The Weekly Newspaper serving the citizens of Morenci, Mich., Fayette, Ohio, and surrounding areas.

  • Front.sculpt
    SKEWERS, gumdrops, and marshmallows are all that’s needed to create interesting shapes and designs for Layla McDowell Saturday at Stair District Library’s “Sculptamania!” Open House. The program featuring design games and materials is one part of a larger project funded by a $7,500 Curiosity Creates grant from Disney and the American Library Association. Additional photos are on page 7.
    Morenci marching band members took to the field Friday night dressed for Halloween during the Bulldog’s first playoff game. Morenci fans had a bit of a scare until the fourth quarter when the Bulldogs scored 30 points to leave Lenawee Christian School behind. Whiteford visits Morenci this Friday for the district championship game. From the left is Clayton Borton, Morgan Merillat and James O’Brien.
    DNA PUZZLE—Mitchell Storrs and Wyatt Mohr tackle a puzzle representing the structure of DNA. There’s only one correct way for all the pieces to fit. It’s one of the new materials that can be used in both biology and chemistry classes, said teacher Loretta Cox.
  • Front.tar.wide
    A TRAFFIC control worker stands in the middle of Morenci’s Main Street Tuesday morning, waiting for the next flow of vehicles to be let through from the west. The dusty gravel surface was sealed with a layer of tar, leaving only the application of paint for new striping. The project was completed in conjunction with county road commission work west of Morenci.
  • Front.pull
    JUNIORS Jazmin Smith and Trevor Corkle struggle against a team from the sophomore class Friday during the annual tug of war at the Homecoming Games pep rally. Even the seniors struggled against the sophomores who won the competition. At the main course of the day, the Bulldog football team struggled against Whiteford in a homecoming loss.
    YOUNG soccer players surived a chilly morning Saturday in Morenci’s PTO league. From the left is Emma Cordts, Wayne Corser, Carter and Levi Seitz, Briella York and Drew Joughin. Two more weeks of soccer remain for this season.
  • Front.ropes
    BOWEN BAUMGARTNER of Morenci makes his way across a rope bridge constructed by the Tecumseh Boy Scout troop Sunday at Lake Hudson Recreation Area. The bridge was one of many challenges, displays and games set up for the annual Youth Jamboree by the Michigan DNR. Additional photos on are the back page of this week’s Observer.
  • Front.homecoming Court
    One of four senior candidates will be crowned the fall homecoming queen during half-time of this week’s Morenci-Whiteford football game. In the back row (left to right) is exchange student Kinga Vidor (her escort will be Caylob Alcock), seniors Alli VanBrandt (escorted by Sam Cool), Larissa Elliott (escorted by Clayton Borton), Samantha Wright (escorted by JJ Elarton) and Justis McCowan (escorted by Austin Gilson), and exchange student Rebecca Rosenberger (escorted by Garrett Smith). Front row freshman court member Allie Kaiser (escorted by Anthony Thomas), sophomore Marlee Blaker (escorted by Nate Elarton) and junior Cheyenne Stone (escorted by Dominick Sell).
  • Front.park.lights
    GETTING READY—Jerad Gleckler pounds nails to secure a string of holiday lights on the side of the Wakefield Park concession stand while other members of the Volunteer Club and others hold them in place. The volunteers showed up Sunday afternoon to string lights at the park. The decorating project will continue this Sunday. Denise Walsh is in charge of the effort this year.

Pennington Gas: Half Century of Customer Service

Written by David Green.

Fifty years ago, propane service was just a sideline for the Pennington family. No big deal. Just another product along with the other items in the family’s small grocery store on Weston Road.

The groceries disappeared long ago. There would be no time for that today, now that Pennington Gas Service operates one of Michigan’s largest independent propane dealers.pennington

Richard Pennington still remembers how it was in the early 1950s. His parents, Clair and Theola, offered 100-pound propane cylinders to grocery customers who needed fuel for cooking and heating water.

“I drove our 1952 dodge pickup to Jackson, loaded up ten 100-pound cylinders, and brought them back to Morenci,” Richard said. “What my folks and I didn’t use, we sold at the grocery store.”

By the time Richard graduated from high school in 1951, the cylinder business had developed into a delivery route.

“My plan after high school was to work two 8-hour factory shifts, and to save money,” Richard recalls, “but my parents offered me a one-third ownership in the grocery business if I would work until I was 21.”

He took them up on their offer, but he continued to become more involved in delivery propane as interest grew. Eventually, the Penningtons sold their grocery and built a bulk propane plant a few hundred yards away on Weston Road.

In 1960, a business office and showroom were added at the site, and this remains the home of the company’s corporate office.

Clair passed away in 1967, leaving Richard to take over. Some challenging years followed as he struggled to move forward through all facets of the business while his wife, Marvolene, was home with five sons.

“I knew the installation and service end of the business,” Richard said, “but I was often overwhelmed by the financial aspects of running a propane gas company.”

The business grew throughout the 1960s and 70s—sometimes with very rapid growth—but there were times when Richard had doubts about the future. The price controls of the early 1970s, for example, forced dealers to operate under tight margins.

One by one his sons graduated from Morenci High School and later from college. They returned home to help out in the family business—a business that continued to move upward. Richard acquired a small operation in Pittsford and bought a parcel of land near Tecumseh for a satellite location.

New blood

A third generation of Penningtons took over the reins of the business in 1980. With Mark Pennington serving as president, and brothers Terry, Keith and Dean on board, the company expanded its customer base into a larger area of southeast and central Michigan, plus northeast Indiana and northwest Ohio.

In addition, satellite offices were eventually opened in Stockbridge, Fenton and Coldwater.

“We’ve grown the business one customer at a time,” Mark said. “But an important key to our success has been the outstanding quality of our employees.”

The workforce now numbers around 45.

Terry explained the company’s belief that every employee plays an important role in customer service. Everyone on the staff contributes toward making Pennington Gas Service a friendly place to do business.

Mark believes there’s still plenty of room for growth.

“I believe there are many exciting opportunities for expanding the company’s influence and territory,” he said. “but only as we stay focused on our core values and customers’ needs.”

The brothers believe that a strong commitment to customer service has led the company to a reputation for integrity and dependability.

Richard still plays a role in the company business, and his sons aren’t in a hurry to see him retire fully.

“Not only is he a great dad,” says Keith, “but he’s also an invaluable asset for the company. We still depend on him for all sorts of projects.”

Richard has seen his share of industry changes over the past 50 years, but he’s pleased that one thing has stayed steady—the values upon which the company was founded.

That brings to mind a small grocery story that once stood a ways down the road, the place where this business all began.


-July 30, 2003 

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