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'Morning raindrops'

  • DONALD R. SERFASS/TIMES NEWS Carolyn Jenkins, Barnesville, displays the finalist certificate and winning photo that earned her national recognition by a California-based photography magazine.
    DONALD R. SERFASS/TIMES NEWS Carolyn Jenkins, Barnesville, displays the finalist certificate and winning photo that earned her national recognition by a California-based photography magazine.
Published February 05. 2010 05:00PM

A Barnesville woman's eye for the unusual has earned her recognition in a national photography publication.

But Carolyn Jenkins will be the first to tell you that none of it was planned, not even the photo.

One morning in 2009 after a night rain, Carolyn Jenkins looked out her kitchen window and happened to notice a striking pattern of raindrops on the glass.

The random raindrops just seemed to form a beautiful pattern. So Jenkins, 78, grabbed her digital camera and snapped a shot of what she saw. Just for fun, Jenkins printed the photo using her PC and sent a copy of the image to Photographer's Forum Magazine in Santa Barbara, California.

Weeks later, she was notified that her picture was named a finalist in the magazine's 29th Annual Spring Photography Contest.

Established in 1977, Photographer's Forum Magazine is published by Serbin Communications and is an award-winning quarterly publication dedicated to quality reproduction of photography in the United States and Canada.

Photographer's Forum Magazine reprinted the picture in the magazine's hardcover edition.

It came as a pleasant surprise to Jenkins, who doesn't take credit for setting up the shot or framing the picture. For her, it was a moment of serendipity and she humbly takes no credit.

"I came out in the morning and saw the windows the way it is."

Friends of Jenkins say they're delighted to see her earn national recognition for a hobby she passionately devotes to others.

"She takes photos of all the children from Bible school," says Debbie Sweeney, Barnesville. Sweeny is a Tamaqua Area Middle School computer teacher who attends Christ Church, Barnesville, with Jenkins.

For 27 years, Jenkins has been snapping Confirmation photos at what is called the White Church.

"The church just celebrated a 200th anniversary and she did an archives that showed not only our church, but what was going on in the world at the time," says Sweeney.

Jenkins says her hobbies keep her mind active. She writes books and screenplays, too. It's a form of therapy for Jenkins, who never married but spent her life devoted to caring for her kind-hearted mother, Venessa Cattell Jenkins.

"She passed away 13 years ago just shy of her 102nd birthday," says Jenkins, who cared for her mother at home and stayed at her mother's side right through her final illness.

Her mother was a brilliant woman who often spoke of events of World War II. In tribute to her mom, Jenkins wrote and printed a 251-page work, "Chasing Rainbows, a mother's diary."

"In it are all the stories she ever told me from the time she was married," says Jenkins, who lived in Mahanoy City until the family moved to Barnesville when she was 42.

Jenkins also wrote "Oradour Village of the Ashes." It's the story of a town the Germans invaded. But the story is horrific because the Germans went on to systematically kill all of the town's residents. Jenkins knows that the powerful stories of the World War II are important to tell.

"I can't get enough of World War II," she says. "My brother was in World War II. The Germans sank his ship off the coast of Salerno. He was in the water for a week, hanging on to a cork raft before being rescued."

Robert Jenkins received the Purple Heart. Like his sister, Robert never married. He joined Carolyn in staying home with his mother. Sadly, he passed away just six months after his mother's death, after fighting a lengthy illness.

Yet another original work by Jenkins is "The Years of the Bloody Shirt," a play based on the life of Mathew Brady, famous Civil War era photographer.

She also authored "Here Comes the Dreamers," a screenplay about genius Albert Einstein and his life from 1933-1955.

Jenkins had some inside information about Einstein before she started on the project.

"My brother met him in person when my brother and a friend were in Princeton."

She said Einstein was a pleasant, friendly man who enjoyed seeing children at play, and would sometimes join in. A humble man, Einstein said, near the time of his death:

"What I seek to accomplish is simply to serve with my feeble capacity truth and justice at the risk of pleasing no one."

Jenkins not only writes and edits her original works, but creates the layouts, adds the photography and images, and totally self-publishes. She is self-taught in all of her skills and pursuits, including using the computer. As for her finished projects, she does not distribute her works or send copies to publishers. She simply creates her work to keep busy.

The inspiration from her beloved mother continues to fuel Jenkins' enthusiasm.

Mothers are special. And when your mother lives to be 101, you have many extraordinary memories. Jenkins remembers the stories her mother told throughout the years, and her mother's special knack of lifting spirits by saying the words: "Everything will be all right."

Inspired by those words, Jenkins writes books and dabbles in photography in order to provide a form of therapy for herself, especially during the long winter.

"It helps me. It keeps me busy. When I'm doing it, I'm not worried about things. It's the best thing. It's better than medicine."

When the mind remains active, good things can happen and the outcome can surprise. It's something the late Venessa Jenkins always reminded her children. She knew that an active mind was a productive mind. And a productive mind was a good thing.

"My mother used to say: 'An idle mind is the devil's workshop.'"

For Carolyn Jenkins, a mother's love continues to inspire.

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