Life Story / Obituary
Sally Mary Helen Jennings, known to many country music fans as Sally Massey, of Kalamazoo, formerly of Otsego, passed away on Tuesday, April 11, 2017 in the presence of family.
Sally, who preferred to be called Mary, was born in Bono, Ohio to the late Peter (Messersi) and Sarah (Selvetti Cameruci) Massey who came separately to the United States from Ancona, Italy, when each was a teenager. They first married others and later after divorcing, met and married each other. Mary was one of five children and the last to pass away. Preceding her in death were: Half-Brother Merico Cameruci, half-sister Evelyn (Cameruci) Hochmuth, brother Carl Massey and sister Alice Massey Winter.
When Mary was 18, she married Gilbert Leonard Rounds Jennings who proceeded her in death in January 2005. They divorced in 1964 but became friends later in life. Together they had three children who survive: Soni (Jim) Mackin of Monroe, MI; Gary (Linda) Jennings of Kalamazoo; and Jacque Jennings-Carter (Scott) of Portage, MI. Six grandchildren, Kim (Tom) Clancy, Richland, MI; Marie (Eric) Kuehnlein, Monroe, MI; Troy (Jody) Jennings, Galesburg, MI; Jim (Leeann) Mackin III, Carleton, MI; Kyle Jennings, Nashville, TN; and Ashley Carter (Jake) Youngblood, Portage, MI. Eleven great grandchildren.
Mary attended school through the 8th grade, then worked full time for many years on her family’s onion farm. From an early age, Mary was interested in singing and country music. She and her sister, Alice, formed a country-singing duo when they were teenagers and sang for many local events. Together they won many singing competitions and ultimately qualified for a talent show sponsored by WLS in Chicago. The sister duo eventually ended but Mary continued her singing and learned to play the guitar from her older brother Carl (Massey). That was the beginning of what would become a career of travel, recording, radio and TV appearances, singing and songwriting.
Throughout her singing career, Mary raised three children and held various jobs at which she was also extremely successful. She was a top radio sales person working for a few different radio stations over the years and had two radio shows on WBCK for several years. She was also a regular on WKZO-TV’s Channel 3 Clubhouse. She was a DJ for another local station and was named Miss DJ USA and traveled to Nashville, TN to receive her award. As part of that trip, she visited and performed at The Grand Ole Opry. She also performed many times at Buck Lake Ranch in Angola, IN. She loved performing for the veterans at the local VA and did that regularly.
Mary loved her music and had the opportunity to expand her career but it would require a lot of travel and being away from home often. In order to build a significant career beyond the region, it required a lot of travel. As much as she loved her music, she loved her children more and opted to just stay local and regional with her music. She was an avid volunteer as a Cub Scout Leader, Brownie and Girl Scout Leader and very active in her church activities.
Mary loved singing country western music and became an accomplished country western singer and guitar player locally and regionally with some national recognition all the while raising her three children. She was a member of The Bunkhouse Gang, The Rhythm Pals and was a regular on the very popular weekly Green Valley Jamboree with Rem Wall and The Green Valley Boys which aired on WKZO-TV for 36 years.
Mary wrote and recorded the music for about a dozen country music records on various music labels over several years and continued both her country music and “mom” careers until all three children had left home.
After her last child had left home, she moved from Otsego to Kalamazoo and began her career as an employment placement counselor; she was employed by two different agencies and was a top producer at each. Her focus on country music diminished as she began a new chapter in her life. Her commitment to her Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, became deeper and deeper creating a desire to travel to the Holy Land. She saved money for many years and finally had her dream of visiting the Holy Land come true. She had never traveled out of the country prior to that trip. It was one of the major highlights of her life. It was during her trip to the Holy Land that she was inspired to write 12 Biblical songs devoted to Jesus Christ which she later recorded. Her love for Jesus Christ opened the door for her Biblical music ministry which she named Ministry with Music. Her devotion and love for Jesus Christ never faltered even in the most difficult times of her life and she loved sharing her love for Him with family, friends and everyone she met.
Mary’s family is thankful for, and appreciates, the support and loving words that have been received from friends. The family wishes to share its deep gratitude to Hospice of Southwest Michigan for their loving assistance, support and comfort; and to the many people at Heritage Community of Kalamazoo who have loved and cared for Mary.
In accordance with Mary’s wishes, there will be no visitation.
A private burial service for immediate family will be held in Hillside Cemetery, in Plainwell, MI.
If friends of the family would like to honor Mary, a contribution may be made to Hospice of Southwest Michigan in the name of Sally Mary Helen Jennings.