March 27, 2017
By Janice Biehn
PWRDF was saddened to learn of the passing of the Reverend Jennie Eleanor Kent at the age of 105 on February 22. In 2003, Rev’d Kent made an extraordinarily generous endowment to PWRDF. In the past 10 years, this offering has had an exponential impact on countless lives all over the world.
“We had no idea she made the donation,” said Douglas Kent, cousin to Smitty’s husband, Buck. “She was private about money matters.” He could only speculate that she must have felt PWRDF’s work was important.
Smitty, as she was nicknamed due to her maiden name of Smith, was born in Kennedy, Saskatoon in 1912. At 18 she started teaching in the ubiquitous one-room schoolhouses dotted across the prairie countryside. There could be as many as 40 kids learning in one place, ranging across 10 grades.
In those days, said cousin-in-law Douglas Kent, teachers “were not only rated by the quality of their education, but almost equally by the quality of their Christmas concerts. And Smitty had that mentality her entire life.”
In 1945 she married Alfred (Buck) Kent. Though they never had any children, her life was plenty busy working on the family farm, teaching and contributing her musical talents to the community.
Later Smitty taught typing and math at the local high school in Grenfell, Sask. Many former students attended the funeral. Kent laughed recalling one’s suggestions they should play the familiar jazz standard “Alley Cat” at the service, in tribute to the song she often used to set the rhythm in the beginner typing class. In an online condolence, one grateful family recognized Smitty’s patience in teaching math to their children when they were struggling.
In 1967, Smitty earned her BA from the University of Ottawa. After retiring from a long and dedicated teaching career, Smitty answered a calling from the Anglican ministry. She was ordained deacon by Bishop Michael Peers in 1981 (at 69) and priested two years later, serving as assistant priest in Pipestone Parish from 1981 to 1987. (Peers would go on to become the 11th Primate of Canada from 1986-2004, during the time when Smitty made her donation.)
“She was a great help in ministry in the parish,”said Rev. Willie Lourens, priest in Grenfell at the time. “We were able to provide four Sunday services every Sunday in Pipestone Parish at Grenfell, Broadview, Wolseley and Kipling, and in the summer months an additional service at Windthorst,” he told the Saskatchewan Anglican. “Smitty was a great teacher of the Word and in the community. She presided at Eucharist with great care.”
Rev. Lourens officiated the Anglican funeral liturgy on March 4, with Bishop Rob Hardwick, at Trinity Presbyterian Church in Grenfell. The service was well attended by community members, students, former clergy and a retired Bishop, said Kent, who delivered the eulogy with her nephew Wayne Stewart.
In a phone interview, Kent recalled Smitty’s profilic talents on the piano – accompanying a local dance band, playing reels for fiddlers and performing at weddings and funerals. “Some time in the mid-‘80s our Vestry at St. Michael and All Angels decided our Parish Hall needed an update,” he said. “She came up with the idea that she would play a ‘music-a-thon’, play the piano for 24 hours straight.” Kent says several people were skeptical, but it turned out their little hall was the only place in town for these kinds of events so people really valued it. “She played non-stop and we raised $4,000.”
In 1991 Buck passed away. The following year, Kent received her Diploma from Thorneloe University School of Theology (a federated college of Laurentian University). She remained an honorary assistant at Pipestone until age 94 and was awarded an Honorary Fellow by the College of Emmanuel and St. Chad in Saskatoon two years later.
Aside from being an active curler with Buck, an avid canasta player and being involved in several community groups, she served as secretary for the Agricultural Society for several years. Rev. Lourens described her as “pleasant, high-energy, goal-oriented, faith-inspired and a good friend.” No doubt she will be missed.
– With files from the Saskatchewan Anglican