Jeffrey Joseph Pennisi
- April 30, 2003

Jeff Pennisi High School
For several months I had been plagued by the thought of finding a person who I once knew in grade school: Jeff Pennisi. Jeff and I attended grade school together with him in Marinwood, California, and once he entered my life, he forever changed it and made it all the better.

Having been adopted, and having a mother who was probably one of the first "home flippers," we moved constantly. So adjusting to a new school every two to three years become increasingly difficult. Being raised by a Christian Scientist made it all the more difficult, although Christian Science in general has been extremely good to me and saved my life on more than one occasions.

Regardless, when Jeff Pennisi appeared on the scene, suddenly everything in my life changed. Although he was a bit on the rebellious side, he was incredible athletically. First and foremost, at tetherball. With his help and his guidance, we became the undefeated champions of the play ground and it was the best feeling I ever had. I now was really, really good at something and I excelled at it well.

Still, being harassed by a small number of students, because of my upbringing I still wouldn't fight back. This perplexed Jeff and finally after my own dad, the principle of the school and my teacher insisted that my mother relinquish her stance on "fighting back," Jeff set out to teach me how to fight. I was scared to death of the thought of striking another human being, but Jeff taught me that if I was going to survive in life -- even after grade school, I had to know how to stand my ground and never be afraid. After hours, days and weeks of teaching me a variety of techniques, the day came I would have to stand my ground.

While on the playing field where we had played baseball so often, one of the students decided that he was going to take this opportunity to elevate himself by challenging me to a fight after long standing history of verbal and physical harassment. The regular playground was set above the baseball field so when the challenge was made, everyone soon knew. Although I tried my best to avoid the confrontation, off in the distance I saw Jeff and then I saw my teacher. I couldn't back down -- not after all Jeff had done for me. Whatever happened, I was going to give it my best. From that moment on, all I remembered was that in a matter of minutes the other kids was on the ground and I was pummeling him with my fists. He finally gave in and from that day forward I walked away a champion not only on the playground, but in my school. It is also what finally enabled me to take the bull-by-the horns and no longer be ashamed of excelling and eventually later graduating high school at the age of fifteen. Oddly enough the individual that I "licked" that day is listed on the Terra Linda re-union site and I hope that I get to meet up with him again, shake his hand, and let him know I have never held a grudge against him, or any hard feelings.

Yet there is one other story I must tell. Jeff also excelled in so very much athletically and setting records was one of his most treasured thrills. Although I had never learned how to properly use the "parallel bars," Jeff was quick to teach me. Hanging upside down was one of his favorite past times and soon became one of mine. Then one day someone challenged him to hang by the back of his knees and spin around the parallel bars 25 times. Within a month thereafter, he then spun 500 times. That was my Jeff!

Thus I was heartbroken when I learned from a very sweet woman, Adrienne Phalon, that Jeff passed away on April 30, 2003. His obituary simply read, "PENNISI, Jeffery Joseph - 45, passed way April 30, 2003 in San Rafael. Born in Fremont and resident of San Rafael. A general contractor, Mr. Pennisi loved art and music. He is survived by his mother Velma Nielson, brother Terry Pennisi and Sister Pamela Pennisi. Memorial Contributions may be made to Marin Interfaith, San Rafael. Arrangements by NEPTUNE SOCIETY OF MARIN." But there was so much more to Jeffrey Joseph Pennisi than just that and I pray over time all of it will unfold here. Please feel free to contact us with any information, memories, thoughts and/or pictures you would like to share so that others may truly get to know the real
Jeffrey Joseph Pennisi -- the young man that gave me wings.

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