Jay W. Mennenga, 78, Urbandale and Emigrant, MT, died Oct. 12, 2021 after a recent diagnosis of ALS. He was visiting the Rocky Mountains in Estes Park, CO, where he loved to be. His body has been cremated, and there will not be a traditional funeral at his request.
Jay Warren was born June 27, 1943 in Belmond, the eldest of five children born to Alfred and Marvieu Mennenga. On Jan. 27, 1968 he married Sonja Boysen in Clinton. They had daughters Heather and Heidi.
Jay graduated from Belmond High School in 1961, then attended Luther College before earning a BA in social science from the University of Northern Iowa. He later earned a masters in political science at UNI and an MPA in public administration from Drake University. He earned endorse- ments in gifted education and secondary administration from the University of Nebraska, Kearney.
Jay began his career as a government teacher in Clinton and also served in the Iowa House of Representatives from 1973 to 1976. After he won his first election, The Des Moines Register wrote that he defeated the most powerful man in the House. Upon retiring from politics, he moved to Urbandale to be a high school government teacher. He later developed the secondary talented and gifted program at Urbandale High School. Jay also served as a facilitator of gifted education in Des Moines, Council Bluffs and Burley, ID, and was director of gifted education at the educational service unit in Holdredge, NE. After retiring from education, he ran a bed and breakfast in Pocatello, ID and retreats in Wapiti, WY and Roberts, MT.
Jay and Sonja were avid travelers. They enjoyed being teacher-leaders for the People to People High School Student Ambassador Program for 45 days, visiting western Europe, Scandinavia, East and West Berlin, plus the former Soviet Union. They also visited other European countries. In later years Jay traveled to New Zealand, Iceland, Greenland, Svalbard (Norway) and Israel.
Jay liked to help those in need and volunteered with several ministries through Samaritan’s Purse. He helped with flood disasters in Rushford, MN and Cedar Falls; building projects in Galena, Bethel, Togiak and Nunapitchuk, AK; and fire disaster cleanup in Paradise, CA. He also volunteered at the Foundation for His Ministry in Baja California, Mexico.
Jay was a devout Christian, a voracious reader, an adventurous hiker and mountain climber, a nature lover, and an environmental activist. He authored seven books on the Oregon Trail, the Lewis and Clark Trail, his dog Spud, climate change, and mountains.
Jay was preceded in death by his parents.
He is survived by his former wife Sonja of Urbandale; daughter Heather Mennenga (Robert) and grandson Hunter of Urbandale; daughter Heidi Pearson (Chris) and granddaughter Maia of Juneau, AK; sister Janis Reisetter (Tom) of Cedar Falls; brother Jerry (Carol) of Iowa City; sister Jean Reisetter (Mark) of Lewiston, MN; brother Jack (Bonnie) of Janesville.
Memorials are suggested to Samaritan’s Purse (samaritanspurse.org).