Carl Jennings was descended from Southern gentlemen. He devoted his life to the Lord and affected the lives of thousands of Coronado residents over the years. He died Jan. 11, 2020 of natural causes. He was 91.
Carl Grattan Jennings, Jr. was born in Los Angeles, Sept. 24, 1928. He had a twin sister, Betsy Ann Jennings, who predeceased him in death. Carl’s mother was a direct descendant to Jefferson Davis, president of the Confederacy.
Carl had a happy childhood. He and his father enjoyed a special bond, a relationship Carl would later enjoy with his son Tim. “My father taught me to be honest, to work hard and stay out of trouble. We were very close,” said Carl. “Those are the gifts I give to my own son, Tim.”
Carl graduated from Los Angeles High School in 1946. He joined the ROTC while still in high school. He then attended the University of Southern California (USC) majoring in pre-dental. While at USC he joined the National Guard (1947) and attended Officers’ Candidate School in San Antonio, Texas.
In December of 1951, Carl was sent to North Korea, in the Army Medical Services Corps. He was a battalion surgeon’s assistant, and later a medical platoon leader, where he served as first lieutenant with 24 medics under him and a doctor above him, working in the combat zone.
Carl’s time in Korea was filled with narrow escapes. His medical team was bivouacked right on the front line. More than once they had to retreat on short notice with their patients to avoid being overrun by Chinese soldiers, at times, amidst ricocheting bullets, and panicked American soldiers also running for safety.
As a man of God Carl was always quick to explain his good fortune. “The Lord had other things planned for me. I was afraid in Korea, we all were, but I took great comfort in knowing I had that relationship with God.”
Carl was only in Korea from January-June 1952, but it seemed like a lifetime to him. Among his medals and awards were a Bronze Star (Korea), Combat Medical Badge (Korea), United Nations Ribbon, Combat Ribbon (with two stars), a Japanese Occupation Ribbon, and numerous other decorations for action under hostile fire in Korea.
Carl returned to USC just seven units shy of his degree. But his experience in Korea caused him to reevaluate his life. He decided to go into the ministry. In 1954 he graduated from USC with a Bachelor’s Degree in English and history. He married his childhood sweetheart, Evelyn Nelson in 1956.
Carl’s initial assignment was First Baptist Church in Pearl Harbor. He was there from 1960-1963. After that he went to the First Baptist Church in Banning, California. He served there for seven years before being reassigned to Lindley Baptist Church, in Encino, California. After that he was at the First Baptist Church of Coronado, located in the 400 block of C Avenue, where he served for ten years. Working in Coronado presented an ideal situation for the Jennings family, and allowed Carl to raise his family here, just a short walk from his church.
Carl and Evelyn were parents of two children -- Jennifer Anne and Tim. Jennifer died in 1977 of Systemic Lupus, and Evelyn passed in 1987 of breast cancer.
He often felt he didn’t have a handbook to follow when raising his own children. And yet, he was adamant that everything he did with and for his children included the following: “God being father, my being there for them in thick and thin, setting a good example, keeping my word, spending time with my children and encouraging them in school and in life. Most importantly, telling them I loved them, again and again and again.”
Carl retired as a full colonel Army chaplain in 1995. He left the ministry, and worked 10 years as an insurance agent with Prudential.
After Evelyn’s passing, Carl wasn’t sure how to move forward. Son Tim married, had three children and moved to Wyoming. Then, in 1988, Carl met Marie Armstrong, who also was recently widowed. They married that year and remained together for the remainder of their lives – more than 30 years.
Carl celebrated his 90th birthday at Coronado Retirement Village, but was able to return to his Loma Avenue home shortly thereafter, which was his wish – to die at home - where he lived joyfully for more than a year. He was a very happy man, and shared that happiness with everyone he encountered.
Hardships helped define and shape him over the years, but Carl will be remembered as a good father, a good friend; a good Army officer, an attentive chaplain; and a good child of God. “I’ve always considered myself rich in family and friends,” he would often say, “my life has been blessed.”
Carl Jennings is survived by his wife Marie, son Tim (Peyton) and grandchildren Brock, Blair and Brynn of Afton, Wyoming. Also surviving him is niece Susan Montalbano of Temecula. He was predeceased by his sister Betsy, first wife Evelyn and daughter Jennifer.
Services to be announced. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made to the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 2422, 557 Orange Avenue, Coronado, CA 92118, “In Memory of Colonel Carl Jennings.”