Submitted by the Pennington family for the annual Citizen of the Year award sponsored by the Morenci Area Historical Society:
Richard Pennington and Marvolene Schoonover were next-door neighbors during high school. As soon as they graduated, they married and Marvolene when to work at an insurance office in Adrian while Richard joined his parents, Clair and Theola Pennington, as partners in the family grocery store on Weston Road. Marvolene started with wages of $40 a week while Richard made $10 per week as a 1/3 partner. Soon they started selling 100 pound cylinders of propane to their grocery customers. Richard likes to joke that they started in the propane business with two customers: his dad and himself.
That was in 1953 and they decided to sell the grocery store and focus solely on the propane business. The office was moved several times in the Morenci area—the former Wayne Broach and May’s Body shop on Weston Road, the current location of Bell’s Tax Service and the Morenci Bible Fellowship Church were all once the office of Pennington Appliance & Bottled Gas. Around 1970, they ventured out with Ken and Betty Richardson and converted the old A&P store into the Village Inn Restaurant. They soon found their time and interests were spread too thin and so a short time later they sold their half of the restaurant to the Richardsons.
Richard’s father passed away early in life in 1967 so Richard had his hands full until his five sons came of age in the late 70’s. The business had grown to the point where Richard understood that he did not care for the office work. His sons were interested in partnering with him and eventually Richard and Marvolene sold the company to their sons, Mark, Gary, Terry, Keith and Dean in the early 1980s. With a little more flexibility in his time, Richard was able to work at what he loved best—building and fabricating projects right alongside his sons as they grew the company into seven locations and 14,000 customers.
Richard and Marvolene have never left Morenci, (even as snowbirds) preferring instead to enjoy the personal relationships of a close community and the blessings of their family nearby. Richard served a term on city council and they immersed themselves in service to the community through the church and by mentoring teenagers for more than 20 years. It is still a great source of joy when one of these “teenagers” looks them up and tells them of the impact that they had on their lives.
Marvolene began teaching adult Bible studies in 1980 and continues to touch peoples lives in this way still today. Richard is famous as a "fix-it" man and is unafraid to tackle just about any project. Whether caring for his neighbors and family, working at the church or helping out at the library, Richard never seems to slow down.
The Penningtons have always considered service to others as a mission for their lives. They freely give of their time and resources to others in need, modeling Christ-like traits that are easy to spot. They believe that their propane business and their lives have been blessed so that they can be a blessing to others. A lifetime of living this philosophy is now being replicated through their children and grandchildren today.