By Billy Hathorn
Jeanette Woodard Moreland, known as Jenny Kennon (born August 14, 1939), is a highly successful real estate agency owner in Shreveport whose life parallels the heroines of Danielle Steele novels. She was born in Minden to Homer Charles Woodard (1902-1975) and the former Velva Hines (1909-1967) and grew up in a modest house on the Sibley Road in south Minden. Mr. Woodard was a dragline operator for the former George Winford Construction Company. Mrs. Woodard contracted tuberculosis when Jenny was a first grader and spent nine months recovering in the Gilmer Chest Hospital in Shreveport at a time in which the family lacked hospitalization insurance. She had all of one lung and part of another removed. At fifty-eight, Mrs. Woodard developed lethal pneumonia in the remaining lung. Her heart/lung capacity was insufficient, and she died in the Minden Sanitarium; Jenny was twenty-eight. Jenny has a sister, Gloria Woodard Read (born 1932), a retired bank vice president in Clear Lake City, a master-planned community in southeastern Harris County (Houston), Texas. Some say that Gloria, who is married to Rodger Eugene Read (also born 1932), still resembles a screen star.
Attending Minden High School
Jenny attended public schools in Minden for the entire thirteen years, beginning with kindergarten in 1945, taught by “Mrs. Nelson”, the mother of Shreveport businessman George Nelson, Sr., of Querbes and Nelson Insurance. Jenny entered Minden High School in 1953. She recalls “excellent” MHS teachers, particularly in English, mathematics, typing, and shorthand. “I appreciate what they taught me every day of my life -for sports, we had the best football, basketball, baseball teams, but for me, I loved the swim team and our excellent swim coach, affectionately called just “Hillard” -a woman way ahead of her time -independent, confident, with a never-say-die attitude.” Joyce Eileen Hillard (1926-1996), a Baton Rouge native and the first woman to play on the Louisiana State University tennis team, could, in Jenny's words, "make the students think that they could accomplish anything, and we did accomplish a lot by working so hard and just believing we could do it.” Jenny found that swimming taught her “how to win and be joyful and ... how to lose gracefully and still be thankful for having participated in the event, having conquered the fear of losing.” MHS, and particularly Coach Hillard, taught Jenny “perseverance, tenacity, and the courage to compete and give it my best. This has helped me through the rough times. I only wish I could tell her today how much I appreciate all she taught me.” Coach Hillard taught at MHS from 1951-1956. In 1963, she joined the physical education faculty of what is now Northwestern State University in Natchitoches, where she remained until her retirement. In 1994, then Natchitoches Mayor (1980-2000)-Joe Sampite, presented Coach Hillard an award for having touched so many lives during her educational career. She died two years later of complications from diabetes.
When Jenny graduated from Minden High School in 1957, three of her Sibley Road neighborhood friends, Joe Ratcliff, Yvonne Simmons, and Charlie Berry, were among her classmates. So was a future Minden mayor, Noel Eugene “Gene” Byars, Jr., who served from 1982-1989.
Jenny was a “Miss Minden” contestant but never “ran for” the title per se. In the 1950s, the school nominated girls to compete for the position. She was a runner-up for two years ‘always a bridesmaid, never a bride’ as the saying goes. I was always so excited to be in the pageants, and my mother always hand made all my dresses, as she was a fabulous seamstress.
“I Can't Help Falling in Love with You”
Jack started calling her “Jenny”. So, when she hears the name “Jeanette” directed to her, it is likely a friend from her Minden days. Jack and Jenny had as their favorite song, Elvis Presley's “I Can't Help Falling in Love With You”. Jenny recalls that Jack was a “country music fan long before that was popular, and I loved the ballads from the 1940's, the show tunes ... . He also had a really good voice and knew all the words to most of the country songs especially Hank Williams, et al.”
(On October 18, 1952, Hank Williams, Sr., (1923-1953) married Billie Jean Jones Eshliman, in Minden. The next day, the couple repeated the vows in two separate public ceremonies. Less than three months later on New Years Day 1953, Williams was dead.)
A basketball wife
Jenny met future basketball superstar Jack Wade “Jackie” Moreland (1938-1971) when he first moved to Minden in 1955 from the tiny Harris Community between Minden and Homer. They did not start dating until 1957, when he returned from a semester at North Carolina State University in Raleigh. She went to LSU in Baton Rouge in the fall of 1957. “We corresponded and would see each other when we could.” The young couple soon wed in the First Baptist Church of Minden on Friday evening, August 22, 1958. Jenny was reared in the Baptist denomination but is now an Episcopalian.
Jack had a “gold” tooth because a front tooth was broken in an accident while he was drinking a Coca Cola. At the time, such repairs involved the use of gold, rather than natural-looking porcelain, Once the Morelands got a little ahead financially, they had Jack's gold tooth capped with porcelain which looked much better than the gold.
Jack's basketball success began at Minden High School, from which he graduated in 1956. Coach Cleveland S. “Cleve” Strong (born 1924) was, according to Jenny, “the best basketball coach around anywhere. He was (and is) a very special man - we both loved him dearly, and I'll always remember his twinkling, smiling blue eyes when Minden's team won or did well and they nearly always did!” Success continued at Louisiana Tech University, where Jack played under Coach Cecil C. Crowley (1908-1991) of Ruston.
Jenny had attended LSU as a business major for one year before she married Jack. She then moved with Jack to Ruston and went to work at Kilpatrick Life Insurance and Funeral Home Company. Later, Jenny worked for the Louisiana Tech Bookstore. She played the organ and/or piano for funerals. She is also a singer. The $20 for playing at a funeral was a large amount in those days, often more than she made on her regular job. To cut costs, Jack used to bring Jenny a “doggy bag” from the athletes’ training table. “I loved those Louisiana Tech days!,” Jenny recalls with enthusiasm. She went to summer school at Tech after Jack graduated and later completed a couple of full semesters to reach junior status. She also briefly attended LSU at Shreveport, which was not established until 1967, but she never graduated.
Jack was drafted by the Detroit Pistons and later played for the former New Orleans Buccaneers. Jenny found life as a professional basketball player’s wife exciting… getting to travel to the big cities, seeing games in the big arenas, meeting all sorts of celebrities and other really unique and entertaining people. We were given new “courtesy” cars to drive and steaks from grocery store chains for having helped with the advertising for the businesses. Jenny got a modeling job in a large department store in Detroit. To Jenny, the “best part was seeing Jack fulfill his dream of playing in the National Basketball Association – not a small thing in those days – this was even before the American Basketball Association – he was the No. 1 draft pick for the Detroit Pistons.” Jack was also the overall NBA fourth-round draft choice behind Oscar Robertson, Jerry West and Darrell Imhoff.
Negotiating Jack's salary
"The money was more than we had ever made in our lives, a whopping $20,000 or $25,000, and I remember one year when Jack was going in to renegotiate his contract with the owner of the Pistons, Fred Zollner (1901-·1982), the family who invented the piston for the automobile (therefore, the name). I was 'coaching' Jack on what I thought he should say and what salary to ask for, etc., (like I knew)...I told him to remind Mr. Zollner .that we now had a child and we needed a raise, etc., etc., etc. When he came back, I eagerly asked him how the negotiations went, and he replied – “Well, Jenny, I told him ‘we have a child now’, and he replied, 'Well, Jackie, that was your "bleeping” …, not mine. Jack laughed and said, “Jenny, you and I both know -- the joke's on him -- little does he know - I'd play this game for nothing!... And he meant it, he loved the game, the players, the coaches, the staff -- everything about it - the poker games on Zollner's private jet on which they flew to the games - the parties and get-togethers and the joy of the competition and the game itself. He would shop in New York City (in the garment district where they got great prices (and no sales tax) on his trips and bring me home beautiful suits and purses -- and I couldn't wait until he came home to see what he had brought Jenna (daughter Jennafer, unusual spelling) and me.”
A. perfect New Years Eve, 1961
There was a downside to being a ballplayer's wife too. The team was on the road when both of the Moreland children were born. “We were living in Detroit, and in the middle of the night, I had to call one of the other player's wives and get her to get someone to keep her children so she could come take me to the hospital in the middle of the winter and drive me on roads with snow up to the car doors to the hospital. I had both children by myself ... with no one there to ‘hold my hand’. A pleasant memory though -- I remember after Jenna was born in Detroit on December 29, 1961, Jack returned home from a road trip on New Year's Eve, and I was still in the hospital. He came into the room to see me and our new baby girl, and he was holding a big brandy snifter with red roses floating in it – he gave me a big kiss, carefully took out the roses and we toasted our new born girl, drinking the champagne in which he had floated the red roses – how clever was that – he was such an incurable romantic. It was the perfect New Year’s Eve!”
The dream world comes crashing down
The dream world came crashing down on a hot August day in 1971 in New Orleans. By that time, Jack had retired from pro basketball and was a civil engineer for Shilstone Laboratory. His latest project was the upcoming Louisiana Superdome. Jack began to complain of severe stomach aches, and the situation was beyond mere hard work, long hours, or possibly ulcers... Dr. Pierre A. Espenan (1929-2001), the New Orleans team physician and a highly regarded internist, arranged for Jack to go into the hospital and have exploratory surgery. Jenny waited for four grueling hours until Dr. Espenan brought the tragic news. Jack had cancer of the pancreas, liver, stomach, and it had spread all over his body. He was given three months to live – he lasted four months until his death on Sunday, December 19, 1971. Jack returned to the couple’s new home equipped with a pool for Jenny, in the Tall Timbers subdivision on the West Bank of the Mississippi River in New Orleans next to Lakewood Country Club, and Jenny assumed the role of nurse-caregiver. Because Jack was in constant pain, Dr. Espenan taught her how to give her husband shots. The physician also made house calls on a nearly daily basis to check on Jack.
Meanwhile Jack’s family took turns helping Jenny with the workload. His parents, James Burgess Moreland and the former Lucille Wade, were in their seventies, but they came to help cook, watch the children, or anything else they could do. Jack’s four brothers, Joe, Edd, Ralph, and Lloyd, who had been his groomsmen at the wedding, and his two sisters, Nita and Marlene, also came and rotated their turn to care for Jack. Jenny recalls that their “wonderful neighborhood full of friends became like family – there was never a day that went by that someone didn’t come by with food, chauffeur the children somewhere, or do some act of kindness. Jack had to quit working when he got sick, and the doctor bills were enormous, as so many of you know who have been in the same situation. I had to be there to take care of him after he was bedridden, so the acts of kindness from my New Orleans friends, old Detroit friends, and especially, Minden and Ruston (Louisiana Tech) friends will never be forgotten, as I don’t know how we would have gotten by without them.” In Ruston Coach Crowley spearheaded a needed fund-raising effort. When Jack died, there were Christmas lights all around. His funeral, like their wedding was in the First Baptist Church in Minden, but on what Jenny recalls as “one of the coldest, wettest, most miserable days one can remember.” Jack was interred in the Bethlehem Cemetery near the Harris Community, where he had grown up as a boy.
The Moreland children
James Steven Jamie Moreland was born on Saturday, November 6, 1964, in a hospital in the Detroit suburb of Royal Oak, Michigan; while once again, Jack was on a road trip. Jamie graduated from Southfield High School in Shreveport, where he played football and was on the All-State basketball team. He then went to Southern Methodist University in Dallas and graduated in sales, marketing, and public relations. Jenny notes the 6’1” Jamie blames me for his “shortness.” Jamie still enjoys basketball and football but particularly excels at golf. Jamie works with Jenny in the real estate firm known as Lea Hall Properties. He previously worked in Washington D.C., Dallas, and California. He is married to Shreveport businesswoman Francesca Benten.
Jenna also graduated from Southfield High School and SMU, with triple majors in Russian, political science, and psychology. She then procured a law degree from Tulane University in New Orleans, where she had lived until she was nearly thirteen. She then became an attorney in the Office of International Affairs for the U.S. Justice Department in Washington, D.C. She is now a legal counsel for the Office of International Affairs for the U.S. State Department. Jenna speaks Russian and has traveled all over the world in her job, even having helped to negotiate treaties with eastern European countries. Jenna, with long legs like her father's, has competed in the Boston, New York, and Marine Corps marathons. She is married to Jack A. Litschewski (pronounced Li-shev-ski ) whom she met in Washington. Litschewski is of Prussian descent, but his name was changed by family members to Polish form during World War I when they entered the United States through Ellis Island. The couple has two daughters, Jeanette (Jenny's namesake) Moreland Litschewski and Jacqueline (named after her grandfather and father) Woodard Litschewski, Jack Litschewski is the executive vice president of a company that designs, installs and maintains escalators, elevators, and parking garage elevators. His firm has many government contracts in D.C.
Enter Francis Edward Kennon, Jr.
In 1974, Jenny married Francis Edward “Ed” Kennon, Jr., (born August 31, 1938), the son of Minden storekeeper F.E. “Frank” Kennon, Sr., and Clara W. Kennon (1913·-1997). Like Jack Moreland, Ed graduated from MHS in 1956. He is a nephew of the late Louisiana Governor Robert F. “Bob” Kennon (1902-1988), who while in his twenties served a term as the mayor of Minden. Ironically, in high school, Jenny had briefly dated Robert Kennon, Jr., now a veteran Baton Rouge attorney, while he was still a teenager living in the governor’s mansion. Jenny recalls Governor Kennon with particular great affection. Robert Kennon, Jr., is hence a first cousin of Ed Kennon.
Ed had run unsuccessfully for lieutenant governor when C.C. “Taddy” Aycock vacated the position in 1971. Ed’s defeat occurred a few weeks before Jack died. Jenny recalls that then U.S. Representative Edwin Washington Edwards (born 1927), while making his first successful race for governor that year, called the Morelands to express his concern and to offer encouragement. Jenny recalled that Edwards told Jack to “get out of that bed and come and help me campaign” in his Cajun accent. It was such a thoughtful thing for him to do, and Jack got a big kick out of it. I will never forget that call that he took time out of his busy campaign schedule. I felt that it was so thoughtful of him and seemed to mean so much to Jack.”
When Jennv and Ed married -.- it was the second marriage for each. Ed was already an elected member regulatory Louisiana Public Service Commission which meets in Baton Rouge. He was commissioner from January 1, 1973, until December 31, 1984. He is a wealthy Shreveport-area developer known particularly for the 600-residence Lakewood subdivision in Bossier City. He announced that he would run for governor in 1995 but withdrew months earlier in the preliminary stages. Jenny, Jenna, and Jamie moved to Shreveport when Jenny married Ed. The marriage lasted for nearly a decade.
Ed divorced Jenny for a much younger woman shortly before his PSC tenure ended. He now has a daughter, Kari Melissa Kennon (born 1987), by his third wife, Brenda Evans Kennon, the daughter of one of Jenny’s former classmates. Kennon had a son, John Edward Kennon (1967-·2003), from his first marriage to the former Mary Virginia Nehring (1942-2002), a former Miss Minden who was previously married to Rodney McMichael. Jenny recalls the “painful” divorce and being “in a state of uncertainty and wondering what on earth I was going to do.”
Beal Locke, a well-known builder in Shreveport, meanwhile, invited Jenny to sell houses for him. Locke was starting his townhouse subdivisions, and he personally trained Jenny and taught her how to sell houses. Jenny recalls with enthusiasm: “l discovered! could sell!.” Even after the divorce, Jenny maintained ties with her former mother-in-jaw Clara, an Arkansas native who was known for her business acumen, cultural elegance, ambitious travel itinerary, and compassion for those in need.
Lea Hall Properties
Jenny thereafter went to work for Lea R. Hall, Sr., (1939-1995), a Mississippi native with a lucrative real estate operation in Shreveport. Hall trained Jenny and taught her the dynamics of the commercial real estate market, she already having learned much about housing sales. “He was a wonderful person, and he and I were together in business and romantically for thirteen years,” Jenny recalled. Hall died inadvertently from a mistake during sinus surgery. His survivors include son Lea Hall, Jr. (born 1968), an assistant district attorney for Caddo Parish.
After Hall’s death, Jenny, with a couple of partners, bought the company, and named it Lea Hall Properties, 510 Commerce Street, in Shreveport. “Life is funny, I was so upset and feeling dismal after the divorce and when I look back, if Ed hadn’t left me for a much younger woman, I would never have gotten to be with Lea Hall… some of the best years of my life.”
Lea Hall Properties has a long list of business successes:
(1) The selling of the American Telephone and Telegraph property TWICE,
(2) The sale of the Cambridge Club restaurant in Shreveport to Gregory Carey, son of Richard Drew Carey (MHS Class of 1953) and Joyce Humphries Carey of Minden,
(3) The sale of the Voith-Scapa (industrial) Building (74,000 square feet) at 1200 Davenport Drive in Minden,
(4) Leasing and management of properties in Shreveport, such as Louisiana Tower (Capital One Building), Isle of Capri Hotel, Pierremont Office Park, Phases I, II, and III, sale and leasing of Pierremont Plaza Shopping Center, Towne Oake Square, and other shopping centers and apartment complexes in Shreveport-Bossier City and in Arkansas.
(5) Lea Hall Properties is now working on developing a power plant and ethanol plant.
Jenny is a former president of the Northwest Louisiana Commercial Realtors; director of Northwest Louisiana Board of Realtors; a member of the National Association of Realtors and the Shreveport/Bossier Business Women’s Council; a former board member of the Southern University Foundation, and a participant in Leadership Shreveport/Bossier.
Lea Hall (who walked Jenna Moreland down the aisle for her wedding), Jenny Kennon, Jack Litchewski, (son-in-law) Jenna Moreland Litschewski, (daughter) and Jamie Moreland, son.
Jeanette Woodard standing in the pastor’s chair of the First Baptist Church so that she could reach the microphone to sing a solo in church on Sunday. The clothes were made by her mother – the silk in the blouse came from a WWII parachute and her mother also made the pleated wool skirt.
The second picture is of Jack Moreland (gold tooth and all J) in his Minden Redbirds baseball uniform with some luggage with which he was presented at a baseball awards banquet.
Jenny Kennon at home entertaining two friends from Mexico who had come up to play in a tennis tournament.
Jenny Kennon, in white, at the grand opening of Lea Hall Properties in downtown Shreveport.
Jenny’s son, Jamie Moreland, and his wife, Francesca.
Jenny’s sister, Gloria Woodard Read of Houston, Texas.
Jenny accepting Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame Award for Jack Moreland posthumously.
Jenna and Jenny, daughter and mother.
Jenna, Jenny, and son, Jamie Moreland
Jenny at the Cambridge Club after selling it to Greg Carey, son of Richard and Joyce Carey of Minden.
Janet Reno, Attorney General under President Clinton, presenting an award to Jenna Moreland Litschewski, Jenny’s daughter, for her legal work done on mutual legal assistance treaties for Eastern Europe for the Justice Department.
Jack and Jenna Litschewski in McLean, VA.
Jenna and Janet Reno, former Attorney General.
Jenny and Jack Moreland at home in Detroit.
Jamie Moreland and his wife, Francesca.
Jenny’s granddaughters, Jeanette Moreland (namesake), and Jacqueline Woodard Litschewski (named after Jack Moreland).
Jack Moreland is No. 15 on the far left (team picture of the Detroit Pistons).
Old Minden Swim Team picture .
Back Row: Jeanette Woodard, Linda Cox, Judy Nadrachal, Mary Jo Skinner, Lydia Roberts, Jeannie Lindsey, Linda Atkins.
Middle Row: Nancy Cox Becky McKenzie, Camille Ivy, Ellen Baker, Ann Mays.
Front Row: Ginger Rushing, Marsha Hoefeld, Norma McGuire.
Jackie Moreland making a jump shot while playing for the Detroit Pistons.
Detroit Pistons – Jack is on the middle row, far left sitting down.
Jack (on far right) eating at the Detroit Pistons team table.
Louisiana Tech Basketball Team – Jackie is #44.
Lea Hall (for whom Jenny’s company is named) and Jenny on a hunting trip.