Keith Jennings, 79, of New Franklin passed away unexpectedly Tuesday afternoon August 25, 2020 at his home in New Franklin.
Visitation for Keith will be 5:00 P.M to 8:00 P.M. Friday evening August 28 at New Franklin Immanuel United Church of Christ in New Franklin. Friends may pay their respects starting at 3:00 P.M. Friday. Funeral services will be 10:00 A.M. Saturday at the Immanuel United Church of Christ with Rev. Tim Fairley officiating. Burial will follow in the Mt. Pleasant Cemetery. In the event you are unable to attend, the family invites you to view the live stream of Keith’s service on the Howard Funeral Home Facebook page. Please respect social distancing guidelines, such as wearing a face mask.
Keith Jennings was born October 22, 1940 in Fayette, MO., the son of Oscar C. Jennings and Marvel Struchtemeyer Jennings. He was a lifelong resident of New Franklin and a pillar of the community. He attended New Franklin schools where he led the 1958 Bulldog basketball team to a state finish. His days playing in a Bulldog uniform were some of his fondest memories. He then attended Central Methodist University where he continued his basketball career and fell in love with Carol Sue Harper. They were married during Spring Break of 1964 at the Immanuel United Church of Christ in New Franklin. He finished his degree in secondary education and went on to teach and coach at Malta Bend schools. While at Malta Bend, he coached boys and girls baseball/softball, basketball and track and drove a school bus. Although he was there only 3 years, the students he impacted continued to reach out to him throughout his life. In 1968, his father convinced him to come back to New Franklin and join him at the New Franklin Locker Plant.
Keith’s ambitions led to several expansions of the plant in order to offer retail and wholesale services along with custom processing. In December of 1992, the plant burned and was a total loss. True to his character, Keith was determined to rebuild in New Franklin and with the help of the plant’s staff and community, the plant was rebuilt as Jennings Premium Meats. Keith “officially” retired in 2006, but he continued to be ever present at the plant, gladly lending a hand whenever help was needed.
For those who knew Keith, he was always busy, whether coaching multiple youth baseball or softball teams, working in his yard, or walking his beloved dog, Oliver. Throughout his life, he was an active participant in the New Franklin community. He served as President of the New Franklin Businessmen’s Association and was instrumental in the first Santa Fe Trail Days. He served numerous terms on the UCC Church Council and was a long term member of the New Franklin School Board. He was also active in the meat processing industry serving as President of the Missouri Association of Meat Processors in 1980 and inducted in the Missouri Association of Meat Processors Hall of Fame in 1996.
Keith was a person who loved life and when he did something, he was all in. While he enjoyed watching the St. Louis Cardinals play baseball, he loved spending time with his family, no matter what the activity. He rarely missed a ball game of his children or his grandsons, but was equally happy attending a dance recital, a band concert or a youth symphony concert. His favorite pastimes were watching his grandsons, Tyler playing basketball and Grant playing golf. Win or lose, there was no greater Bulldog fan than Keith. He took up golf when he retired and it became one of his favorite activities. He especially liked playing with his good friend, David, and one of his last golf tournaments was a victory in the New Franklin Alumni tournament in which he played with his son, son-in-law, and two grandsons. He referred to it as the “perfect day.” Keith was a curious person and made everyone around him feel important and special. He was a person you wanted to be around, he was so fun and so easy to laugh with. Keith was an incredibly hard worker and his encouragement made you want to try harder. He challenged you to be better and his recognition of your hard work was like a gold star on your chest. And finally, he adored his wife. Together always.
Keith is preceded in death by his parents, Oscar and Marvel. He is survived by his wife, Sue of the home, son, Jason (Stephanie) Jennings of New Franklin and daughter, Reachel (Doug) Beichley of Prairie Village, KS. He will be dearly missed by his grandsons, Grant Beichley and Tyler Jennings.
Memorial contributions are suggested to the New Franklin Immanuel United Church of Christ or New Franklin High School Athletics Program.
To send flowers to the family or plant a tree in memory of Keith Jennings, please visit our floral store.