April 30, 1929 – July 26, 2021
Fifty-year San Marino resident Jeanne Walker Cornwell died peacefully on July 26, 2021, in Yorba Linda, California. She was 92.
Jeanne was born in the Imperial Valley town of Brawley, California and grew up in the nearby town of Westmorland, not far from the Mexican border in southeastern California. Her grandfather Robert A. Walker was an early pioneer of Imperial Valley farming and helped introduce the cantaloupe as a crop in the Valley. Her father Glenn Danforth Walker was a WWI pilot who returned to the Valley after the war and became a Security Bank manager and farmer, and her mother Florence Mathers Walker was a homemaker.
Jeanne and her older sister Mary Frances grew up in their tiny desert town surrounded by aunts, uncles and cousins, playing the piano, and getting root beer floats to ward off the heat. During her teen years, Jeanne worked as a volunteer aircraft spotter during WWII, was active in several school clubs, and was elected Prom Queen. She graduated from Brawley Union High School in 1947 and followed her sister to the University of Redlands. While at the U of R, Jeanne was a member of Delta Kappa Psi, a cover girl for the campus literary magazine “The Siren” and was a finalist in the California State Maid of Cotton pageant. She was a gifted artist and majored in art with the intention of becoming a fashion illustrator, but a college professor convinced her to get her credential and become an elementary school teacher.
Jeanne captured the heart of Wray Cornwell during their sophomore year at University of Redlands. They were married in 1952, a year after they graduated. They moved to Los Altos where Jeanne began her teaching career and Wray finished his last year at Stanford Business School. In 1953, they relocated to Burbank, and Jeanne taught at Jefferson Elementary School and Wray began his career with Formica Corporation.
Son Tom was born five years later, and the young family relocated to Altadena. Jeanne retired from teaching shortly before Tom’s birth, and daughter Kay followed three years later. Jeanne served as president of the Altadena Republican Women’s Club and was on the Alumni Board for the University of Redlands during this time.
In 1969, the Cornwells moved to San Marino and set down roots for the rest of Jeanne and Wray’s lives. Jeanne was an active volunteer with the PTA, the SMHS PTSA, and after her children graduated, she was a member of the PTAffiliates. An avid reader since childhood, Jeanne often read as many as six books a week, and she became very involved with the Friends of the San Marino Public Library, eventually serving as the president and organizing many of the annual book fairs in the library parking lot. Later, she ran the church library at San Marino Community Church, wrote a monthly column on the library’s offerings for the church bulletin, and transformed the small library into a place to explore and find a treasure to read. Her love for books was contagious, and she never lost it until macular degeneration robbed her of her sight in her later years.
After her children were older, Jeanne returned to teaching, and she taught art at the kitchen table at her home on West Drive and as a PTA volunteer. She delighted in helping children see the world in new ways and celebrated their gifts as they put their visions to paper. No child was a bad artist in Jeanne’s eyes. She also began to paint and draw more herself, and she created everything from beautiful pen and ink drawings, watercolor paintings, and note cards, to illustrations for a proposed children’s picture book.
Jeanne and Wray were also active in the community as members of the Alaroma dance club, supporters of the Old Mill, Huntington Medical Research Institute and the Huntington Library. They were dedicated members of San Marino Community Church, where Jeanne also served as a deacon. Both Jeanne and Wray were honored by the San Marino Rotary Club as Paul Harris Fellows in 2004 for their contributions to the community.
After Wray’s death in 2018, Jeanne moved to Monte Vista Grove Homes, then to ActivCare at Yorba Linda to be closer to her daughter. The family is extremely grateful for the loving care given to Jeanne by the staffs of both nursing homes, and for the extraordinary nursing she received from Cadence Hospice who, along with the staff at ActivCare, saw her through a bout with COVID earlier this year, then cared for her until her final days as she struggled with post-COVID issues. The extraordinary work of caregivers and medical professionals throughout the past year-and-a-half cannot be understated, and we are immensely grateful.
Jeanne was predeceased by her parents and sister and her beloved Wray. She is survived by her son Tom Cornwell, daughter Kay Romer, son-in-law Greg Romer, and grandchildren Ella Cornwell, Laura Romer, Colin Romer, Glenn Romer and several nieces and a nephew.
Services will be Saturday, August 28 at 10 a.m. at San Marino Community Church, 1750 Virginia Rd. with a reception to follow. Burial will be private. In lieu of flowers, donations to the San Marino Community Church library are welcomed.