Sunday, October 18, 2015

52 Ancestors #42: Mayor of Downey, California

Ancestor Name: Richard Marchand Jennings, Sr. (1912-1998)

I don't really get too emotionally invested in the ancestors I didn't know. After all, I never knew they existed until I discovered them in a document somewhere. We may have shared certain common genes, but they certainly weren't part of the me that was shaped by environment or the love I received from "family." I live by the words of a by-marriage ancestor, who was herself adopted, Edith Mary Madeline Ternes (whose birth name was Freda Isobel Watson):

"If any family tree is shaken hard enough, I am sure it will produce stories of heroes and horse thieves. Lives to be proud of, lives to imitate and some to regret. Your family tree will no doubt be the same, so I think it wise to remember that we are totally responsible for ourselves and our lives but we owe no debt to the past."

Recently, as I was researching the descendants of John William Jennings, Jr., an older brother of my great great grandfather, I stumbled upon the obituary for Richard Marchand Jennings, Sr., who was a former two-term mayor of Downey, California. The obituary went on to list several civic organizations with which the former mayor was involved. If I'm not proud of Richard Marchand Jennings, I can certainly admire his ethos of community service.

Welcome to Downey sign; image courtesy of Dying Downey

The official City of Downey, California, website describes the city:

"We are home to to where the Apollo space program began its journey to the stars. Downey is where you can find the world's oldest McDonalds restaurant and the site of the first Taco Bell eatery. This is the city where pop recording artists, 'The Carpenters,' were inspired with many hit records." Downey is located in southeast Los Angeles county about 13 miles southeast of downtown Los Angeles.

1955 map of Downey, California; image courtesy of the
Downey Historical Society

Richard Marchand Jennings was the second of three children of Archie Herbert Jennings and Stella (or Estella) Marchand. He was born on 3 August 1912 in Van Nuys, California. By 1930 the family lived in Longmont, Colorado, and his father worked as a foreman of a boiler room at a sugar factory.

By 1940, Richard had married Mildred Wadsworth and lived in Boulder, Colorado. He worked as a technician conducting experimental investigations. Their only known son, Richard Marchand Jennings, Jr., was born the next year. By 1952 Richard, Sr., and family moved to Whittier, California, and he worked for Standard Oil. By 1961 they lived in Downey, which is nine miles from Whittier. Their son married Virginia Martell that year and the couple had three children before divorcing in 1971. Sadly both Richard, Sr., and Mildred outlived their son, who died in 1973.

Richard served two terms as mayor from 1974-1975 and 1977-1978. Richard and Mildred remained in Downey the rest of their lives. She died in 1995 and Richard, Sr., died on 16 November 1998. Both were interred at Rose Hills Memorial Park in Whittier. Their son and granddaughter were also buried there.

I learned Richard Marchand Jennings, Sr., had been a former mayor of Downey from the California Genealogy & History information on Rootsweb where his obituary was posted:

Former mayor Richard M. Jennings mourned

Downey -- Services were held 21 November at the Church of Latter Day Saints for Richard M. Jennings, a 30-year resident of Downey and former two-term mayor of the city.

He was born in Van Nuys 3 August 1912 and died 16 November.

Survivors include grandchildren Debra, Richard and Robert Jennings and six great grandchildren.

He served the community through service clubs and committees for more than 30 years, and was a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, and the Downey Elks and Downey Rotary. He was a five-year trustee and six-year audit chairman for the Elks; a member of the Department of Public Social Services Commission; a member and former chairman of the Cerritos Corridor Diversion Project; a member of the Los Angeles County Sanitation Commission; a member and former chairman of the Southeast Area Animal Control Authority; a member of the Downey School District Vocational Education Advisory Committee; a member of the Downey Community Hospital Long Range Planning Committee; director of the Second Century Foundation; director of the Barbara Dawson School for the Handicapped; founding member of the American Society of Photogrammetry; and a licensed land surveyor in Arizona, Nevada, Utah and Alaska.

Bishop Robert A. Douglas of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints officiated. Burial followed at Rose Hills Memorial Park. Arrangement were by the Miller-Mies Mortuary of Downey.

Published in the Downey Eagle on 27 November 1998.

This is my entry for Amy Johnson Crow's 52 ancestors in 52 weeks challenge optional theme Proud.


  1. Richard M Jennings is my Great Grandfather, thanks for the info.

    1. Hello Cousin! I'm glad you've found my blog and something about your great grandfather.