1928 - 2023
Jean Pinard’s memoir, Memories of a Small Town Girl, transports readers to the early 1900s and life in the farming community of Morgan Hill. The book’s opening chapters highlight Pinard’s ancestry and circumstances that inspired them to settle in “the Prune Capital of the World.” Her life was shaped by childhood years in a place where people knew each other, and everyone knew her family because her father was the chief of police; her mother, Myrle Pinard Skeels, ran a popular hamburger stand; and relatives operated the Skeels Hotel. She was the oldest of three girls, including sisters Rae and Bobbie.
Pinard’s memoir recalls the World War II years when Japanese American neighbors were sent to internment camps, and townspeople observed blackouts and rationing. She and her sisters spent summers picking prunes in local orchards and saved their money for school clothes and phonograph records. She graduated from Live Oak High School in 1945, when the school was just across from her family’s home on Monterey Road.
Pinard graduated from San Jose State College (now San Jose State University) at a time when women were expected to focus on marriage, homemaking and childrearing. She devoted more than 30 years to education, as a teacher, curriculum coordinator, and school principal, serving at a number of Morgan Hill Unified School District schools before retiring.
Her passion for education and interest in community service led her to become an active member of the Morgan Hill branch of the American Association of University Women, where she developed many friendships. Pinard was also a long-time member of the Morgan Hill Historical Society and enjoyed attending the annual Founder’s Dinner. She played the organ at St. John’s Episcopal church for 40 years.
Pinard helped make a history quilt that now hangs in the Morgan Hill History Museum. She contributed a quilt square that depicted her father, then Police Chief Lloyd Skeels, apprehending two men convicted of crimes. They were headed for San Quentin prison when they jumped from the train as it came through Morgan Hill. They tried to escape, but Chief Skeels apprehended them when they got tangled in some sheets hanging from a clothesline.
Jean Skeels Pinard passed away peacefully in September. She was a loving wife and mother, a gifted teacher, and a creative spirit. She enjoyed piano, painting in watercolors, writing, gardening, and traveling with friends. Her gentle humor, wit and kindness are hallmarks of her life and times. She is remembered and beloved by the people of Morgan Hill.
A celebration of life will be held to honor the memory of Jean Skeels Pinard on Sunday, November 12th, 4-7 pm, at the Morgan Hill Community & Cultural Center, 17000 Monterey Road, Morgan Hill.
See more of Pinard’s story captured on film in Stories from the Past (2016).
Her writing and ghost-writing included support from Lori Mains, a fellow AAUW member and long-time friend:
Memories of a Small Town Girl (2018)
Awakenings: Learning to See Through Painting (2018)
Los Arrimados (writings of late husband Frank W. Leyva and his son, Michael D. Leyva, 2020)
A Lifetime of Alaskan Adventures (with Bonnie Hahn, 2021)