COOPERSTOWN – Mildred “Millie” L. Jennings, retired chief switchboard operator at Bassett Hospital, died Wednesday evening, July 17, 2019, with her loving family beside her at Fox Nursing Home in Oneonta. She was 88.
Mildred Lucy Bridger was born Jan. 29, 1931, at home in Middlefield, one of 13 children of Orlando and Nellie Mary (Page) Bridger. Raised in Middlefield, she attended school there.
On Aug. 27, 1950, she married Gerald F. Jennings in a ceremony at the parsonage of the Westville Baptist Church, with the Rev. Walter Miller officiating. For the next 60 years, Millie and Jerry made their home and raised their family on Elm Street in Cooperstown.
While she was raising her own family, Millie also babysat for many area children at her home. Once her own children were grown, she began in 1970 what would become a 23-year career at Bassett Hospital as a switchboard operator.
In his book, “Bassett Hospital in Cooperstown, New York,” John S. Davis, M.D. notes that when she began, the lone switchboard operator worked out of a tiny office in the basement of the original fieldstone building. As the day-shift operator, Millie singlehandedly answered all the calls, paged physicians, coordinated conference calls, dialed long-distance calls, announced codes, and dispatched ambulances for the Cooperstown area.
She told Dr. Davis: “At the time, you were lucky to get a break to go to the bathroom, and they trained the security guards to run the switchboards so the operators could have a break”. She further recounted that there was only one doctor on call: sometimes you could find them and sometimes you couldn’t.
Prior to her retirement in 1993, chief switchboard operator Millie Jennings was chosen in 1992 as Bassett’s Ambassador of the Year, an honor she greatly cherished.
In her leisure, Millie enjoyed travelling – often times with her sisters and nieces – and combined this with her love for country music, having visited Branson, Mo., and the Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville. She and Jerry often recounted how much fun they had snowmobiling with their family and friends and trips to places such as North Lake and Pine Lake.
Millie also enjoyed the simple things in life, such as a game of cards or dominoes, as well as going to casinos to gamble. She was also a sports fan, and enjoyed watching all kinds of sports on television, most especially her New York Yankees and Syracuse basketball. Game shows were also a favorite of hers, especially Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy.
Most importantly, it was all about her family and her church. For many years, Millie was a faithful and devoted member of the First Baptist Church of Cooperstown, where she was a proud member of the church choir. She could always be counted on to be the first to console family and church members with words of encouragement or by sending a card. Millie will truly be missed by her family and friends.
Millie is survived by two sons and daughters-in-law, Gary and Susan Jennings of Hartwick and Charles (“Chip”) and Carol Jennings of Cooperstown; one daughter and son-in-law, Susan and William McCormick of Catskill; five grandchildren who absolutely adored her, Jessica Bryan and husband Marc, Bernadette Wellek and husband Mike, Colleen Lanigan, Adam Jennings and wife Amanda and Kerri Jennings Graber and husband Chad; three step-grandchildren, Angelina, Joe and Kyrie McCormick; four great-grandchildren, Christopher and Mia Bryan and Ava and Anthony Wellek; four sisters, Hilda Pomeroy of Fulton, Cora Petrucco of Cortland, and Wanda Laymon and Lois Smith of Toddsville: one brother-in-law, Ronald Jennings and wife Edith of Phoenix Mills; and many nieces and nephews, including a special niece, Phyllis Newell.
She was predeceased by her husband of 60 years, Jerry Jennings, who died July 21, 2011; four sisters, Gladys Welch, Wilma Higgins Dyer, Evelyn Gray and Elizabeth L. O’Brien; and four brothers, Chester, Herman, Frederick and David Bridger.
Millie’s family extends their appreciation and thanks to everyone at Woodside Hall in Cooperstown and the Fox Nursing Home in Oneonta, for the kind compassionate and understanding care they extended to Millie during her time in their facilities.
Friends may call at the Connell, Dow & Deysenroth Funeral Home in Cooperstown from 6-8 p.m. on Wednesday, July 24, 2019, when Millie’s family will be in attendance.
A funeral service will be offered at 11 a.m. on Thursday, July 25, 2019, at the First Baptist Church of Cooperstown, 19 Elm Street, Cooperstown, with the Rev. Joseph Perdue, pastor officiating. Burial will follow in Hartwick Seminary Cemetery.
In lieu of flowers, expressions of sympathy in the form of memorial gifts may be made to the Cooperstown Emergency Squad, PO Box 322, Cooperstown, NY 13326, or to a charity or organization of your choice.
Arrangements are under the care and guidance of the Connell, Dow & Deysenroth Funeral Home in Cooperstown.