'You just couldn't build a better dad'

When not at his job in the feed business, Jenkins was with his family

When not at his job in the feed business, Jenkins was with his family

February 19, 2007|by MARLO BARNHART

Editor's note: Each Sunday, The Herald-Mail publishes "A Life Remembered." This continuing series takes a look back - through the eyes of family, friends, co-workers and others - at a member of the community who died recently. Today's "A Life Remembered" is about Huster Leon Jenkins, who died Feb. 6 at the age of 61. His obituary appeared in the Feb. 8 editions of The Morning Herald and The Daily Mail.

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - Whenever someone asked how he pronounced his rather unusual first name, Huster Leon Jenkins would say it rhymes with "rooster."

But then, very quickly, he would add: Call me Leon.

Over the past 44 years, Leon had been employed in the agricultural feed business throughout the Tri-State area. He also assisted local farmers with their feed programs and educated young people going into the agricultural field.

"He was very well known in Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia and Maryland - his reputation preceded him," said his wife, Shirley.


Despite his failing health, Leon managed to finishing remodeling the house he and his wife moved into just before Christmas. For 40 years, they had lived in a smaller house on the same property.

Even when he wasn't feeling well, he told his family that customers needed help with their orders.

Older son Dale Jenkins said his father refused to go to the hospital until all of his customers had been taken care of.

"The day he passed away, Leon had been ordering feed for a customer," Shirley said. "He was sitting up in bed that day making phone calls."

Leon's younger son, William, said his father's customers always followed him to wherever he was working.

"At the funeral, one of those customers came up to me and told how my dad was always there for him," William said.

It was the same with his family, too.

"Dad was at every ballgame I ever played," Dale said. Even with his work, Leon found the time and energy to mow grass and till gardens for people he knew needed help.

Dale, the older son by six years, said he was enlisted by his father to till a woman's garden one spring when Leon was unable to do it.

William said his father always helped him with his homework when he was in school.

"Then, when I joined the FFA, dad would peel apples and help make apple butter," he said, naming just a few of his contributions.

The Jefferson County FFA gave Leon and Shirley a plaque for their work with youth when William was a senior in high school.

"Leon would cook and bake for friends who lost loved ones, too," Shirley said.

Through the years, Shirley helped her husband in most of his endeavors, whether it involved their two sons, the eight grandchildren or their feed customers.

All the while, Shirley was working as a cook at Wright-Denny Elementary School in Jefferson County for 30 years.

Daughter-in-law Terri Jenkins described Leon as a good man, one who was very special.

"I was welcomed into the family right away," she said.

Shirley said that was a far cry from her experience at home when she first met and fell in love with Leon.

"I was living on a farm when we first met, and Leon would help my father," Shirley said.

Just 18 when they married, Shirley said her father told her she was too young to marry and warned her "not to come home crying."

She never did, and for the next 43 years, Shirley and Leon were a couple in every sense of the word.

Before Leon became a feed salesman, he worked as a feed delivery man.

"It was backbreaking work, but he never complained, even when he came home exhausted," Shirley said.

Hunting was one of Leon's favorite pastimes when he wasn't working, remodeling or going to ballgames.

"We'd always go hunting together," Dale said. "Dad would always say, 'I shot it, you field dress it while I go get the truck' - and every year, that truck seemed to get farther and farther away."

William said there never were better parents than his father and mother.

"You just couldn't build a better dad," he said.

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