Jackie Crowley in front of a wall lined with local service awards. Photo by Tony LaBruno

Jackie Crowley has been giving of herself for more decades than she will reveal, visiting kids recovering from surgery in an orthopedic hospital, lugging supply-filled backpacks to disadvantaged schools, and sitting on the boards of Palos Verdes Performing Arts and the Peninsula Symphony Association.

If you ask her why, she might have to think for a moment. Service has become second nature, to the extent that she sometimes must remind herself to turn her attention to her other career, real estate. Still, her answer is clear and simple: her work is animated by faith and gratitude.

In recognition of her volunteer spirit, Crowley has been named Citizen of the Year by the Palos Verdes Peninsula Chamber of Commerce, which will officially bestow the honor at an annual dinner Nov. 1.


In an interview, Crowley spoke of her church, Rolling Hills Covenant, and its mission to “lead people to Christ.” She believes that in addition to that Christian mission, people are given individualized missions to be useful to each other.

“It probably sounds corny, but the good Lord has been very good to me. Life has been very good to me,” she said.

Of course, she volunteers at the church too, taking care of “leapers,” kids 18 to 24 months old, in the nursery, once a month during the 9:30 service.

“We have peepers, creepers and leapers. I have the leapers,” she said.

The morning of the interview, she had been on hand for the “Shop ‘Til You Drop” fundraiser, with food and retail vendors, to support Palos Verdes Performing Arts, which brings highly regarded stage, musical and ballet performances to the Norris Theatre, and oversees a student Conservatory and a multi-use pavilion.

The next day would see her in San Diego where, in her role as a state director for the California Association of Realtors, she would help ride herd on one of the association’s three yearly conferences.

Much of her current volunteer work involves structure and organization. On the Performing Arts board, for instance, she helps make decisions about which theater productions should be brought in, with a bottom-line focus that they must be affordable. The board also oversees a variety of uses of the Harlyne J. Norris Pavilion, and keeps track of Performing Arts support groups such as Bravo!, Chorusliners, and Act II, which put on “Shop ‘Til You Drop.”

Crowley also solicits advertising for a program book that sits on the laps of Norris Theatre patrons.


Crowley was born during the Great Depression, in a hospital along Lake Erie. She used to call her birthplace Cleveland, until she found out that, technically, she was born in the eastern suburb of Euclid.

“I was sort of surprised,” she said. “I had always said Cleveland, Ohio.”

In the rough and tumble of a desperate economy, her father worked for Ford Motor Co. until that job went away. He operated his own auto dealership for a time. Then he caught on with the government, in a job that called for frequent relocations. The family lived in West Virginia, North Carolina, Louisiana, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania and Ohio, with mom timing the moves to take place between the school years.

“My mother was smart enough to have us move in the summertime,” Crowley said.

Crowley’s father had fond recollections of California, where he was located while he was in the service, so the family came out west. Crowley attended Inglewood High School, where she served as editor-in-chief of the yearbook.

“In those days you were raised to grow up, get an education, get married and raise a family,” she said. “That was expected of a young lady, so that’s the way it went.”

Crowley has two children, Steven Lee Pinkney and Susan Leann McCrae.

“I’d have to say life has been very, very good to me,” Crowley said.

By the time she and her family moved to the Peninsula, she was selling homes. In 1972 she opened Rancho Verdes Realty, at Palos Verdes Drive North and Crenshaw Boulevard. She signed on with RE/MAX in 1982 and has been with the agency ever since, as a real estate broker and vice president for estate properties.


Her extensive volunteer service began in the early 1970s, when she went into the orthopedic hospital in Los Angeles, performing duties including working in the gift shop and visiting children in the recovery room following surgery.

“We could go into the recovery room and then see the parents. It gives them a wonderful feeling, that communication, to know that somebody saw their loved one. It was wonderful.”

Crowley did that recovery room work for about 20 years, “as long as they had that job.”

Also among Crowley’s volunteering favorites is the Affinity Group, which she has chaired for five years, for the Volunteer Center South Bay. The centerpiece of the effort is Operation Teddy Bear, which prepares and delivers backpacks stuffed with supplies like books, crayons and toothbrushes – topped off with a teddy bear – to school kids in underprivileged areas.

“We’re known as the teddy bear support group,” she said.

Several hundreds of the backpacks have been delivered to date.


Crowley sees her real estate career as another form of service, with the benefit of a paycheck.

“I love selling real estate. You help people make one of the biggest decisions they make in life…It’s a very important step,” she said.

“Some people I’ve sold houses to, they’re still in the same house 50 years later,” Crowley said.

“I’ve been in real estate for over 50 years – I wouldn’t want to say how many more,” she added with a laugh.

Crowley lives in Rancho Palos Verdes, and fills her limited spare time with physical activity including bowling, golf, swimming and ballroom dance classes.

“I love to dance,” she said. “When you’re dancing, you don’t know that you’re exercising, but you’re exercising.”

To be happy, she must be of service.

“I belong to Rotary Club of Palos Verdes Sunset, and the Rotary motto is also my life motto: ‘Service Above Self,’” Crowley said. “Happiness for me is anything I can do that makes someone else happy.”

“I don’t want people to think I’m a Pollyanna, but I definitely see the glass as half full. I can’t see it half empty.”

Jackie Crowley will be honored as the Palos Verdes Peninsula Chamber of Commerce 2017 Citizen of the Year at the chamber’s annual gala 5:30 p.m., Wednesday, Nov. 1 at Terranea Resort. In addition, Walk With Sally will be named Nonprofit Organization of the Year, and Vistas For Children will be named Community Service Organization of the Year. Tickets are $150. For information seepalosverdeschamber.com or call 310-377-8111.


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