Obituary: Adaline Jessup of Portola Valley, ardent environmentalist


If personal magnetism were a measurable force, if it could be calculated on its ability to draw people in and give them feelings of warmth and importance, the force would have been strong in Adaline Jessup of Portola Valley.

Ms. Jessup, an ardent environmentalist, was a source of deep learning for neighborhood children interested in plants and animals, according to friends and family. She liked being outside and slept most nights in a screened sleeping porch, even during serious storms. With her physician husband Bruce, she offered room, board and lively conversation to many Stanford University medical students and house guests. She was 90 when she died on Aug. 26.

"She was my hero, another mother in my life," resident Danna Breen said. "She knew the sounds of all the birds. She was engaged in life, in nature, in people, in volunteering, in storytelling. She was fully present."

Ms. Jessup's neighbors, Ellen and Klaus Porzig, nominated her for the Portola Valley's 2015 Environmental Champion Award, which she received. "She has influenced generations of children to conserve resources, celebrate natural vegetation and animals, identify birds and enjoy nature in its unadulterated, peaceful and subtle forms," the couple said in their nomination letter.

Her daughter Joan Jessup Fray said her mother photographed "everyone who came to visit, or stay, and all the flowers and birds and animals she saw. She was delighted by life. And there are thousands of living things who will deeply miss her now that she has 'gone on ahead.'"

Adaline Jessup was born in San Marino near Pasadena. When she was 10, her mother died, and she moved to Hillsborough to live with an aunt and uncle. She attended seventh- and eighth-grades at Dominican Convent school in San Rafael, and boarded at the Katherine Branson School in Marin County for high school.

She memorized "an incredible number of poems, from which she would pull snippets to liven up her conversation," her daughter said.

During World War II, she was at Stanford, where she met her future husband. He had plans to go to law school at Harvard, but ended up in medical school at Stanford. They married in 1945 and she worked in a lab as a bacteriologist.

The couple moved in 1951 to Portola Valley at 480 Westridge Drive, where the 480 Club took shape. The members, eventually more than 60 of them, were medical students who boarded there. "Adaline welcomed all to her kitchen and her dining room table with great enthusiasm and warmth and interest," Ms. Fray said. "She was interested in everyone, but rarely talked about herself."

Also frequenting 480 Westridge were dogs, cats, parakeets, chickens, ducks, horses, sheep and a goose, Ms. Fray said. She could identify birds and animals by their calls, and former animals by their skulls. Her collection was picked clean and were conversation pieces for children. "All kids are marvelous," she used to say, according to her daughter. "Let them be, don't worry about them, they will be fine."

She belonged to the Westridge Garden Club, was a docent at Ano Nuevo State Park, and the first woman on Portola Valley's Architectural and Site Control Commission. Her house was full of books. Westerns by Louis L'Amour were her favorite, Ms. Breen said.

In 1963, the family moved to Iran when Dr. Jessup took a position as a pediatrician with the Agency for International Development. They returned to Portola Valley in 1965, back to the medical students and house guests. "Oh, the lively discussions, the heated political debates, the arguments and yelling of obscenities that went on around that table!" Ms. Fray said. "Late into the night. All were welcome, none were immune."

The Jessups had wonderful senses of humor and fanfare, said Ms. Breen, who grew up nearby. When they visited, they would bring a flask of bourbon and carry a large American flag on a staff, she said.

The Porzigs said Ms. Jessup's property and vegetable garden were "a daily source of peace and enjoyment" for their children and their granddaughter. They attribute their children's interest in nature and ecology to Ms. Jessup's dedication to the environment.

Bruce Jessup died in 1987. Ms. Jessup is survived by her daughter Joan, her son Judd, three grandchildren and five great-grandchildren. A private memorial service is set for October.

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4 people like this
Posted by Kevin Wheaton
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Sep 30, 2015 at 1:42 pm

Van Rudd and I were two of Bruce and Adaline Jessup's medical student "kids". In return for an absurdly low rental, they asked of us some light yard work, some babysitting, and a willingness to share our medical education. They provided the political education, and it was lively. They opened our eyes to a willingness to share our good fortune. We spent one evening after clearing brush at their home in the mountains sharing "Jessup" BBQ chicken and conversation with Wallace Sterling. Later Jeri and I were offered the use of the home for our weekend honeymoon.

I went by 480 Westridge about two years ago to say hello. She was alone, but cautiously opened the door and said "I know I know you, but I can't remember the name." We shared a table in her kitchen for an hour of conversation. She and Bruce were wonderful people and very important to me.

2 people like this
Posted by Ethel
a resident of Portola Valley: Westridge
on Sep 30, 2015 at 3:43 pm

A lovely woman, a lovely teacher of life! So loved by the community! Rest well dear one, you taught us so much.

2 people like this
Posted by Whitney Hayes
a resident of Portola Valley: Woodside Highlands
on Sep 30, 2015 at 7:46 pm

My dad grew up next door to Adeline and Bruce on west ridge drive . He loved them and they loved him. Two years ago, my niece holly and I stopped by, she welcomed us...was fascinated by pete and carols granddaughter - she graciously showed us the iconic chicken coop. Last year I brought my boyfriend by...again, she greeted us and sat us down at her dining room "round table" and proceeded to grill Steve ...finally she said we were great for each other. There's much more to tell... But I'll keep it to this part of millennium. We miss you asking jessup.

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