By Donna Paterino
For the Daily News
MATEWAN – Known far and wide and introduced over and over as “Matewan’s own Eddie Nenni, at the “gigs” as he called them, while a longtime member of the musical group, the Jaguars, passed away on July 13, 2016, at Logan Regional Medical Center.
Born to the late Attillio Nenni and Nellie Gentile Nenni, he was a young man when he returned from college to take over the daily operation of the family business, Nenni’s Department Store in downtown Matewan. His grandfather, the late Dominic Gentile Sr. founded Mingo Bottling Company in Williamson in 1914.
Eddie is survived by his only child, his beloved son, Eric Todd Nenni and his fiancee, Tiffany Cline, his grandson, whom he adored, Jackson Nenni, his loving sister, Gerinel and her husband, Jimmy Maynard of Ohio, a special granddaughter, Desirae Miller, and a host of nieces, nephews and friends.
While attending Marshall University, he was a member of the band, the Collegiate’s. It was several years later the he, along with brothers, Jim and John Hunt formed the Jaguars. He was a talented singer and mastered the saxophone. The Jaguars performed both locally and in many different states and venues. They attracted audiences of all ages.
As a community volunteer, former business owner, and Director of the Matewan Drama Group, I had the privilege to work with Eddie for many years. I could list many things about his life well lived. But, if you think about it, he was known best for his gift of friendship. He never met a stranger, and could make you smile in less than a minute.
In 2015, before our annual Matewan Massacre Drama, Nenni was recognized for 54 years of service as a Town Council member for Matewan. He was instrumental in so many wonderful community projects. I checked this number with the state of West Virginia, and was informed that he held the record across the board as the longest running member anywhere.
Although he was overwhelmed by the plaque honoring him, I hope he knew how much laughter and smiles he has brought to so many over his lifetime. I have listened to many tourists over the years travel back to historic Matewan just to see Eddie. He had so many stories of his adventurous life, He had the ability to relate to everyone he met. Ever so proud of his Italian heritage, Eddie also had a special birth date. He was born on the anniversary of the Battle of Matewan. Playing the role of a Baldwin Felt agent, He was also a member of the Drama Group for several seasons. One of my favorite things to do on Heritage Day was to present him with a birthday cake and with the help of the audience, sing the birthday song to him.
“Life is too short, not to enjoy it he would say”. He did just that. He loved to drive his sports car, and his motorcycle. He loved to take you down memory lane with the soothing saxophone he played so well. He adored his son and grandson. He cared for his father and his mother until their passing. He also enjoyed taking his family to church. He was a lifelong member of Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Williamson. He spoke so highly of his church family. As you read this article, I hope you smile at the thought of Eddie. He would ask you to.
I will miss my friend, as you will yours.