetery in Delavan. The family asks that remembrances be made to Bethany Christian Services and/or the Delavan Christian School.