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San Marino woman commits suicide, September 29, 1958

September 29, 2008 |  5:02 am
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Above, pro baseball players shatter youngsters' illusions by refusing to sign autographs. I guess Pat Brown can rule out an endorsement from The Times. Such was the state of political cartoons at The Times before the arrival of Paul Conrad.

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Billee Jean Swarthout, Chi Omega, 1940, from El Rodeo
Her story is sad enough; digging up the old photos only adds to the mystery. What went wrong? We'll probably never know.

Her name was Dorothy, but as a teenager she went by her middle name, Jeanne. Her father was head of the music school at USC and she had a cousin who was an opera star.

In 1938, when she was 16, Jeanne graduated from San Marino Hall School for Girls as the student body president and editor of the school yearbook. In 1939, as a freshman at USC, she was a Chi Omega and was calling herself Billee Jean. 

In November 1940, at the age of 19, she became engaged to Mark Foulkes Jones Jr., a 27-year-old attorney who graduated from USC's law school. Then in February 1941, they eloped to Las Vegas. During World War II, she worked as a box office cashier. The Times reported in 1943 that she and two co-workers were robbed while a play was in progress, but didn't list the name of the theater, which was located at 4019 Clinton St.

Then came three children, a girl and twin boys. In 1952, Jeanne was active in the Spastic Children's League of Pasadena. The growing family moved to 425 Plymouth Road, San Marino.

And that's where Jeanne killed herself. Mark and the twin boys were on a fishing trip somewhere off Santa Catalina Island in their boat, the Mar-Ma-Le. She had planned to accompany them, so her mother-in-law came over to watch their daughter, who was staying behind. But at the last moment, Jeanne decided to remain in San Marino with her daughter and mother-in-law.

Then one morning, Jeanne went to an upstairs bedroom, put the barrel of a .22 rifle in her mouth and pulled the trigger. Dorothy Jeanne "Billee Jean" Jones, the daughter of Max Van Lewen Swarthout and a cousin of Gladys Swarthout, was 37. We can make all kinds of guesses as to why a woman in her 30s with three growing children would kill herself, but I doubt we'll ever know. If she left a note, The Times never reported it. Her husband died in 1984 at the age of 71.

 

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