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Jeny Walker will be fondly remembered

Johnson City Press • Aug 11, 2018 at 8:15 AM

It’s difficult and seems a little morbid to write what is essentially an obituary for someone who is still alive. Normally, we publish them after people die, recounting their actions and impact on this world, so still-living family members and friends can begin to find closure during trying times.

With this editorial, however, we want Jeny Walker to know the contributions she made during her life were appreciated, and her legacy will last long after her time here expires.

As director of the Mountain Home National Cemetery, Jeny oversaw a resurgence of the burial grounds, letting former service members and their families know the cemetery was open for new burials and even opening a 10-acre expansion with 1,400 new gravesites and 700 places for cremains.

She organized a ceremony for Korean War veterans to ensure those who fought in the “forgotten war” that they were remembered, and she initiated a seven-hour roll call to commemorate each of the 2,500 Vietnam veterans laid to rest in the cemetery.

During her career with Veterans Affairs, including the three she spent here as cemetery director, she worked tirelessly to honor veterans in their lives and after their deaths.

But that’s not even half of the positivity she put out into the world.

Most would describe her upbeat attitude as infectious and her personality as magnetic.

When meeting Jeny for the first time, you got the impression you’d been close friends for ages.

That’s why so many were shocked and hurt this week when we learned Jeny had been diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer and was expected to live only another three months.

Caught in a torrent of emotion that would likely capsize most of us with overwhelming feelings of helplessness and hopelessness, Jeny, true to her personality, found clarity and positivity.

Familiar with the negative side effects of chemotherapy after a battle with lymphoma 15 years ago, she made the tough decision to forego chemo or radiation and to live as much as she could in the short time she has left.

“I’m pretty resolved,” to the diagnosis, she told senior reporter Becky Campbell last week. “It is what it is. I could sit in bed and be bitter and wait to die. I’m not sitting and waiting on it. I want to go as long as I can, as far as I can.”

It’s not our intent to make a value judgement on Jeny’s decision. It was a very personal choice she made, and anyone who’s ever faced a similarly dire dilemma or has watched a family member face it knows the tremendous courage it takes to choose either path.

We would like her to know, however, that she has our respect and admiration for the important work she’s done in our community, and want to make clear that she will live on for years, if not decades, in the memories of those she’s touched.

Jeny, we wish you a lifetime of happy experiences in these few, fleeting moments and hope you and your family find peace.

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