Life Lessons is a 2019 project highlighting the life and times of Wisconsin Seventh-day Adventist Church members who are 90 years of age or older, and still actively serving and loving Jesus
Life in the Early 1900’s
Jeanette Mann, born April 4, 1924, in Door County, Wisconsin, considers it a blessing to have lived her life of 95 years in this picturesque area, known for its coastal vistas, historic lighthouses, shipyards, quaint villages, abundant cherry orchards and fragrant lavender fields. While Door County is a vacation destination for many today, chores defined life for young Jeanette, as her father’s dairy farm kept all eight children busy carrying water from the outside pump, hauling wood to the house for the wood and cook stoves, cleaning kerosene lamp chimneys, and tending the garden. They had a collie dog named Curley who was much more than a pet. Jeanette recalls hearing her father say early each morning, “Curly, go get the cows,” and Curly would go round them up and bring them to the barn for milking.
Each Sunday during the summer Jeanette’s family would crank their old model T up, pile in and drive to see family who lived in Manitowoc, Wisconsin. The long drive of approximately 80 miles each way, seemed to take forever recalls Jeanette. She dreaded the three to four hour drive each way, but admits once they arrived, there were great memories made laughing, eating, and just being together. Cranking up the old Model T was a special event, as most of the time they walked where they wanted to go. She never remembers driving to church which was a couple miles away. “Walking is the main way we got around,” said Jeanette. “Now days people expect to be taken wherever they go, but it wasn’t that way 80-90 years ago.”
In the winter when snow covered the ground, Jeanette remembers riding to school in a horse-drawn sleigh the school district sent to pick up farm children in the area. There was no glass in the open windows, only curtains they could pull, but they were thankful for the ride.
Don and the Adventists
When Jeanette was in high school, new neighbors moved to the farm just across the road. Jeanette didn’t meet their son, Don, right away as he was away attending Emanuel Missionary College (Andrews) taking agriculture and business classes. Don’s little sister wrote him at the college saying, “You’ll like our neighbors. they have a boy for me and a girl for you,” little knowing that one day Don and Jeanette would marry. When Don did come home he came to stay, as times were pretty tough in the 1920’s and he couldn’t afford to go back to school. He stayed home and took a welding class while working in the shipyards
Don and Jeanette got to know each other at neighborhood gatherings to sled, picnic, or just visit. When Jeanette finished high school jobs were hard to come by, so she took a live-in job caring for a family’s two young children. “After the children were in bed, Don would come over and we would study the Bible together,” said Janette. “That was the way we dated. He was a Seventh-day Adventist, and my family were Lutheran, although we only attended church on special occasions. It was all new to me, and so different. In the Lutheran church we didn’t learn the Bible like the Adventist did, and I found it very interesting.”
When Don asked Jeanette to marry him, her folks were very opposed. They felt Don and his family’s religion was too unusual, and they didn’t like that they went to church on Saturday. “I found that surprising,” said Jeanette, “as they rarely attended Sunday church themselves.”
Jeanette was baptized into the Green Bay Seventh-day Adventist Church in June, and the following August 20, 1942, Don and Jeanette were married. Jeanette’s family were so opposed to the marriage, they didn’t attend the wedding. “No matter what I said, my folks just couldn’t understand, but fortunately as the years went by they came to realize Don wasn’t as bad as they had thought,” said Jeanette, the only one in her family who ever accepted the Adventist faith. God was leading in Jeanette’s life and gave her the strength she needed.
“When I joined the church, I depended a lot on Don’s folks,” said Jeanette. “They were a big influence in my life. There was also a young dentist and his wife who became good mentors, encouraging me and helping me learn about living for Jesus. They were so kind. I learned a lot from them.” Through the years Jeanette has taught Sabbath school, and played the piano for church when needed.
Facing Life’s Challenges
Jeanette & Don began their life together studying the Sabbath School Lesson and reading a few chapters from their Bible each morning. Don got a federal job overseeing government shipbuilding and Jeanette dedicated her days to raising three children, Claudia, Jim, and Jerry. As the children grew, it became a priority for the young couple that all their children attend Wisconsin Academy and that the school bill always be paid. “I was able to get a temporary offie job in a shipbuilding company, and ended up staying there for 25 years,” said Jeanette. “God opened the way for us to do the right thing with our children. We never had a lot of money, but I think when you put God first you become rich. Praise the Lord all our children stayed in the Adventist faith.”
“It doesn’t seem like I’m 95,” says Jeanette. “The years go by too fast.” Jeanette still drives to church, the beauty shop, the grocery store, and to take her 97-year-old sister to the doctor every few months. She also counts the Sabbath School offering weekly, takes a hot dish to potluck and sends missing members a church bulletin each week with a note that they are missed. Jeanette likes to put puzzles together and enjoys belonging to a book club that gets together every month.
Jeanette has seen many changes in the world since she was born. She says, “Some changes are good, and some are bad. One change I’m glad for is that I’m not so busy and have more time for reading the Bible. Another good change is that we have refrigerators rather than our old ice box, I’m glad we don’t have to heat the cookstove with wood any more. I do wish families had more time to sit down and eat a meal and visit together every day. I think it’s really important.”
One Thing That Never Changes
One thing Jeanette still does every morning is read her Sabbath School Lesson and a couple chapters out of her Bible. “Don and I always studied the Sabbath School Lesson and read the Bible. A lot has changed in life, but that’s one thing that hasn’t changed.”
“There’s been tough times and good times. The tough time are good for you because you can grow, and look back and appreciate things you never would otherwise. I wouldn’t want to change anything in my life. It’s all turned out good.”
“Just remember to keep God with you,” says Jeanette. “Keep reading the good book and follow it. Whatever changes come in your life, you can trust your future to Jesus.”
Juanita Edge, Communication Director