Valley Neighbors: Local man reflects on a lifetime spent helping others
by Sandi Olson
May 22, 2014 | 1077 views | 0 0 comments | 12 12 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Lucjan Szewczyk/Press-Banner
Lucjan Szewczyk/Press-Banner
I met Henri Jeanrenaud several years ago on a walk in our neighborhood.

At 75, he not only walks a mile each day, but stops to greet people and check on elderly neighbors who might need assistance.

However, Jeanrenaud’s life consists of much more than this — whether it be financial planning, helping children with math, or working with AIDS patients at Missionaries of Charity in San Francisco — he is deeply involved in improving the quality of people’s lives.

“When you volunteer, you’re not only helping others, but you’re also helping yourself,” said Jeanrenaud. “I feel that it’s our duty to share our time, energy and resources with others.”

Born during World War II in a country village in southern France, Jeanrenaud came from a family of 10 children.

The family immigrated to Australia when he was 11 and it took them two months to get there.

Unfortunately, Jeanrenaud had to quit school after sixth grade and help support the family.

He did everything from working in a newspaper office to building streetcars.

“I enjoyed learning and went to the library at night after work,” Jeanrenaud said. “I read everything I could get my hands on. I also studied accounting for three years.”

Jeanrenaud moved to Scotts Valley in 1967 to attend Bethany Bible College.

He planned to go into the ministry, but decided to become a financial planner after graduating in 1971.

Jeanrenaud has helped people manage their investments for the past 43 years.

His goal is to see that his clients have sufficient funds in their later years.

“I’m appalled by all the fraud and dishonesty and am thankful that this hasn’t been my experience,” Jeanrenaud said. “I’m deeply committed to living a responsible life with the highest integrity.”

In 1977 he married Barbara Opitz, and they became involved with “Missions of Charity,” in San Francisco.

“At that time AIDS patients were isolated and treated like lepers,” said Jeanrenald.“We’d cook for them and provide hugs and human touch — something they desperately needed!”

The Jeanrenauds have also been involved with an orphanage in Kenya raising funds for projects such as drilling a well to provide clean drinking water for more than 5,000 people.

Closer to home, Jeanrenaud is a regular volunteer in Mrs. Walsh’s 2-3 grade class at Brook Knoll Elementary School.

He sits at a U-shaped table at the math center, helping students with their math facts. He also tutors students in the neighborhood.

“I’ve always been drawn to children,” Jeanrenald said. “I find them amazing and valuable. They’ve given me more joy than anything — whether we’re on a picnic, playing math games or I’m just listening to their laughter. My idea of Heaven is having a picnic in a meadow with lots of children.”

Jeanrenaud is passionate about staying in shape.

Instead of sweating in a gym, he walks every day.

“Walking is not only great for your body, but it’s also good for your soul,” he said.

“When I’m faced with a stressful decision I walk it out. I not only take my daily neighborhood walk, but also hike in the redwood forests. I love being where I can observe the beauty, complexity and harmony of nature.”

In addition to walking, Jeanrenaud also likes to travel and visit different countries.

“We have friends all over Europe and go abroad every three years to visit them. Our favorite countries are France, Switzerland and Germany,” he said.

Jeanrenaud also speaks of his Christian values.

“I’ve been blessed. I try to share what I have rather than be self-indulgent. My faith gives me joy, meaning and purpose. It helps me be a better person, and I try to live each day as fully as possible.”

Jeanrenaud is such an inspiring person and seems to have a gift with people.

He considers himself to be “high on life,” and is a reminder that happiness comes from what you give, not from what you have.

- Sandi Olson of Scotts Valley is a writer, speaker and teacher. She writes about interesting people in Scotts Valley and the San Lorenzo Valley. E-mail her at
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