|Jackie inspired many through her philanthropic work
and continues to advance her values beyond her lifetime
Jackie Thielen, a Palo Alto resident since 1959 when she moved to California with her husband Lawrence and their children, was involved in many charities. However, her longest relationship was with Abilities United
(then C.A.R). When the family first arrived in Palo Alto, a neighbor invited her to volunteer at the C.A.R thrift shop “Market of the Flea”. Thus began a 50-year commitment to Abilities United
“My mother was genuine, generous and cared about others. She had a deep sense of fair-mindedness, respected others and was never judgmental, ” recalls her daughter, Laura. “Mom was an authentic person, not interested in social advancement. She was modest, quiet and assured of herself but never wanted to be the center of attention.”
Despite being very busy raising six children and hosting home dinner parties for her husband’s business, Avantek, Jackie continued her volunteer work. Thinking back to her childhood, Laura remembers that her mother required the children to engage in volunteer work. “As a teenager, I was not pleased, but soon realized the value of giving. Now I am grateful for mom’s insistence. She believed, and instilled my belief, in social responsibility,” Laura recalls with pride.
After several successful decades running Avantek, Lawrence sold the business and retired to spend more time with the family. A year after his retirement, he, Jackie and the two youngest children vacationed in Kauai, Hawaii. Tragically, Lawrence, an accomplished swimmer, drowned while snorkeling during a sudden change in weather.
After Lawrence’s death, Jackie accelerated her interest in philanthropy. She particularly valued supporting those who have difficulty helping themselves – especially children. “Mom was passionate about her philanthropy. She gave to many charities and was primarily interested in helping the less fortunate,” states her son, Ed. She wanted to give financial support to charities quietly and, during, not after, her lifetime. She was most interested in supporting organizations that live in the “shadows”, not the charities that are highly and publically visible. More importantly, she wanted to know that her support made a difference in someone’s life. In time, Jackie developed a deep interest in Abilities United
, which ultimately became her primary charity of interest. For decades she was active in the Authors Luncheon fundraising event as well as an annual donor.
When Abilities United honored Jackie at the 20th annual Authors Luncheon in 2011, “she was deeply pleased,” recalls Ed. At that time, Jackie was quite ill and could not leave her home. Laura and Ed attended the event to represent her. They remember vividly how happy Jackie and each of them felt when she received this honor from her friends at Abilities United
Jackie lived a full life that embraced family, friends, travel, and an enduring passion for the arts until October 5, 2012. “My mother possessed many wonderful qualities. However, most importantly, mom passed along acceptance of people who are different in any way; she took everyone at face value,” states Ed with warmth and admiration.
Jackie’s gentle, generous, loving nature embraced and influenced family, friends and others in profound, enduring ways. She inspired many through her philanthropic work and continues to advance her values beyond her lifetime through the legacy gift she has left Abilities United
. Abilities United is grateful for Jackie Thielen and her support throughout the organization’s history and into the future.
Based on a 2012 interview with Jackie’s children, Ed and Laura. Written, edited by Carol Lillibridge and Wendy Kuehnl