Levi Penner, a husband, father, and grandfather, invented the True Latch gate brace. He was born in a German Mennonite community in Mexico.
As a child his family, together with others from the community, moved to Belize to settle land in the virgin jungle of Central America for more freedom and to start a new Mennonite community.
In the early days in Belize, they lived in a thatched roof hut with only dirt for floors. Their bathroom, playground, and backyard was the jungle. As a young boy Levi had his handy machete and explored the jungle. He never got lost, and when he found a snake in his path, out came his machete. He learned to identify all the trees, learned which snakes were poisonous and which were not. He knew which jungle vines were hollow on the inside and had water to drink from if he was thirsty.
As his family became established, cleared more and more of the jungle, they became successful farmers. When Levi was a young man, the sixth child of 13, a couple of his siblings got polio and the family became fully dependent on the community, and still there often was not much food on the table. Levi and his siblings did not go hungry, because they had learned where to find berries and also wild yams that they dug up and ate raw. Later his mom would cook them at times, but Levi always preferred them raw.
Through these years of hardships, Levi became a resourceful, hard working, and a devout man of God.
By the time Levi got married, his father and mother were finally out of debt, both with their farm and had a successful sheet metal roofing business. You would never have seen evidence of this success in either his father’s attitude or lifestyle. Levi’s father donated thousands of dollars to organizations across the world to people in need.
After Levi got married, he started his own business. Actually, he always had a couple avenues of income related to farming such as corn and bean fields, raising chickens and clearing trees in the jungle to sell the hardwoods to sawmills.
Later he moved out of the Mennonite community to a town nearby. The main reason for the move was his vision and revelation that the Mennonites were isolating themselves from other Christians. He believed that all Christians should be one and that just as the Lord has only one body, so He has only one church.
Again he began another business, this time with selling sand and gravel from pieces of land that he owned.
In 1999 his younger brother, with whom he owned this business, got kidnapped and Levi was their contact person. This started a couple years of fearing for his own life and his family’s. For years he searched for his brother, often with false leads while sifting through who was at the bottom of the kidnapping and finding corruption wherever he turned.
Levi struggled with guilt as well, that he was spared and that he had not been able to save his brother or ever come to a conclusive closing.
Finally Levi and his wife moved to Canada. Most of his five girls were already in Canada or the US by this time. They spent a year there and then moved to the US where Levi served in the church, became a US citizen and again started another business, a fence company.
He began by going door to door to land jobs. Then just about a year after starting this business, his oldest daughter’s husband was medically retired from the U.S. Air Force, and they moved into the upstairs of their parent’s home and her husband Brad began to work with Levi. Eventually Levi offered Brad a fifty percent of the income if he found the customers. Brad’s way was not to go door to door, but he taught himself how to build a website. And from then on most of their customers came from the website & online traffic and Brad became a full partner in the fence business.
Growing up on the farm as a boy, Levi learned to build straight fences. His dad would say, “Levi, when you look down the line of posts, you need to see only one post!”
Frustrated by the lack of precise adjustments on sagging gates, and a lack of braces on the market meeting this need, he invented a gate brace with a simple adjustment, which would lift and latch every wood gate perfectly true every time.
Therefore the name, True Latch.
Production of the gate brace, the 64” inch original one piece brace, began in Levi’s garage. Later they produced it in a small location they built.
In early 2018 Levi was diagnosed with a brain tumor. He had surgery and lived till the end of the year. During this year, Brad opened up an Amazon account and learned how to sell the brace there. Also during this year, Levi and Brad designed a telescopic version.
Before his death in late 2018, he saw his patented invention go nationwide across the USA.
Levi’s wife Annie, together with Brad and his wife Martha continue running both the fence business and producing and packing the True Latch gate braces.
Many family members, together with some grandchildren of Levi and Annie also help with the packing of the braces and shipping them to Amazon.
His wife and family continue to grow his dream of helping people full time with his invention.