Jean Starkweather Led by Example

by Kay Noguchi, December 3, 2015

I got to know Jean Starkweather when we were both appointed to San Rafael’s General Plan 2020 Steering Committee in May 2000. We lived near each other in Terra Linda and often drove to the meetings together. That was great for me, a relative newcomer to the area, as Jean was able to supply a lot of background, context, and wisdom to the issues under consideration.

Jean in 2013. Anne T. Kent California Room Collection

Over the years, Jean and I continued to run into each other at community meetings — and over her back fence when she was in the garden and I was walking the dog. My husband and I are so grateful to Jean and the others who had the foresight to protect this hillside behind her home as Open Space.

In spring of 2012, my friend Shirley Fischer approached me with the idea of conducting an oral history project to preserve the memories of those involved in the early days of North San Rafael. Practically the first person we thought of was Jean. We took the idea to Laurie Thompson, the librarian at the Anne T. Kent California Room, who was enthusiastic about the possibility. Oral historian and writer Marilyn L. Geary and videographer Paul Kagawa joined our North San Rafael Oral History Project team. Between December 2012 and September 2013 Paul recorded nine people being interviewed by Marilyn, resulting in thirteen hours of video. We are happy to share a small snippet of Jean’s interview.

In recent months, I have seen Jean more often since she was just down the hall from my mother-in-law at The Rafael Convalescent Hospital. My husband Mark also popped in for visits with our dog Honey. To the very end, Jean was alert and engaged and interested in her community. We had fun discussing the results of the November election, and she was intrigued when I read her the story about Marin Organic disbanding because their mission had been accomplished.

Jean is a great example of how one person can make a difference. She is an inspiring role model with her message of the importance of being involved in your local community. As her friend and fellow activist Susan Stompe said of Jean, “When she took on an issue, she was firm, but in a gentle, soft-spoken way. And she was very effective with that. She knew what she was talking about.”

Kay Noguchi, Friend and Neighbor

EDITOR’S NOTE: Jean Starkweather passed away on November 23 just days before her 86th birthday. The California Room is honored to have interviewed Jean and her complete oral history, including the transcript, can be found on our digital archive.

Originally published at



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Anne T. Kent California Room

Anne T. Kent California Room


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