THE LIFE STORY OF JENEY McCOY
(Jennifer Reiko Watanabe Young McCoy)
March 18, 1934 – July 21, 2022
We are sorry to report the loss of our Mother Jeney McCoy, a Santa Barbara resident since 1977, who at one time was known about town as the co-owner of McConnell’s Ice Cream, along with her late husband, big Jim McCoy.
Mom was quite the character, truly one of a kind. She was full of boundless good energy, generous to everyone, fun to be around and a dedicated mother to her family. Her friends loved her for her upbeat personality. She raised 4 successful sons, a daughter and 2 stepchildren in two cities. There were 4 great chapters in her long eventful life.
CHAPTER ONE – THE FARM
Jennifer was born in Great Neck, Long Island, New York. Her Mother Eleanor Blanchard was born in Hobart, Tasmania, Australia, and grew up in Melbourne. Eleanor was one of 5 Blanchard sisters born to a ship captain with English roots; Jennifer’s Father was Hideo Watanabe, a half Japanese man who had Japanese Father and British Mother, unusual for the late 1800’s.
Mom’s earliest memories were of living on the farm, in Doylestown Pennsylvania, that belonged to her Aunt Dorothy and Uncle, the lyricist Oscar Hammerstein II. Because of this connection Jeney “grew up on the Farm”, and attended private boarding schools in the area (Baldwin Elementary and George School). In High School, our Mom was beautiful, long limbed and tan, and competed on the tennis and swim teams, as well as acted in school productions. She kept her interest in Rogers and Hammerstein plays and music her whole life.
At age 18 Jennifer’s Father passed away, and at that young age she traveled around western Europe solo and with her Mother. She then returned to the US and attended Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio. During an early morning religion class Jennifer would slowly nod off during the lecture, being noticed by a young man just returned from the Marines, Richard Young.
CHAPTER TWO – RAISING 4 BOYS IN LOS ANGELES
Richard and Jennifer fell in love, married and had little Kevin in 1957. After getting his PhD from Columbia University, Richard asked Jennifer which coast she wanted to live on. Jennifer chose the West coast, and so Richard took a job at the UCLA Medical School, starting as an assistant professor. Soon Mikey, Jimmy and Andy were born.
Those 15 years in Los Angeles were when Jennifer really fulfilled her purpose and wish since childhood of “being a mommy”, raising 4 strong willed successful rowdy boys. It was 1960-1975 and Jennifer was age 25-40. We calculated during that time she made over 7,000 lunches, plus all those breakfasts and dinners, plus did all the laundry, dishes and cleaning. Jennifer’s energy was equal to the task – and more! She had a laissez faire, trusting style of parenting that gave her 4 boys self confidence and a sense of adventure.
Jennifer’s specialty was getting odd jobs to augment Richard’s starting assistant Professor salary. She was a contestant on TV game shows winning furniture and thousands of dollars. She worked at the ticket counter at the Santa Monica ice skating rink so her boys could get free entry and cheap lessons. She worked selling gourmet chocolates up and down the coast with DeVries Imports. She would also drive us kids to interviews all over Los Angeles to make some extra money in TV commercials and movies.
CHAPTER THREE – SANTA BARBARA
In the mid 1970’s Jeney met the second great love in her life, Jim McCoy from Santa Barbara, at a food show. Jim had a daughter and son, Monika and Robert, and Jennifer had 4 sons between 12 and 18. Somehow, against all odds, they made it work. Soon a brand new, 40-year long second life started for Jennifer in the new town of Santa Barbara.
At the age of 43 Jennifer had a 5th child, little Jeni Reiko McCoy, in 1977, who was a joy growing up with her older brothers and sister. Jennifer always joked “I had to change models to get the girl”. Jennifer changed her name to Jeney for numerology reasons. Everyone moved in to a 5BR 4Bath Spanish style house with a pool on the upper east side on Quinto Street. It became a social gathering point for family and friends, a place where Jeney and Jim hosted super bowl, French speaking and thanksgiving parties. It was an open friendly household where all the kids could bring their friends to swim or hang out.
It was the type of high energy household Jeney loved. With Swiss or French au-pair girls helping raise little Jeni as the boys moved away, Jeney made sure to enjoy Santa Barbara life to its fullest. She and Jim had many opportunities to socialize at the University Club, the Montecito Country Club and the Yacht Club. They were big Fiesta volunteers and Jeney was primera donna when Jim was El Presidente in 1996. Jennifer and Jim put on an annual party at the Montecito Country Club called Elegant Evening that attracted hundreds of friends each year. Jeney was captain of the Montecito Country Club women’s tennis team that competed against the other club teams – then they would all go out to lunch together. It was a wild and fun ride, those 40 years from 1975-2015!
CHAPTER FOUR – THE FINAL CHAPTER
Jeney’s stepson Robert McCoy died in 1980 at age 18. Daughter Jeni Reiko McCoy died in 2012 at age 34. After selling the business McConnell’s Ice Cream, big Jim McCoy died in 2013. After selling the real estate underneath the McConnell’s Ice Cream manufacturing plant ( on East Canon Perdido at Nopal), Jeney could live her last years at home with some adventure travel and professional care. She took her kids on cruises – to Alaska, Hawaii and Tahiti. We went to Tuesday movies followed by a State Street restaurant dinner (she liked Chase). Sundays were Unity of SB followed by lunch at the Yacht Club or University Club.
But our Mom was now alone in the big house showing signs she could use some help. She eventually had to use a wheelchair and we got some live in (thank you Carol Lawrence) and daytime help. Then Covid hit and for a few years it was a struggle to stay safe and occupied.
The last months of Jeney’s life were truly a blessing. Her two great grandsons moved to town and there was lots of quality time with the little ones. She had just seen the movie ‘Elvis’, she spent time on recombinant electric bikes, took beach wheelchair rides at Hendry’s and Refugio, there were many restaurant meals… We all had a chance to be with her in her last days.
Jeney died in her sleep the night of July 20-21. She leaves behind 4 sons, Kevin, Mike, Jimmy, Andy, a step-daughter Monika, 8 grandchildren (Kimberly, Amber, Christopher, Scotty, Jackson, Grayson, Bridget, Lindsey) and 2 great grandsons, Samuel and Max. Local family members also include cousins Katy and Paul Jacobson, Kia-ora Fox, and Osiris, Isaiah and Ajala.
A service is planned for October 29 at Unity of SB at 1PM. A remembrance donation in her name supporting her spiritual community may be made to Unity at 227 E. Arrellaga SB CA 93101.
A bright light went out with Jeney, and those she left behind will mourn the loss for quite some time. But Jeney wouldn’t want it this way. If she could have this one last wish, it would be that all those whom she had the privilege of touching in some fashion or other should not mourn, but instead should turn on some strobe lighting, and dance … preferably to CCR’s Green River.