John Stevens Penney Jr., 96, Westport
John Stevens Penney Jr., 96, passed away peacefully in the company of his family on April 17, 2017, at his home in Westport. He is survived by his devoted wife of 66 years, Celeste, his four children, John S. Penney III and wife Dulcie Leimbach of Brooklyn, NY, Tom Smith Penney and wife Mary Smyth-Penney, M.D., of Providence, RI, Celeste Benson and husband Tyler P. Benson of North Haven, Conn., and Howard Penney of Westport; and nine grandchildren.
Jack, as he was affectionately known, was born on August 11, 1920, in Cincinnati, Ohio. He graduated from John Burroughs School in Saint-Louis in 1937 and graduated Tau Beta Pi in 1941 from the Sheffield Scientific School at Yale College. After graduation, he was hired by the McDonnell Aircraft Company of St. Louis as an aircraft engineer trainee working on early jet planes. In 1944, Jack was commissioned as an Ensign in the US Navy, where he eventually commanded a YMS-1 class Minesweeper, traversing the Pacific Ocean from California to Japan and back in the 136-foot wood-hulled boat. His active minesweeping duty took place in the Seto Inland Sea of Japan in 1945.
After the war, he began working in the manufacturing division at Lambert Pharmacal Company in St. Louis. Warner-Lambert Company became Jack’s employer when The Lambert Company merged with Warner Chilcott in 1955. Jack moved with his family to Short Hills, NJ, in 1959 when he was offered a job at the corporate headquarters in Morris Plains, NJ. Over the years, Warner-Lambert expanded significantly through mergers and acquisitions and Jack played a role in coordinating the growth of the manufacturing facilities. He retired at 65 as director of real estate and capital planning.
Wherever he lived, Jack took an active role in community organizations. In New Jersey, he served as a member of the Millburn Township Planning board for 20 years, as well as a township selectmen for one term.
Shortly after his retirement, Jack and Celeste moved to Westport in 1989. He was a member of the Westport Planning board for one term. He was a member of the Board of Directors of the Westport Land Conservation Trust from 2004 to 2010. He was on the Board of Directors of the Coalition for Buzzard’s Bay from 2003 to 2009. He was a Corporate Trustee for the Trustees of Reservations from 2006 to 2009. The New Bedford Whaling Museum occupied a special place in his heart (perhaps because he owned the whaling journal of his g.g. grandfather, John Howell Stevens who sailed from New Bedford around Cape Horn on the Ship Herald from 1837-1840). He served the museum in many roles, including board member, board chair and head of the finance committee.
Jack will be remembered by his kindness, his generosity, and his love of chocolate. He had a lovely smile and was a real gentleman. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in his memory to the New Bedford Whaling Museum or the Westport Land Conservation Trust.