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Local author explores secrets to a good life

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May 11, 2009

DAYTON DEANERY — When Larry Janning needed insight on the important things in living a long life he turned to St. Leonard Senior Living Community. At the facility in Centerville, he received a plethora of knowledge and wisdom. He said there were so many nuggets that it influenced him to write a book. 


Janning is the author of The Secret to Life: A Gift of Wisdom, in which he interviewed individuals, age 60 and older, at St. Leonard and other seniors he encountered. Janning posed the same question to each person as he collected anecdotes at the senior community, the bank, the airport and at Ascension Church, where he attends Mass, in Kettering. He asked them, “What do you think is the secret to a good life?” 

“So many people have responded with God, love and character. From what I observed just about everybody included God,” said Janning, whose three daughters inspired him to write his book. “The thing I noticed and was most impressed with was that people were so willing to pass on their wisdom. I wrote the book to share with the younger generation.” 



Larry Janning

Janning’s curiosity about living a long life developed as a child when his Father told him, “You grow too soon old, and too late smart.” He learned his father’s advice meant you gain wisdom with age, but Janning was intent on finding a way to accelerate the process. 


In his quest for the secret, Janning said people from different religions and ethnicities gave varying answers but most responded with “being a good person” and “putting God first.” 


 “As people get older they become more spiritual and their relationship with God gets stronger. The fact so many were willing to share their wisdom was to me an indication that the people I interviewed really understood the secret,” said Janning, who has relatives that reside at St. Leonard. 


St. Leonard residents Floss and Alf Waggener were among the couples interviewed in Janning’s book. The married couple of 66 years said God is most important in their lives.


 “He still guides us and has made us more compassionate,” Floss Waggener said. “Sometimes you can’t see it but when you look back (on your life) you can see how God guides us.”


She said she recognized God’s safekeeping when her husband, who is a retired colonel in U.S. Air Force, flew fighter missions during World War II. She also recalled her husband survived a heart attack in 1975 and underwent successful bypass surgery two years later. 


 “God had us move where He wanted us,” Waggener said of her husband’s military assignments. “We met missionaries both Catholic and Protestant when we lived in Japan.”


Waggener, who is a Southern Baptist, said she rejoices knowing the Lord will be with her and her husband as they age. 


She cited Isaiah 41:10: “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”


 “We’re not supposed to condemn (people for what they do in the world) but we don’t have to condone it,” Waggener said. “I wish others would have a personal relationship with God. You have to learn to trust in Him even when things don’t go right.” 


Waggener said she’s bought copies of Janning’s book for her two children and four grandchildren. 


Joan and John Vallo who have been married 59 years were also included in Janning’s book.


Joan Vallo said she was impressed with Janning’s enthusiasm to seek wisdom from older residents. She shared “continuing to learn” and “developing her spiritual growth” are most important. 


“Spiritual growth is a necessity and it’s important to put the Lord first,” said Vallo, who attends Mass at St. Leonard. “At 80, you get so many pains, if you don’t say, ‘OK, Lord what do you want me to do,’ you can’t get through it.”


Vallo works in St. Leonard’s volunteer office, where she uses her newly learned computer skills. She said she enjoys this point in her life, in which she’s able to watch her four children; eight grandchildren and four great-grandchildren grow.


Debbie Parrett is the community relations specialist at St. Leonard, where the book is sold. 


“We’re thrilled (Janning) did the book. He captured the essence of our campus. There’s wisdom here that’s not evident until you start digging,” Parrett said.


 Janning, who lives in Beavercreek, spent nine months visiting residents at St. Leonard to gather nuggets of wisdom.


 “The book allowed me to focus on what things are important to me and what things I might have overlooked in my life. Most readers said they keep the book as a reference,” he said. 


 For more information about The Secret to Life: A Gift of Wisdom you can email Larry Janning at [email protected]. The book sells for $8.


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