Former Napa Police Chief Ken Jennings passed away suddenly at his home on May 31, 2014. Born in Silver City, Iowa, in 1931, his family moved to Oakland in 1936. The trip was long and difficult with four adults and five children all in one car. Ken was so excited when they finally reached California, he jumped out of the car, kissed the ground and yelled “Thank God for California!”

By 1942, they had settled in Atlas Peak, where he and his two younger sisters attended a one-room schoolhouse. His days at Atlas Peak as a child were among his fondest memories, and he shared those stories with his family and friends every chance he got.

In 1953, Ken married the former Virginia Jensen, and together they had three daughters. He was a devoted father and his girls were the light of his life.

Ken began his police career in Colusa, but by 1955 happily returned to Napa when he was hired by the police department. He worked his way up the ranks, and in 1967 was appointed Chief of Police and held this office until his retirement in 1987. He was dedicated to his job, the community and his officers, and they respected him in return.

During his retirement years, he enjoyed time with his family and friends; horses, Harley’s, woodworking, rock collecting, bird watching and spending time at his ranch in Napa.

Ken was an outgoing person with a most generous nature, going out of his way to help others and freely sharing what he had with others. He loved to laugh, joke and tease. Ken was a gifted mentor, and many people benefited from his wise counsel. He was definitely one of a kind and will be deeply missed by all who knew him.

He is survived by his daughters, Julie Jennings (Bryan), Shelley Shurtz (Ken) and Sherri Jennings; granddaughters Jennifer Shurtz and Trisha Long (Richard); great-granddaughter Paisley Long; and sisters, Carol Lyons (Paul) and Patty Hendrickson. His family loved him dearly, and are devastated by their loss.

Happy trails ... until we meet again.

A service to honor his life will be held on Monday, June 9, 2014, at 1 p.m., in the Tulocay Chapel.

Memorial contributions may be made to the Napa Police Historical Society. Memories and words of sympathy may be shared with the family online at

the life of: Kenneth Jennings
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