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Chicago Yacht Club Station

In Memoriam
Dick Jennings - Champion Sailor, Fresh Water Award Recipient & Double Goat
1945 - 2011

The Chicago Tribune Obituary
By Margaret Ramirez, Tribune reporter

Richard E. Jennings, 65, president of Smithereen Pest Management Services and champion sailor in the Chicago-to-Mackinac Island race, died Tuesday, May 17, according to friends and published reports.

His family declined to comment, and the cause of death was not available. For more than 35 years, Mr. Jennings competed with his sleek 70-foot Pied Piper in the annual Race to Mackinac, the world's oldest freshwater yacht race.

In 1987, Mr. Jennings set a record for the fastest time for a single-hull boat, completing the 333-mile course in 25 hours, 50 minutes, 44 seconds.

His remarkable 1987 time broke a record that had stood since 1911, when the 100-foot schooner Amorita, propelled by gale winds, got to the Island in 31:14:30.

In 2002, the late Roy Disney's Reichel Pugh 75 Pyewacket broke Mr. Jennings' record, finishing in 23:30:34.

Another memorable moment for Mr. Jennings came in 1999, when he and his then 19-year-old son, Jack, won the Race to Mackinac's overall title.

In an interview with the Tribune, Mr. Jennings said he told his son: "Just sit back and think about this and enjoy this because it is truly a circumstance that you don't always get in your life.

"Even if we don't win the race, remember this moment. I wanted him to reflect on it because 19-year-olds think they're going to win every year."

In all, Mr. Jennings and his Pied Piper received the "first to finish" award in the race six times, more than any other boat in the history of the event.

The name of Mr. Jennings' boat was a play on his family exterminating business, which he sometimes referred to as America's pied piper for how the company killed pests.

According to the Smithereen website, the company was founded in the 1880s by E.R. Jennings, a Chicago pharmaceutical salesman who read about how Turkish soldiers dusted their bodies with floral powder to protect themselves from lice and fleas.

The elder Jennings experimented and discovered a similar powder and became one of the country's first professional exterminators.

As the years progressed, Smithereen continued to develop new and revolutionary pesticides, and even introduced a new word that the company patented: "insecticides."

The company's ownership was handed down to the founder's son, H.E. Jennings, who became active in the war against malaria.

Mr. Jennings started his career at Smithereen at age 13 carrying supplies for service technicians. After graduating from Purdue University in 1968, he became the third generation of the Jennings family to lead the company.

He is credited for Smithereen's expansion as far south as Kankakee, to the west reaching beyond Joliet and east to Indiana.

Mr. Jennings passed ownership of the company and the possession of his Pied Piper to his son Jack Jennings.

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In Memoriam
Remarks by Gary Allie IGSS Vice Commodore at
The Celebration of Life for Dick Jennings
Columbia Yacht Club   June 17th 2011

I'm Gary Allie, Vice Commodore of the Island Goats Sailing Society  the Goats.

The Goats were founded in 1959 to preserve the memories of the Chicago to Mackinac Race. Dick Jennings was a member of our proud tradition having sailed in 40 Chicago/Macs.

In 1987 Dick received the highest honor from the Goats  the Fresh Water Award, presented to someone from the sailing community at-large, not just the Goats, for meritorious service or outstanding contributions to off-shore sailing. And, twice he won our Fastest Goat to the Island award for the Goat finishing with the lowest corrected time.

But the Goats are all about being able to share stories of the Mac Race and Dick had many stories to share.

We will miss his stories and we'll miss being able to share our stories with him.

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