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November 16, 1904 - May 15, 1990
Jennie Anne Ford Perry was born November 16, 1904, southwest of West Plains, Missouri, on Rook Valley Road. She was the fourth of seven children. Jennie's childhood was very difficult. Her mother died in childbirth when Jennie was 5 1/2 years old. Soon after that tragic loss, her sister Ina died in Jennie's arms of diphtheria. The infant daughter, Mary Alice, was taken to Jennie's maternal grandparents after her mother died. Her father traveled throughout southern Missouri and northern Arkansas with his children in a wagon pulled by mules with their milk cow tied behind the wagon. During these trips they lived in a tent. Jennie's father made his living by selling railroad ties (split with the help of his sons) and delivering food supplies to general stores in the area. He and his children also did other work like picking cotton and harvesting and selling pecans. When they had a home it was a very primitive log cabin. Jennie related stories of her two older brothers killing snakes that would come through the cracks between the logs. Upon returning to Missouri, Jennie and her siblings spent periods of time living with relatives, helping with household chores for board and room. Jennie was soon on her own at the age of twelve.
One of Jennie's jobs was as a restaurant worker in West Plains, Missouri. She met her future husband, Burt Perry, at a dance during the time he was attending poultry school in Mountain Grove, Missouri. Jennie and Burt dated for one week and married. This union lasted some fifty-plus years before Burt's death in 1976. The Perry's had two sons (Jack of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, and Bob of Phoenix, Arizona), four grandchildren, seven great grandchildren, and one great great grandchild.
The poultry training brought the Perry's to Ames and the Iowa State College Poultry Farm. During the many years at the poultry farm, Jennie boarded and fed numerous students. She knew the feeling of being in need of a meal and a place to sleep. For this reason she never turned away a hungry student or denied them a place to stay for a night or longer if they needed. Those meals were always plentiful and those occasions often included entertainment such as croquet on the front lawn (now the south lawn of the Towers dormitories) or any card or board game available. During her lifetime and for months after her death, many cards and letters were received from long-time friends (former students) who had spent time at the poultry farm house.
During the time at the poultry farm, Jennie received word that her youngest sister was in bad health. Jennie went to southern Missouri and brought her sister to Ames for medical attention. Her sister not only regained full health but met and married a young man who worked at the poultry farm, and they had a family of twelve children. See the profile for Mary Alice Ford Foley.
Jennie Perry was a long time faithful member of the Collegiate Methodist Church in campus town, joining in 1937. She was a charter member of the Women's Society of Christian Service (now known as United Methodist Women). Attending meetings and taking part in circle activities was very important and a great source of joy to Jennie.
Jennie was also well known by Iowa State College faculty for her skills in canning, preserving and baking. Her abilities were often enlisted by many, including the home economics department. After leaving the poultry farm, Jennie spent many years as the pie baker at Friley Hall. Her baking skills were unequaled. Her family and extended family were often the fortunate recipients of her fresh-baked offerings at holiday gatherings. "Auntie" Perry, as she was fondly known, never failed to provide the pies for any and all celebrations. She also provided wedding cakes and her unforgettable Christmas divinity for many relatives and friends.
Jennie's skills also reached outside her home. Many people in Ames knew her talents as a flower gardener. The yards of each and every home she had were testimonies to her love for flowers. One corner lot next to her house (Ontario & Delaware Avenues) was known to the neighborhood as "Four-o-Clock Corner." There wasn't a variety of flower that wouldn't bloom profusely for Jennie. Her final home in Ames was yet another example of this talent. Many shoppers at Fareway grocery (5th & Clark) enjoyed the beautiful yard she created just south of the store.
In later years as her health limited her activities, Jennie learned to crochet. At the time of her death she had made 110 afghans. These are valuable treasured gifts for many relatives and friends.
Jennie Anne Ford Perry passed away on May 15, 1990. She is missed but not forgotten. All who knew her cannot forget her constant friendship and loving, thoughtful ways. Her sense of humor was contagious. She always always found a positive outlook for any situation or difficulty. Her life was full and she did her best to fill others lives with love and kindness.