Fifties Forest beauty queen remembers.
Jenna Fae Watley keeps an active life with husband, family, grandchildren in Jena

By JACK M. WILLIS
Journal Correspondent

Way back in 1950 the Winn Parish Forest Festival was in its second year of operation. What was to become the Annual Beauty Pageant had concluded on Thursday night October 5, and beautiful Jenna Fae Whatley, 18-year old daughter of Mr. and Mrs. J.F. Whatley of Winnfield, won the coveted title Queen of the Louisiana State Forest Festival. The decision was delivered by three prominent judges before a capacity crowd at the Elementary School auditorium.

Second place went to pretty Camille Walker, and other lovely maids chosen in Queen Jenna Fae's court were: Carolyn Adams of Sikes, Bobbie Jean Collins of Winnfield, Ethel Virginia Martin of Winnfield, and Ethel Sue Gates of Dodson.

If there was ever a beautiful young lady that was qualified to reign as Forest Festival Queen by reason of beauty and inheritance, it was Jenna Fae. Her grandfather J. M. "Jim" Whatley was an entrepreneur of the highest order in the Eden community west of Jena, La. before the turn of the 20th Century. He was operating his own mercantile business at the age of 14. He was also a gentleman planter, cotton gin operator, and land and timber contractor. He contracted for timber harvested along and around Little River and Catahoula Lake, and arranged for log raft shipments of the timber by natural current flotation, or towed by packet boats to Baton Rouge and New Orleans.

Jenna Fae's father, J. Floyd Whatley had been reared in the Eden community before moving to the Calvin area in Winn Parish, Louisiana, while stationed in the C.C.C. camp there. After the C.C.C era ended, he went to work for the U.S. Forest Service as a Junior Ranger in the Kisatchie National Forest south and west of Winnfield. His supervisor was a treasured friend, George Tannehill.

Jenna Fae was born in Monroe, La., and spent her early childhood in Calvin, La., before the family later relocated to Winnfield. She was a yearbook beauty all through high school, as well as Most Athletic and Cheer Leader for three years. She stated that her most treasured memories are of growing up in Winnfield. The town has always had a special place in her heart. She went on to enter more beauty contests and in 1952 she won the title of Miss V.F.W. of the United States, winning a trip to New York City in the process.

Meanwhile in the summer of 1949 an event occurred that was to affect her for the rest of her life until the present. On Sunday nights, since she was and still is, a devout Methodist, she would attend M.Y.F. and church on Sunday nights in Winnfield. Between M.Y.F. and church Jenna Fae and her friends at church would dash downtown to the Lone Star Cafe for a Coke. The owner and operator, Ms. Minnie Breedlove told her one night she had this boy she wanted her to meet. She went on to tell her that he was from Jena and was attending La.Tech at Ruston. The next Sunday night she was introduced to James F. Justiss, Jr., and things got serious from then on. She started attending La. Tech herself in 1950. She was a La. Tech beauty for four years and in 1952, she won the title of La. State Fair Queen in Shreveport. She was also an R.O.T. C. sponsor for four years while at La.Tech.

She and James continued to date, and were married in October of 1952. After a semester to get accustomed to married life, she went back to school where she obtained a BA Degree in Elementary Education in 1954. Later on, she would teach for two years in Olla and one year at Jena in the LaSalle Parish School System.

James and Jenna Fae have two children, J.F."Jim" Justiss III and Jennifer Loe. They each have prominent executive positions with their Dad's oil company. Both have petroleum industry-related degrees from where else? La Tech, of course!

One of the Justiss families' favorite getaway spots is their hunting lodge near Whitehall, east of Jena ,La. It's located only a few miles, as the mallard flies, from Catahoula Lake. In season, they enjoy waterfowl hunting in the area.

The Justiss home is one that James inherited from his parents is located just west of Trout, La. The site was formerly occupied by Dr. D.L. Trax, a prominent physician in the area for years. He had a house and stables on the 56 acres, and raised blooded horses. Mr. J,F. "Jick" Justiss later acquired the property, and built the magnificent ranch-style home that James and Jenna Fae now reside in.

Jenna Fae loves the people of LaSalle Parish, her adopted home, and feels they have been more than kind to her and her family, and she feels truly blessed from her roots heritage and relationships she has developed over the years.

It's ironical, in that the acreage their house presently occupies, was also the locale of where the very last of the virgin longleaf yellow pines, which once covered literally thousands of acres, were harvested by the Buchanan Company in 1935. James and Jeanna Fae are helping to reestablish that legacy. They've planted most of the land around their home with the new super trees developed by IPC. One day soon magnificent pine trees will again return as they once were...

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