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Jean Cobb: Loving wife and mother, librarian

Jean L. Cobb died on January 13, 2016 after a long battle with Alzheimer’s disease. She was 90.

She was born on April 20, 1925 in Newnan, Georgia to Mildred and Clifford Loftin, who worked, respectively, as a teacher and a structural steel salesman and inventor. Young Jean spent her earliest years in a house with three generations of women, which provided a lifelong lesson in female strength.

“When the feminist movement came along, she wanted nothing to do with it because she felt, ‘Why would you want to get down on a level with men?” her husband John B. Cobb joked.

She attended elementary and high schools in Newnan and graduated from LaGrange College in LaGrange, Georgia in 1946 with highest honors and a bachelor’s degree. While there, she served as president of the student body, among other leadership positions. Her classmates wrote fondly of her in the college’s yearbook, the Quadrangle.

“We know that important things may be in small packages; so may important people be small in stature. There is certainly an example on the Hill,” the entry reads. “Jean, president of the student government this year, is very important to all of us. Quiet, modest and very efficient, Jean showed us long ago that she can always be relied upon to come through.”

In 1947 she was married to John B. Cobb, Jr., whom she first met when they were 6 years old. The couple moved to Chicago where Mr. Cobb was attending the University of Chicago and where their first son Theodore was born. Mrs. Cobb provided significant support during her husband’s time at the university, even typing his doctoral dissertation. Upon completion of his PhD, they moved to Young Harris, Georgia where their second son Clifford was born. Three years later, they moved to Atlanta where Mr. Cobb taught at Emory University for five years. Their twin sons, Andrew and Richard, were born during this period.

Mr. Cobb joined the faculty of the Claremont School of Theology (CST) in 1958, and the family moved to California. In an online tribute, Elaine Walker, CST’s circulation librarian and resident historian, said Mrs. Cobb will be remembered for her intelligence, wit, warmth and hospitality.

“Her gracious invitations assured that many students, especially international students, had a place to enjoy holiday gatherings,” Ms. Walker recalled.

In 1965, Jean and the children joined John as he undertook a Fulbright Fellowship at Johannes Gutenberg University in Mainz. During the year the family lived in Germany, they took the opportunity to tour through Europe. Upon their return, Mrs. Cobb started working as a secretary at the Claremont United Methodist Church, later becoming office manager. By the time the twin sons graduated from high school, she decided to return to school. She completed a master’s degree at the University of Hawaii in 1973 and was elected to the library honor society, Beta Phi Mu.

Upon the Cobbs’ return to Claremont she began working in the library of the Claremont School of Theology, first as a cataloguer and later as a reference librarian.

“She always reminded students that there are no dumb questions,” Ms. Walker shared. “Jean worked here before the Internet became a major factor in scholarly research, and she had a vast knowledge of the print resources that supported course work at CST. Her knowledge of all things Methodist was especially valuable.”

In her spare time, Mrs. Cobb was an avid reader. She had a knack for art, which she exhibited when she took classes in Japanese and Chinese brush painting, and she played music in a recorder ensemble. Jean also enjoyed traveling and journeyed with Mr. Cobb when work took him to Japan, China and Spain, among other locales. 

Mrs. Cobb continued as reference librarian until her retirement in May 1990. She and Mr. Cobb subsequently moved to Pilgrim Place, where she enjoyed the strong sense of community and faith.

A celebration of life will be held on Sunday, February 7 at 3 p.m. in Decker Hall at Pilgrim Place.

In lieu of flowers, the family suggests donations be made in memory of Jean L. Cobb to the Employee Christmas Fund at Pilgrim Place, 625 Mayflower Road, Claremont CA 91711, or to Claremont School of Theology’s Center for Process Studies, 1325 N. College Ave., Claremont CA 91711.