Jean Williams De Nault’s grandfather Orrin Leslie Elliott was Stanford’s first registrar and assistant to President David Starr Jordan. In 1892, her mother became the first child born on campus. The family lived on Santa Ynez Street, across from the Hoovers, and it was in the gardens of that home — where Jean spent “many, many summers” — that high school sweethearts Jean and John De Nault, both ’41, were married after graduation. John served in the Navy, and they raised a family in Los Angeles, where he became chairman of the board at 20th Century Insurance. Now 97, John and Jean celebrated their 75th anniversary in June.
Both are still at the wheel (Jean’s license, she says, is valid until she’s 101) and driving between their homes in Los Angeles and Boulder Creek, where they spend the majority of their time. John explores the Santa Cruz Mountains in his tractor and backhoe, and has built a small, fully functioning steam railroad in their yard; Jean golfs and maintains her collection of Stanford memorabilia. One rare artifact: a box of mosaic tiles jolted from the wall of Memorial Church during the 1906 earthquake and gathered from the ground by Jean’s mother and uncle. Jean’s family was “so much a part of Stanford at the beginning,” she says, and she and John keep that connection strong — they make it to every home football game and already have their tickets for the home opener. “We’re in great shape, have each other and love each other,” Jean says. “It’s been a wonderful, wonderful life.” •