Lieutenant Dean N. Jenks tablet, Eastern Parkway, Brooklyn

This morning I met a friend in Brooklyn’s Grand Army Plaza. In theory we were there to discuss potential assignments and strategies for when we again co-teach our placed-based learning class in Spring 2022. More than that though it was a just a beautiful day to hang out, have some good conversation, and take in the day. Our meanderings included a walk down Eastern Parkway near the public library, botanic garden, and Brooklyn Museum. Among other places we were promenading on the median in between the north and south lanes of Eastern Parkway, a place I had not been in probably more than two years given the pandemic and everything else. The city has clearly done a lot of work on Eastern Parkway, planting young trees and improving the general infrastructure. It is a beautiful spot. The rehab work seemingly also included the re-setting of dozens of markers placed around Brooklyn a century ago after the Great War to commemorate men from the borough who had died in that conflict. I wrote about this twice several years back. Apparently someone in the Parks Department during the renovations had the foresight to save and then position these markers beside the newly-planted trees along the parkway. I can’t tell you how thankful I am that this is the case.

Lieutenant Jenks’s obituary, Brooklyn Daily Eagle, August 29, 1918

We stopped at several of them along our walk when I took the image you see above of the tablet for Lieutenant Dean N. Jenks. I told me friend I would do at least a shallow dive on Lieutenant Jenks when I got home. A Brooklyn Daily Eagle search pulled up this obituary. Jenks was already in his thirties when America entered the war and was living in Colorado with his wife and two children. His mother lived on Eastern Parkway. Either Jenks grew up in Brooklyn and moved out West, or vice versa. I suspect the former. It’s more likely that he as a young man made his way to the Centennial State than that his mother left there and moved to the borough of Brooklyn. Plus, Jenks’s father was a sea captain, which means the family likely lived on the East Coast near the Atlantic Ocean as opposed to land-locked Colorado.

In New York and elsewhere we walk past such things every day without giving them a second thought. That is entirely natural given the pressures of daily life and everything we have to get done in the course of a day. Pausing even for a few minutes when we can however gives us an opportunity to recognize men like Lieutenant Dean Jenks, who was killed in far-off France in July 1918 and left behind a young wife, two kids, and an already-widowed mother.