By Lanier Laney
John met his beloved wife, Jan, in the Army in Alabama 35 years ago. They were both serving: he as a Military Policeman, she as a chaplain’s assistant.
Surprisingly, Jan’s parents had met while both in the Army, and John’s parents had also met while both in the Marine Corp.
Currently their daughter Major Megan Gentry is in the Air Force in Alexandria, Va., and son John Kyle Gentry just finished two tours in Iraq. He will be returning home for this year’s Water Festival to join his family, including sister Erin Vaux who is an assistant solicitor for the 14th Judicial Circuit.
I guess you could say the Gentry family has been very involved with three things: the military, the Beaufort school system, and the Water Festival. This year, John Gentry was selected to be commodore of the festival and Jan is First Lady.
John moved to Beaufort for the first time when he was age 11 with his Marine Dad and Mom from Atlanta. He loved playing football for Beaufort High School so much that it became his dream to come back and coach the same team he had been on.
After serving in the Army, John went to college in Alabama to get a Bachelor of Arts degree and a Masters degree in Physical Education. Then he returned to Beaufort in 1981 where he became the football coach and a teacher at Beaufort High School. Now, after 31 “very rewarding years,” he retired from that post in July.
Jan was also involved in the Beaufort County School District, working as a secretary at Mossy Oaks Elementary for 26 years.
During that time they both became involved with the Water Festival. John first was a volunteer and helper and then served as Director of Sports, followed by Water and Air Coordinator, which he felt lucky to do twice.
The water and air components of the festival now include the Coast Guard Cutter tours, the ski show, the shrimp boat tours, sailing regatta, parade of boats, Blessing of the Fleet, and the goose bump-inducing Marine F-18 squadron flyover which is the crowning moment at the end of the Water Festival on Sunday, July 22, at 3 p.m.
So after 19 years of being involved with the Water Festival, John became commodore this year. He said, “The majority of my life has been spent on a team of one sort or another, or coaching one. The most enjoyable teams have been the ones made up of volunteers I’ve worked with each year at the Water Festival. It’s a team that’s not about winning and losing, but about taking care of everybody and being unselfish about all the time and effort they put into it. It’s truly been an honor to be a part of.”
John’s whole family joins in on that sentiment, having all been very involved with the Water Festival team over the years. Megan and Erin were both Pirettes and son Kyle was a director.
And Jan deserves a great amount of credit, says John, “being by my side helping along every step of the way.”
The Beaufort Water Festival marks a time when many families come back together and share in some of the happiest moments of their childhood and celebrate the past and talk about their hopes for the future.
This 57th year is no exception, and all the hard work put in by John and the volunteers on his great “team” will reveal another memorable and exciting festival.