by Tina Olivero

    Chesley Penney: May we find you in the echo of your legacy

    It’s with deep sadness that we say goodbye to one of Newfoundland’s greatest men, Chesley Penney.  Living a long and extremely successful life Ches was one of 12 children from Carbonear, who moved to St. John’s with a dream and vision.  A father, an entrepreneur and a philanthropist, Ches was an inspiring chap. Regrettably, at the age of 84, he has left us. But he as also left a family and legacy never to be forgotten.

    Humble, deep and wise, these words can’t even come close to truly expressing the sentiments that surround such an icon in our community.  Ches Penney was a man we can all aspire to be more like.  He is the definition of leadership, family and contribution and we can only be thankful for all he has done.  It would be considerate to reflect on his life as it was so well lived.

    Gail Penney, daughter of Ches and one of 9 children, worked alongside her father for many years. She is currently the president of the Penney Group of Companies, said she, ” I remember fondly the days he would sit beside me at my desk and talk about the business issues of the day. I will miss his encouragement, and I will miss his guidance.”

    Eight of Ches’s surviving children spent time with their father before he died last Thursday.  Gail said, “He was a wonderful role model. He always told us what he felt. He told us the truth; he was a realist. He helped us to see the world through real eyes. He was a great inspiration to us all.”

    Ches Penney is a visionary who masterminded the Penney Group which is now one of Newfoundland and Labrador’s largest private commercial enterprises. Ches began his career in banking before entering the world of private business. His business interests have expanded to include some companies, covering everything from automobiles, heavy construction, concrete, energy services, and real estate.

    In recognition of his personal generosity and commitment to his community, Ches has been named to the Order of Canada, the Order of Newfoundland and Labrador, and awarded an honorary doctorate from Memorial University of Newfoundland and Labrador.  Ches’s generosity has been extensive and humble. He has made major donations to the General Hospital Health Foundation and Memorial University. Rotary International named him a Paul Harris Fellow in recognition of his charitable work.  

    Based in St. John’s, Newfoundland, Penney Group work consists of heavy civil, energy and real estate, in building a better Canada. The foundation of the Pennecon business rests on 1,100 people. In the past, Ches had spoken about his company, “We continuously strive to be among the most respected multi-discipline construction organizations in the country, and we will achieve this goal by fostering meaningful relationships with our clients, our employees and the stakeholders in the communities in which we operate.”

    Ches’s career was wide and varied. He began as a branch manager at a bank in Grand Falls, and Bowater Mill was quite active at the time. He had once said, “I was approving personal loans and I could see the mill workers were making more money than I was — so I knew I needed to leave and start out on my own. Grand Falls was a small market, so I had a number of small businesses. Most of them grew or changed hands. Lincoln Construction was my paving and road building company and it was here that I cut my teeth in construction. It grew because I had good people around me, but I lost my focus and that business failed. That was a tough lesson. I had seven children and no money. Fear was a great motivator. Pennecon was the outgrowth of that. The good people stayed with me and many others joined our group. The loyalty, commitment and raw talent of all those hard working men and women are what mattered.”

    Great companies take great leadership. Ches summed business up by stating that, “You have to trust and empower the people you share your business life with. That means your partners, colleagues and employees. It all comes down to talent and trust. You need both. On top of that, you need drive and work ethic. Hard work is how we survive. Trust your gut. Gather the facts, but trust your instincts and act on them. Hire the right people and empower them. A good deal is a deal that works for both sides. Always take care of your partners. They help you grow.”

    Rest In Peace, Chesley Penney – may we find you in the sunsets, the wind and the in the echo of your legacy.


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