by Robin GeeAbout 60 years ago at a home in Fort Thomas, college student Jerry Jansen sat his parents down and confessed a secret. He had been married to his true love for four months. Only a few miles away, a young woman about to graduate from Holmes High School was making the same confession to her parents. She was now Mrs. Bonnie Jansen.
It started innocently enough. Jerry met Bonnie in the youth group at the Madison Avenue Christian Church in Covington. They had been dating awhile, but it was getting hard to travel home from college to see her. They were destined to be together so why not make it official? The couple decided the solution would be to get married.
After they got over the initial shock, family members gave the impetuous young couple two to three years tops. Yet Jerry and Bonnie defied the odds. Three children, five grandchildren and four great grandchildren later, the couple celebrated their 60th anniversary on May 18, 2017.
Despite the dour predictions, says Bonnie, "Our love just grew and when the kids came, the love grew with them."
Fort Thomas Mayor Eric Haas proclaimed the day as Jerry and Bonnie Jansen Day in honor of the anniversary and the couple’s long legacy of community service, including their role in the creation and care of the Fort Thomas Military and Community Museum.
Deep roots and a strong work ethicJerry studied electrical engineering at the University of Kentucky and became a union electrician. His business thrived. Among the projects to his credit were the moving seats and lighting at Riverfront Stadium and the fire alarm system at Northern Kentucky University.
With an electrical business, the whole family got involved. Bonnie helped on the business end while raising the Jansen’s three sons, Mike, Tony and Kenny. When a project deadline loomed, the boys were often recruited to help.
Jerry launched a second career in real estate, one that lasted 50 years. Both Jerry and Bonnie earned realtor licenses and, as in the electrical work, Bonnie took care of office matters as well as the family. In fact, she found their Fort Thomas home when the couple was asked to help the owner sell it. Bonnie went to see the property, fell in love with it and bought it on the spot, presenting her surprised husband with a signed contract when he came home from work.
Bonnie says it was a decision she has never regretted. "We’ve been on this street since 1975. The school system is fantastic, it feels safe and secure here. And I couldn’t ask for better neighbors. We’ve got three nice parks nearby, and you can go in any direction and find ice cream, pizza…all the amenities are right here."
Hard work has been the cornerstone of the Jansens’ life together. "We got a strong work ethic from my parents and that has carried over to our kids and grandkids," said son Mike Jansen.
Mike and both his brothers became police officers. Two grandchildren also work in law enforcement. Mike serves as the Campbell County Sheriff. Kenny Jansen served as an officer in Boone County and now works part-time for the court system while running a horse farm. Tony was a police officer for the city of Newport.
Walking hand in hand
Life for the Jansens took a tragic turn when Tony was killed in an accident while on duty in December of 1984. He and two other officers responded to an incident with a man waving a firearm. During the chaos of the situation, Tony was shot accidentally by a fellow officer and died at the scene.
It is still painful for the Jansens to talk about their son, but they say that having their other children and their families close held them together. They were very thankful, too, for the loving support of the entire community.
The Jansens say they have a special love for Fort Thomas and are proud of their work at the museum. A part of the original fort complex, the steward’s house on Green Street was set aside by the city to serve as a public museum.
"There is so much history here," says Bonnie. "When we put out the call for artifacts, we were overwhelmed with how much there was. People brought in items from their attics and stories from their parents and grandparents."
When asked about the secret of their success in marriage, Bonnie said, "We've had one heck of a ride. We've had our laughs, our tears, but we've walked hand in hand through it all."