Jacqueline May Peel, a ninth-generation Californian renowned for her work on behalf of disabled children, died in hospice in Alamo on Nov. 20. She was 86. The cause was respiratory failure, confirmed by her daughter, Darcie.
Beginning in the 1970s, Jackie served in various leadership roles in the California Easter Seals Society, first as a volunteer and board member, then as president of the California State Easter Seals Society and then, executive director of the societies in Riverside, San Bernardino, Contra Costa, Napa and Solano counties. Because she was devoted specifically to helping younger people grow and develop, she founded and ran, for many years, Camp Lisa, a summer camp for disabled children outside Johnsville in the Sierra Nevada.
Born in San Francisco in 1932, Jackie was academically talented, artistically gifted in drawing and popular with her peers, maintaining those friendships throughout her life. As a teen, with film star looks, she modeled dresses for local department stores. While in junior college, she met and married Tom Gray, a property appraiser, from Vallejo. They had two young children, Tom, Jr. and Darcie.
After Tom died in a car accident in 1963, Jackie raised her son and daughter with the assistance of her parents, while working as a school secretary in Martinez. In 1966, Jackie married Robert Peel, a sales manager, and the family settled in Alamo, where they kept horses and the many stray animals Jackie would bring home.
In the mid-1990s, Jackie moved to Crescent City, where she opened and operated two kitchenware and gift stores, the Kitchen Cupboard and VJ & Co. Continuing to serve the disabled community, Jackie also volunteered with the Community Assistance League and was appointed executive director of the Del Norte Association for Developmental Services.
As a lasting gift for her family, Jackie’s decades-long passion for genealogical research unearthed several discoveries. In addition to details of her father’s family from the English Midlands, Jackie found that her mother’s side was directly descended from Jose Francisco Ortega, a Spanish soldier who came to Alta California with Portola in 1769, and who assisted Father Serra in founding the missions of San Juan Capistrano and San Buenaventura, founded the Presidio of Santa Barbara, and was granted vast stretches of ranch lands west of the current city.
In addition to her daughter, Darcie, Jackie is survived by her son, Tom; her stepdaughter, Anne; her stepson, Bob; her three grandchildren, Tom, III, Ashley and Jennifer; and her two great-grandchildren, Lilly and Madeline.
The family will hold a private gathering in Santa Barbara in December.
— Submitted by family