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Modesto has lost literally one of its biggest cheerleaders.
Former Councilwoman Jenny Kenoyer, 88, died at her home Wednesday surrounded by family members after being in hospice care for about a month for lung cancer, according to one of her daughters.
She served on the council for nine years, with her tenure ending on Nov. 29, 2022, when her successor, Jeremiah Williams, was sworn into office. Term limits prevented Kenoyer from running for re-election, but she did get an extra year in office when the city moved from odd- to even-year elections.
In 1953, Kenoyer became Modesto High School’s first female yell leader, according to a previous Bee story. And she never stopped being a champion and cheerleader for the city, especially its less fortunate residents, including people without homes. And she had no hesitation in expressing her thoughts or wading into controversies.
“She was a jewel,” Williams said. “She was a hard worker and not shy when it came to opinions, not shy (at all) when it came to opinions.”
Kenoyer announced in September 2018 that she had lung cancer. She said then that she had smoked for 24 years but had quit 45 years ago. Kenoyer underwent radiation and chemotherapy.
Kenoyer’s daughter Melissa Scott said the cancer had been in remission until it was spotted on a CT scan about six weeks ago. Kenoyer had been in hospice care for about a month.
“Unfortunately, it came back recently,” Scott said. “... She just decided she wasn’t going to do anything about it. It (treatment) was too much. She was tired.”
“The biggest thing,” Scott said, “is she was in her home (at Coralwood mobile home park) with her kids at her side and peaceful. She died around 11 p.m. Wednesday. It just so happened to be All Saints’ Day. My mom was very religious, so it was a perfect day for her to pass away.”
Kenoyer had been a registered nurse for 48 years. Scott said her mother was born April 27, 1935, in Patterson and grew up in Modesto.
When Stanislaus County named her one of the five outstanding seniors for 2022, it said her accomplishments included working since 2008 on improving public transit for seniors and people with disabilities, serving as a certified ombudsman through Catholic Charities for five years and helping launch the Stanislaus County Access Center to help homeless people.
Kenoyer’s survivors include daughters Martha “Butterfly” Ketchum, Pamela (Ray) Newman, Melissa (Kip) Scott, sons Mark (Donna) Ketchum and Patrick (Caroline) Ketchum, as well as five grandchildren and one great-grandson.
Scott said the family still is working out the details for Kenoyer’s memorial service but expects it will be public. She said her mother asked that people honor her memory by donating to their favorite charity.
Williams said he will ask Mayor Sue Zwahlen for a moment of silence at this Tuesday’s City Council meeting in honor of Kenoyer. Williams said he also will talk about what Kenoyer has meant to Modesto and expects other council members to speak about her as well.