Ralph Royal Jenney, former operations and marketing manager of Mobil Corporation, died peacefully on Nov. 13, 2013 at Fairfax Inova Hospital in Virginia, from pneumonia and Alzheimer’s disease. He was 95.
Ralph Jenney was born in Washington, D.C., on Sept. 6, 1918. He attended Kent School in Connecticut, under founder and headmaster Father Frederick Sill, and graduated from Yale University in 1941.
During World War II, Mr. Jenney served in the United States Navy in the Pacific Theatre on three airplane tenders: the training ship Norton Sound, the Hamlin — which was hit by a kamikaze at Iwo Jima, and the Curtis. He was awarded the Bronze Star and Purple Heart. He was discharged from the Navy with the rank of lieutenant commander in 1944.
After World War II, the family moved to New York city and subsequently settled in Garden City, N.Y., in the shadow of the Garden City cathedral.
“My father’s father constructed and ran an iron mine in northern Michigan. When my dad, Lee Royal Jenney, and I went back to find the town in which he had lived, we couldn’t recognize the streets or place the name of the iron mine road. My father asked questions of the people there, but none had heard of the iron mine, nor recognized the name Jenney. His uncle, architect William Lebaron Jenney, designed a pavilion for the Chicago World’s Fair.
“My mother was Marion Harding Jenney. Her father, the architect Henry Harding, designed and built our octagonal house on a bluff in Small Point, Maine. It has a view of the big beach, which continued for three or four miles up to Popham. He also designed the library in Bath, Maine.”
Mr. Jenney was a founder of the Garden City Ski Club at Mad River, Vermont, and a member of the ski patrol. He was an accomplished squash and tennis player and small boat sailor, racing Rhodes 19s at the Edgartown Yacht Club. At Yale, he learned to fly small planes at Bridgeport, Conn. He honed his contract bridge skills with a Garden City friend and college roommate, Jack Hoagerton, who later became a chemist at the Los Alamos laboratories.
In 2001, Mr. Jenney agreed to provide about three acres of his Upper Main street property in Edgartown to John Abrams and Island Affordable Housing. Mr. Jenney was passionate about Islanders who wanted to continue to work and live here. John Abrams provided the opportunity to support this urgent need. Over the next five-plus years, and many meetings, 10 affordable single family homes were built between Curtis Lane and Pine Street. The construction met the highest standards, mortgages reflected affordable housing requirements and a random raffle selected the families awarded their new homes. Jenney Lane is an extraordinary tribute.
A first marriage to Judy Atterbury was terminated in divorce. On Sept. 2, 1978, he and Olivia Yarrow Benford were married in Old Lyme, Conn. He was a loving stepfather to her four children, Scott, Steve, Melissa and Ted Benford. Importantly, his most precious memories were of his beloved children, Lucinda, Rafe and Charles.