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  • Writer's pictureRachel Nelson

The Last Chapter, A Senior Finds Renewed Purpose

I once was told by a long-ago retiree that “no one cares what I did for so many years. I’m ‘just’ retired.” I can’t help but think of that statement each time I speak with a homeowner we’re helping. It struck me again when I had the opportunity to chat with Mr. Jerry Bennett while his home was being painted by a group of volunteers from M.D. Wise.

“Who am I?” Jerry contemplated my typically simple introductory question, meant to pull out an interviewees name and perhaps a little history about them.

“I am a seventh generation American. I know my lineage all the way back to John Howland.” Jerry speaks with the diction and soothing tone of a storyteller one pays money to sit and listen to while in dim lighting and rapt attention. “I was born in Washington D.C. and moved to Stamford, Connecticut when I was six because my dad had gotten a job in the Big Apple.”

Turns out, Mr. Bennett Sr. was a much sought after writer and creator for a high end ad agency as well as a featured writer for Scientific America. Jerry’s brother became a rocket scientist and Jerry, though initially reluctant to call himself a writer, became an accomplished writer. In addition to writing, he served in the United States Navy, became a command press for the White River Naval and Marine Corps Reserve Center and later did preliminary design work for the Memorial to the USS Indianapolis (located on the Canal downtown); and even for the American Legion Halls. He was a printer and a journeyman typesetter.

In his personal life, Jerry married Winona, also a service member, and was married for 52 years before she passed away. They had two sons, Mathew and Mark, both of whom have preceded Jerry.

Jerry has called this house home since 1976. It was the school system that drew them this direction and the home his wife fell in love with. The house was built in 1830 and a homestead house. They became involved in their local Presbyterian church, Jerry still writes for their newsletter, and embraced their community.

After his wife’s passing and already losing his sons, Jerry began to wrestle with depression and financial struggles. This even despite being an Ally with the Circles program at his first church home in Indianapolis, Tabernacle Presbyterian Church. For anyone familiar with scripture, you’ll appreciate Jerry’s analogical walk through his experience.

“When I was a lot younger I had a phobia about the book of Job because it just did not seem fair. My initials were J.B. and while I was living in the New York area, a gentleman by the name of Archibald MacLeish had a play on Broadway called “JB” based on the book of Job. I connected with that book and I didn't like the story.” Jerry continues to explain, “Right now I'm in the last chapter of the book of Job. In the last chapter, the devil is sent packing and God restores all of Job’s fortunes, including a new family.”

Not one to remain down, Jerry took his own skills to himself and began participating in the Circles program. A citation from the Marion County Health Department drove him to find solutions to fix his home. One such solution came from the MCHD itself, they referred him to NeighborLink Indianapolis to help clear his citation.

Today, with a host of volunteers from MDWise tackling the chipping paint along Jerry’s home, he also has a selfless and wonderful companion, Mary. Mary brought with her, her grandsons, and together they are raising the boys in this big old house. Once again, alive with feet running about, shouts and laughter.

“I've got a new family.” Jerry says with evident emotion. “We're a family of six now and I just love this time of my life. Sure, I miss my boys, but I talk to them every now and then. And, you know, they're waiting for me. I'm not going to go any sooner than I have to, but I'm not worried about it when I do.”

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