Sunday, September 20, 2009
John A. Penny (April 4, 1919 - September 16, 2009)
John retired in 1976 from General Motors after 30 years. He was a member of the United States Army serving in WWII. He was a member of the Community Chapel in Bradford, Ohio, American Legion, VFW and Moose in Greenville and the Piqua Leisure Club, as well as the Jr. Order United American Mechanics and also a Big Brother to several boys.
In addition to his parents he is preceded in death by; brother, Herman L. Penny; foster son, Robert Williams.
He is survived by; wife, Maya (Wurster) Penny of Greenville whom he married on February 8, 1948; 16 Foster children; 1 nieces and 1 niece on Maya’s side; half brother, Jack Routzong of Pigeon Forge, Tennessee.
There will be a service held on Monday, September 21, 2009 at 2:30 PM at Zechar Bailey Funeral Home, Greenville, Ohio with Pastor Dan Whisner officiating. Burial will follow in the Greenville Township Memorial Gardens, Greenville, Ohio. Family will receive friends one hour prior to the service at the funeral home. The Greenville Veterans Honor Guard will conduct a full military service. A letter from the family.
The Every Day Hero’s in Our Lives.
Usually when we think of a hero we think of someone who is strong, death-defying, and almost super natural when it comes to bravery. Although there are a few real hero’s out there that are somewhat like those attributes, more often than not the real hero’s in this world are the everyday people who live right next door to us…the people who are mild-mannered, who reach out to others in a much less conspicuous way, who basically go unnoticed by most of the world because they don’t receive and medals of honor or public recognition, they are the people who touch the lives of those around them and give of themselves asking for nothing in return. I’d like to share a story about a couple of those “hero’s” we have right here in our little community, who unfortunately we lost one of them just recently. Their names are John and Maya Penny and live here among us in this little town of Greenville, Ohio and have been the hero’s not only to myself, but also to many other young lives who they have touched with their kindness and never ending selfless giving. I hope my story that I share with you about my hero’s will inspire you to recognize them as well as other hero’s that pass quietly amongst our lives constantly giving of themselves and their lives.
Last evening I sat in the intensive care unit with Maya as we watched John slowly pass away, my heart broke as I stood and watched this tender woman talk with her husband as she said her last “goodbye’s” to him after over sixty one years of marriage. John wasn’t the typical person who we may think of as a “hero”, in fact he was a small, frail, mild- mannered man who most would think would be the last man who would be made of hero material, yet this man had more to share than one would ever know and was never one to brag about himself so please let me do some of the bragging for him (as well as for his wife, Maya). My story will be brief because even though I was one of the many lives that was blessed to be touched by the lives of John and Maya Penny, as I said, they were never ones to brag about themselves so my account of their lives is regretfully limited but I would like to share with you the few things I do know that are more than enough to make them both hero’s in my book.
John grew up in a children’s home in Dayton Ohio and later joined the army and fought during World War Two, he fought in several of the battles during the war such as the battle of Normandy and the Battle of the Bulge. He met his wife Maya who grew up in Germany and they ended up living here in Greenville where they basically lived the rest of their lives and where Maya still resides. They never had any children of their own but throughout their lives they took in many foster children (sixteen to be exact over the years along with a couple of their nieces) and gave them a home, most of which were the older, more rebellious kids no one else really wanted to take in….trust me, I know this because I was one of them and after bouncing around in several foster homes before I wound up living with John and Maya I saw just how much a lot of the so called “foster parents” were in it only for the check they received from the government for taking us in…I think I counted one time over twenty moves during my teen years from foster home to foster home prior to living with John and Maya and many of the times the story went “ we are not receiving the check we were supposed to get so we’re sorry…(which made you feel that was about how valuable you were….a government check) and sometimes it was that the homes were only “temporary foster homes” not set up for long term arrangements. Most of these places made you feel pretty much like you were only a guest in their home and nothing truly belonged to you, not even the space that was supposed to be your sleeping area. But that was not the case with John and Maya, they not only opened up their home but their lives as well and anyone who was blessed enough to land in their home found a home where they were treated as if we were one of their own…yet John and Maya never had any of their own children, we were their kids. They took us camping, to their vacation home on Cumberland Lake, as well as to their property at Indian Lake. We spent several evenings a week sometimes just shooting pool around the pool table they kept in their “dining room” for all of us boys. We were never left out of family outings and were always included in things they were involved in (such as company picnics, church, etc). We also always had someone who stood up for us if we got into any trouble with the local youth courts, Maya was the feisty one of the two and spent many times going to court to fight for us kids if she felt we were being picked on by the police or judicial system just because we had long hair and were maybe not the “model kids” our society accepted. Please don’t get me wrong, Maya never condoned any of the things that we did that were wrong (in fact at times we would call her “Hitler” behind her back because we felt she ran such a tight ship, and partially because she spoke with a sharp German accent), but she would jump up in a heart beat and stand up for us if she felt we were being wrongly persecuted. You didn’t argue with Maya, it was always going to be a losing battle, but as an adult now I look back and am grateful that Maya won those battles and realize that she was only looking out for our best interest.
John was always the soft spoken man who didn’t demand our respect with brute strength or a large commanding voice, but instead earned our respect with the kindness he showed to us and the loving way he stood next to us even when others probably would not have, even when our own “real” parents would have turned their backs on us or already had. He was a man with a heart made of true gold and a man that any kid knew they could count on if he said he would be there for you.
So this is my story, a story of two everyday people who opened up their lives and shared it with just about every “stray-dog” kid that stepped across their doorway….and we were all made better because of it. As I mentioned earlier during those years I spent time in several foster homes, some of which were very forgettable and some which one tries to forget, but I will never forget or regret the day I stood on the door step of John and Maya Penny’s and consider myself a better person because of it today.
As I sat with Maya Wednesday evening on September 16th 2009 in the intensive care unit at Good Samaritan Hospital and held back the tears trying to be strong for this precious woman as we watched John pass away I felt honored to be the person who was there to try to comfort her as her heart broke as she lost her best friend in this life of over sixty one years. I hope my story not only helps you to remember John Penny and the way his life and his wife’s life touched the lives of so many others but also to remember to always realize who your hero’s are in this life and to try to let them know how much they have meant to you.
Maya still resides here in our little town and even at the age of eighty two she still knits and crochets making afghans to give to disabled veterans among all the other things she has done to give of herself during her life time. So thank you John and Maya for being a part of my life and for showing me that love is really about not seeing what you can receive from something or someone but instead giving of yourself without asking for anything in return.