On behalf of Jen and her family, I write this post.
In the afternoon of Thursday, July 18th, Jen Vennes passed away. She died at home surrounded by friends and family.
A week later, we filled St. James Cathedral in Seattle to honor and remember her life.
Last week, a second memorial was held in New York.
Jen’s husband, Karl, delivered the following eulogy:
Allow me this moment to share some memories of Jen and our lives together.
Jen was born in Long Island, New York on May 8th, 1974. She was born to Patricia and Sal Ledda. Jenny has two older siblings, Elise and Billy. Jen’s ancestors had immigrated to the United States through Ellis Island a few generations before.
Jen was a quiet, thoughtful young girl, growing up in a loud and busy New York, Italian family. When all the family would be around the dinner table talking .. or as Jen put it .. “screaming at each other”, she would quietly crawl under the table to get away.
Patricia is an amazing cook. She was the family cook and host. This is where all of Jen’s friends would gather. This is where Jen started developing her passion for quality of life and simplicity.
Jen’s early passions were fashion, art, dancing and food!
The family moved to Kennebunkport, Maine in 1987 and operated a Bed and Breakfast Inn.
When Jen graduated High School, she moved back to New York and attended Brooklyn College and The Fashion Institute. As part of her education, Jen spent six months in Italy as part of a study abroad program. She learned the language, loved the art, the culture and got the travel bug. When she returned home, she spent her down time going dancing at the clubs in Manhattan with Billy and his entourage. She would drive them into the city and they would protect her. They were a little over protective and Jen started wondering if she would have to leave New York to get a date! About this time, some friends were moving to Seattle and they asked if she would like to join them.
She decided to go check out Seattle, the year was 1995. She only stayed through the summer that first time, but fell in love with her soon to be new home. After the summer, Jen went back to Manhattan and began working in the vintage fashion industry. In 1997, she moved back to Seattle for good, settled into an artist loft in Pioneer Square and went to work at Isadora’s Vintage Clothing & Jewelry in the Pike Place Market area. The friendships she would develop through Isadora’s would last the rest of her life.
When I met Jen it was early 1998. I was living in Aspen, cooking and snowboarding. I had come back home for the Holidays. We had met very briefly the first time she lived in Seattle, so when we ran into each other on the street, I promptly invited her to dinner .. she accepted. That’s when I found out she was a vegetarian! Uh oh! However, she did eat seafood. That first time I cooked for her was salmon, veggies and polenta. A nice simple meal. We talked for hours. I knew when I went home that night, I had met someone special. I could describe her at length, but I’m going to try to use words the sum her up .. STUNNNING .. GRACEFUL .. BEAUTIFUL .. ELEGANT .. THOUGHTFUL .. STRONG .. and .. COURAGEOUS.
To my surprise, Jennifer invited me to her place for dinner two days later. I promptly accepted. She later told me she was terrified cooking for me and had been on the phone with her Mother in New York all day long to get it right, but WOW, did she get it right! She made an Italian lentil soup that was perfect. She even cooked sausage for me .. it was a very nice night. That next day I had to get back to Colorado. We stayed in touch constantly, writing letters and talking on the phone. I invited her to visit Aspen and she came. She arrived on February 15th. I spent the entire day before making her a box of chocolates. I bought her a small bouquet of wild roses.
We had a great time skiing, dining, talking and really getting to know each other. When the five days had come to an end, we had a bond that has never been broken. She went back to Seattle and I followed her in early April. My Dad drove me back from Aspen, directly to her loft space and we’ve been together ever since.
The time spent in the loft was happy, fun and always included friends and dinner parties. We only had a two burner camp stove, but we would cook for ten to twenty people all the time. Jen loved being the hostess and she was great at it. We didn’t have very much money, but that didn’t matter at all. Our vacation time was spent on road trips and time with our friends, Rick and Loralee on their amazing farm.
During this time, we started making plans for bigger travel. We had decided we would spend three months eating and drinking our way through Italy and Spain. In the spring of 2001, we were headed for Europe.
It was a brilliant time. Jen was a perfect traveling partner. The next new town or the next good meal was our only guide. We drank a lot of wine in cafes or sitting on beaches at sunset.
One of Jen’s favorite things to do was to horseback ride and we would search out great places to ride. We rode through the mountains of Grazalema, Spain and the beaches of Jerez. When the trip came to an end, we agreed it was the trip of a lifetime. It was much more than we ever expected, and that is when we started planning the rest of our lives together.
The next five or so years was spent enjoying time together. We both took more professional jobs, we bought our house in Lake Forest Park, we continued to travel and have dinner parties. Jen’s hobbies of writing and photography flourished during this time.
In the fall of 2006, we married at Quillisascut, Rick and Loralee’s farm in Eastern Washington. It was a small beautiful ceremony, surrounded by love, friendship, good food and wine.
We were preparing to build our family. When Jen became pregnant in the spring of 2010, we were both ecstatic and ready for the challenge. We remodeled, we painted .. we researched and read about our future with a child. This is also when we found out we had another challenge. Jen was diagnosed with cancer.
These challenges only made Jen stronger. She remained calm and grounded. On January 17, 2011, our son Milo was born; and Jen took on the greatest role of her life .. “Mother”.
The next two and half years were the best and most difficult of our lives together. The strength and grace that Jen exuded were awe inspiring. Her love for Milo and me kept us all positive and living. Everyone that Jen has ever met knows her inner beauty. We are all fortunate and thankful to have been in her presence. Thank you Jen for all the years of absolute brilliance. You will always and forever be Milo and my guide through life.
To view Jen’s memorial program, click on the pdf link below.