Obituary: Jean Pixley

Teacher, loving wife, mother and grandmother


Jean Pixley, a former 40-year Claremont resident, elementary school teacher and college faculty wife, died peacefully in the early hours of July 24, 2016 at her home at Villa Marin in San Rafael, California. She was 86. Her health had been declining since suffering a broken hip after last Christmas. 

A fourth-generation Californian, she was born Jean Marie Shipkey, the older of two siblings, to Harry and Lucille Shipkey on February 18, 1930 in Salinas. She grew up in Palo Alto and graduated from Stanford University in 1952, where her father had coached football.

After graduation, she worked for IBM, first in New York City and then in San Francisco, in systems service. There she met Alden Pixley, also working at IBM.  Their first date was when Jean crewed for Alden in a sailboat race on San Francisco Bay. They came in last but were married six months later on December 1, 1956.

During their first six years of marriage, they lived in the Bay Area where their first two children were born, Kate in 1958 and John in 1960. They moved to Claremont in 1962, when Alden was hired as a math professor at the then-new Harvey Mudd College. Three years later, in 1965, their third child Tom was born. 

In 1973, when the children were old enough, Mrs. Pixley began teaching at Chaparral Elementary School. She remained there for 20 years until 1993, teaching primarily fifth and sixth grade, a career at which she was successful and found most fulfilling. Indeed, to this day, there are former students and parents who remember her with great fondness. After retiring, she did volunteer work tutoring, teaching ESL and helping in a food pantry.  

While teaching, Mrs. Pixley was active in the Claremont Colleges community and enjoyed hosting dinners and receptions as well as play-readings. She was known for her good cooking, especially her Christmas cookies, and always enjoyed tennis, bridge and music. The family enjoyed living for a year in Italy in 1971 and for another year in London in 1976. Later, she enjoyed going to the movies with John and backpacking in the Sierras with Alden and Kate and Tom. 

After Mr. Pixley retired from Harvey Mudd College in 2002, he and Jean returned to the Bay Area to be closer to their vacation house at Sea Ranch as well as to Kate and Tom and their families. They lived in Point Richmond for several years before moving to the Villa Marin retirement community in San Rafael. As long as she was able, Mrs. Pixley cherished their visits to Claremont, where they saw John and their many Claremont friends. 

She is survived by Alden Pixley of San Rafael, Catherine Pixley of Oakland, John Pixley of Claremont, Thomas Pixley and his wife Shaolan Min of El Cerrito and grandsons Lucian and Alden of El Cerrito. Her younger brother, Robert, died in 2009.

There will be a scattering of Jean’s ashes in the San Francisco Bay, followed by a reception in El Cerrito on August 27.    


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