Harold A. Jenkins
West Point, 1965
Be Thou At Peace
Posted by David B. Kuhn, Jr. on September 30, 2020:
I first met Hal Jenkins in 1961 when we were both desperately trying to make it on the Plebe Indoor Track Team in order to get off of company tables and on training tables where we might be able to get something to eat. I am not sure what track events Hal had participated in while he was in high school, but we both found ourselves along with Roger Griffin and countless others trying to qualify as one of the three best broad jumpers. I had already lost 16 pounds since I entered West Point, and Hal was probably close to the same. We found the best we could do in the broad jump was about two feet less that we had jumped in high school, but we persevered and ended up making the team. The coach of track and field at that time was the legendary Carlton Crowell, who had a real knack of looking at someone and figuring out where he could be most successful. So he ended up directing me to what was then called the hop, step and jump and Hal to the quarter mile. It worked as we both ended up breaking academy records in our respective events. I was lucky as it turned out my event was just being reintroduced to regular competition and nobody really knew how to do it. Hal, on the other hand, set his record by grit and determination. If I had to use one word to describe Hal, or "Jenks" as he became known to all of us, it would be HEART. I can't tell you how many times, Hal got the baton in the 4 man mile relay with an insurmountable lead to make up. It never seemed to matter, Hal would "gut it out" and pass the other runner at the tape just about every time. It drove the Navy team crazy. We competed against Navy in Indoor and Outdoor Track 8 times while we were there as Cadets. We were inevitably underdogs, but we beat them 7 out of 8 times, thanks to heroes like John Ahern, Billy Straub, Dick Plymale, Doug Davis, John Alger, Steve Clement, Jimmy Warner and especially Hal Jenkins. What I loved most about Hal is he, like me, was still upset many years later that we didn't make it 8 out of 8!!
Hal had many other great qualities, including being mild mannered, gracious, humble, very funny and he was one hell of a singer. I will always remember him singing Johnny Mathis ballads in the showers after practice and sounding better than Johnny himself. The only way I managed to stay on the Protestant Chapel Choir was to stand next to Jenks so he could keep me on key. Thanks to him I got to go on a lot of great trips.
As I got my commission in the Air Force and Hal went into the Army, we might have never crossed paths again, but fortunately that was not the case. I was stationed in Charleston, SC, and somehow learned that Hal was going to get married in Columbia in 1967, I believe. So Rosemarie and I got in the car and drove north and were very honored to be there when Hal and Laverne got married. I could be wrong, but I believe I was the only other member of the Class of 1965 who was fortunate enough to be there. Over the years, we got to see Hal at many track team reunions, class reunions and again at a couple home football games when Hal came up to see Hal Jr. when Hal Jr. was a cadet. Hal was always so proud of his family.
A couple years ago, Hal called me out of the blue. I knew he had been ailing, but he was still the same old Jenks. We got to say how much we respected and loved each other and I got to tell him I still could hear him singing "When Sunny gets Blue" in the showers. Matter of fact, I can hear him now.
Rest in peace, my friend. You have earned it.
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