Cover photo for Jenny (Young)  Kern's Obituary
1920 Jenny 2024

Jenny (Young) Kern

November 8, 1920 — March 1, 2024

Ellensburg, Washington

Jenny (Young) Kern began a 103-year adventure on November 8, 1920, upstairs in a lockkeeper’s house on the Thames, upriver from London. While the midwife was assisting with Jenny’s arrival upstairs, the local doctor was downstairs performing tracheotomies on two of her older sisters to save them from the effects of diphtheria. Jenny was the youngest of five children born to L. S. “Brig” Young, newly transitioned from chief petty officer in the Royal Navy to lock-keeper, and Jessie Kate (MacLennan). Jessie Kate was a resourceful Scottish lady from Wick, who had labored to raise four of their five children largely on her own, on Brig’s seaman’s wages, while Brig sailed across the British Empire.

Jenny was the apple of Brig’s eye, and he provided for her an active, idyllic childhood along the Thames. When he biked to the Swan (a local pub), she rode along in a flannel-lined basket. She’d sit outside drinking a shandy and eating chips while Brig visited with his mates inside. Brig’s participation in the annual lock-keeper gardening competitions embedded in Jenny a lifelong passion for growing flowers.

Living along the Thames and attending school meant travelling by skiff and bicycle, sometimes crossing miles of flooded fields. Jenny started school at Shiplake and finished at Farrington at 16. Brig encouraged further education, so Jenny earned a degree in business from Underwood College. She worked several secretarial jobs until WW II started and the military deemed those jobs non-essential. She decided to pursue nursing as a volunteer.

A few years into volunteer work at Battle Hospital, the head nurse said, “This war is going to go on for a while, and you might as well begin training to become an RN.”  In January of 1943, Jenny began her training and graduated in March of 1946 as an RN, an accomplishment that gave her entry into a group of very special people.

Jenny met Bentley at a USO dance in the Olympic Ballroom in Reading, near the airfield where Bentley was stationed. Instead of trying to impress Jenny with stories about himself, he talked about the beautiful hills and mountains back home in Central Washington. Jenny came to see this Yank as quite different from the others; he proposed, and she accepted. Soon after, he answered the Army’s call for men after the Battle of the Bulge, and moved from the Army Air Corps to the infantry – and the front in Europe. They did not meet again until their wedding day, July 13, 1946.

July 11, 1946, Jenny’s family waved goodbye from the collection of tents that was Heathrow Airport. She boarded the plane not knowing whether she’d see her family again, but ready for adventure.  She wore the dress she planned to be wed in, purchased with clothing coupons donated by her nursing colleagues. (Unfortunately, the dress got stained from the chocolate – never rationed in Ireland – that she bought on the first stop, in Shannon, but couldn’t finish.) Upon arrival in North America, the plane (a DC-3) was held at Gander for inspection after its companion had disappeared over the Atlantic. Entering the U.S. at Chicago, wearing Bentley’s fraternity pin, Jenny got expedited treatment going through customs when the official – a fellow Kappa Sig – noticed the pin Bentley had given her.  When Jenny finally arrived in Seattle, Bentley was there waiting at the airport, but completely immersed in reading a book.  Jenny waited and wondered if she was getting stood up on her wedding day! They reconnected making the trip from Boeing Field through vastly different landscapes to Ellensburg, where – strangely – most of the houses were “bungalows” (wooden) instead of the brick or stone she’d grown up with. Meeting her soon-to-be in-laws for the first time, with all the guests already seated, Jenny needed a bath and a different dress. She got her “tepid” bath, and the dress was provided by her soon-to-be lifelong chosen kin, Shirley Kern. On July 13th, 1946, Jenny and Bentley entered into a partnership that spanned 40 years together and another 38 years of Jenny carrying Bentley’s story and spirit forward.

They became partners in their cattle business. She did the books, gave the shots, made the parts runs, participated in discussions with the loan officer. (It was quickly established that Mom would not do chickens or goats!) Mom was also the person Dad shared all of his worries with at four in the morning so he could go back to sleep – while she then lay awake.

In 1986, after Bentley passed away, Jenny worked to keep the ranch running by enrolling dryland ground in the CRP and finding lessees to graze the pastures. In 1989 her son Phlip and daughter-in-law Janet joined Jenny and farmed together until Jenny retired at 87.

Though Jenny had a special and different relationship with each of her kids, she invested extra efforts for Doug through her dedication to Elmview, to which she deeply grateful.

Jenny enjoyed her membership in several Ellensburg organizations: Chapter BF of PEO, Study Club, and Scholarship Luncheon group.

Jenny was preceded in death by her husband Bentley D. Kern; parents: Brig & Jessie Kate Young; her sisters: Em Carter, Kathleen Clack, Iris Young; brother: Leonard Herbert Young; and daughter-in-law: Debbie (Sulenes) Kern.

Jenny is survived by children: Ab (Kathleen) Kern, Doug Kern, Sharon (Stuart) Pearl, Mary (Randy) Frolen, Phlip (Janet) Kern; grandchildren: Andy (Jackie) Kern, Katie (Joel) Fingeroot, Lisa Pearl, Brian Pearl, Jeffrey (Kaitlyn) Frolen, Chesna (Colton) Kern; Great-grandchildren: Sophia Kern, Bentley “Ben” Kern, Jackson Fingeroot, Hannah Fingeroot.

Mom requested no service, but we believe she wouldn’t mind if we meet at her grave to lay flowers at 1:00 pm on Saturday, April 6, 2024 and then go to Perkins afterward for a bite and a cup of coffee.

Arrangements have been entrusted to Johnston & Williams of Ellensburg. Online condolences may be left at

To send flowers to the family in memory of Jenny (Young) Kern, please visit our flower store.


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