THE LIFE STORY OF JENEY McCOY
(Jennifer Reiko Watanabe Young McCoy)
March 18, 1934 – July 21, 2022
We are sorry to announce the loss of our mother Jeney McCoy, a resident of Santa Barbara since 1977, who at one time was known in town as co-owner of McConnell’s Ice Cream, along with her late husband, the great 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 devoted mother to her family. His friends loved him for his upbeat personality. She raised 4 prosperous sons, a daughter and 2 stepchildren in two cities. There have been 4 major chapters in his long eventful life.
CHAPTER ONE – THE FARM
Jennifer was born in Great Neck, Long Island, New York. His mother Eleanor Blanchard was born in Hobart, Tasmania, Australia, and grew up in Melbourne. Eleanor was one of 5 Blanchard sisters born to an English-born ship’s captain; Jennifer’s father was Hideo Watanabe, a half-Japanese man who had a Japanese father and a British mother, unusual for the late 1800s.
Mom’s earliest memories were of living on the farm in Doylestown, Pennsylvania, which belonged to her aunt Dorothy and her uncle, lyricist Oscar Hammerstein II. Because of this bond, Jeney “grew up on the farm” and attended private boarding schools in the area (Baldwin Elementary and George School). In high school, our mother was beautiful, tall, and tanned, and competed on the tennis and swim teams, as well as starred in school productions. She maintained her interest in the plays and music of Rogers and Hammerstein throughout her life.
At 18, Jennifer’s father died, and at this young age she traveled through Western Europe on her own and with her mother. She then returned to the United States and attended Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio. During an early morning religion class, Jennifer would slowly fall asleep during the lecture, being noticed by a young man who had just returned from the Marines, Richard Young.
CHAPTER TWO – RAISING 4 BOYS IN LOS ANGELES
Richard and Jennifer fell in love, married, and had baby Kevin in 1957. After earning his doctorate 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 UCLA medical school, starting as an assistant professor. Soon Mikey, Jimmy and Andy were born.
Those 15 years in Los Angeles were when Jennifer truly fulfilled her childhood goal and wish to be a “mom,” raising 4 rambunctious, strong-willed boys. It was between 1960 and 1975 and Jennifer was between 25 and 40 years old. We calculated during that time that she cooked over 7,000 lunches, plus all those breakfasts and dinners, plus all the laundry, dishes and cleaning. Jennifer’s energy was up to the task – and more! She had a hands-off, confident parenting style that gave her 4 boys self-confidence and a sense of adventure.
Jennifer’s specialty was getting odd jobs to supplement Richard’s starting assistant professor salary. She was a contestant on game shows winning furniture and thousands of dollars. She worked the ticket office at the Santa Monica Ice Rink so her boys could get free admission and cheap lessons. She worked selling gourmet chocolates along the coast with DeVries Imports. She also drove us kids to interviews all over Los Angeles to earn extra money in TV commercials and movies.
CHAPTER THREE – SANTA BARBARA
In the mid-1970s, Jeney met the second great love of her life, Jim McCoy of Santa Barbara, on a food show. Jim had a daughter and a son, Monika and Robert, and Jennifer had 4 sons between the ages of 12 and 18. Somehow, against all odds, they made it work. Soon, a whole new 40-year-old second life began 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 siblings. Jennifer always joked “I had to switch models to get the girl”. Jennifer changed her name to Jeney for numerological reasons. Everyone moved into a 5BR 4Bath Spanish style home with a pool on the upper east side of Quinto Street. It became a social gathering point for family and friends, a place where Jeney and Jim hosted super bowl, Francophonie and thanksgiving parties. It was an open and friendly house where all the children could bring their friends to swim or relax.
It was the type of high-energy housekeeping that Jeney liked. With Swiss or French au pairs helping to raise little Jeni as the boys moved away, Jeney made sure to enjoy Santa Barbara life to the fullest. She and Jim had many opportunities to socialize at the University Club, Montecito Country Club and Yacht Club. They were great Fiesta volunteers and Jeney was primera donna when Jim was El Presidente in 1996. Jennifer and Jim hosted an annual party at the Montecito Country Club called Elegant Evening which drew hundreds of friends each year. Jeney was captain of the Montecito Country Club women’s tennis team which played against the other teams in the club – then they all went to lunch together. It was a crazy and fun ride, these 40 years from 1975-2015!
CHAPTER FOUR – THE FINAL CHAPTER
Jeney’s stepson, Robert McCoy, died in 1980 aged 18. His daughter Jeni Reiko McCoy died in 2012 at the age of 34. After selling McConnell’s Ice Cream business, the great Jim McCoy died in 2013. After selling the real estate under McConnell’s Ice Cream Manufacturing Plant (on East Canon Perdido in Nopal), Jeney could live out his final years at home with adventure travel and professional care. She took her kids on cruises – to Alaska, Hawaii and Tahiti. We went to the movies on Tuesday followed by dinner at the State Street restaurant (she liked Chase). Sundays were the SB unit followed by lunch at the Yacht Club or University Club.
But our mum was now alone in the big house showing signs that she would need help. She eventually had to use a wheelchair and we had live help (thanks Carol Lawrence) and help during the day. Then Covid hit and for a few years it was hard to stay safe and busy.
The last months of Jeney’s life were truly a blessing. Her two great-grandsons moved to town and there was plenty of quality time with the little ones. She had just seen the movie ‘Elvis’, she spent time on recombinant electric bikes, took wheelchair rides on the beach at Hendry’s and Refugio, had lots of restaurant meals… We were all lucky 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 daughter-in-law Monika, 8 grandchildren (Kimberly, Amber, Christopher, Scotty, Jackson, Grayson, Bridget, Lindsey) and 2 great-grandsons, Sam and Max. Local family members also include cousins Katy and Paul Jacobson, Kia-ora Fox and Osiris, Isaiah and Ajala.
A service is scheduled for October 29 at the SB unit at 1 p.m. A memorial donation in his name supporting his spiritual community can 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 some time. But Jeney wouldn’t want it that way. If she could have this last wish, it would be that everyone she had the privilege of touching in some way wouldn’t cry, but instead turn on strobe lights and dance…preferably to Green River by CCR.