She’s an artist, photographer, world traveler, author…and she’s almost 100 years old. Jane Sullivan Hemenez isn’t your typical 97-year-old. She’s fun, witty and an afternoon with her is like spending a day with your good friend. She spent most of her life as a teacher with the LA Unified School District and traveling in her spare time. She moved to Malibu in 1948 with her mother and recalls a population of just 200 at the time. She has now written her first book, “Malibu: A Good Way of Life,” chronicling her life and love for Malibu. 

The Malibu Times got a chance to sit down with the woman who purchased her first home in Malibu for $30,000 on Malibu Road. 

What is your inspiration behind writing and releasing Malibu: A Good Way of Life? 

I was looking for something to do. I did it for my family. My great grandparents came from Ireland. My inspiration was sharing my story and writing about Malibu at its start. It took about a year to write it. But I have a lot of time. It’s mainly about Malibu with a short vision of my family — the Sullivan family. 

What is your first recollection of Malibu? 

We always went to the beach. We would go to Santa Monica and Venice more often because Malibu was always too far out there. It wasn’t easily accessible, but was one of the most beautiful beaches. My father always took us to the beach somewhere in Southern California. 

How have you seen Malibu change over the years? What is the biggest change? 

The change in population. When we first moved here, people were just getting started and had to have jobs and get homes. They made their own jobs. They were building homes and offices. The people here now have the money to buy these houses and they have two or three other homes. And they don’t take part in activities as much. A lot of foundations have parties here now and charge a lot for it. The houses are bigger and bigger. People invest in them. 

You are also an excellent artist. Tell me a little about your portfolio that includes paintings and photographs of Malibu’s many beautiful natural scenes. 

I took lessons one summer and that’s how I got into it. I wish I had done more. I enjoyed painting nature — the beaches, daisies, flowers and animals. If I have time, I want to do more. I’ve also done photography of the ocean and nature and taken them to the Adamson House. 

What is your secret to living a long, happy life? 

My family. I had a nice mother, father and two brothers, and we were a close family. We did things together. We went out on the weekends and saw all of California. My book is dedicated to my family. 

Do you have any regrets in life?

I didn’t have any children. I should have taken time for that. 

How was it having your portrait painted by Johanna Spinks? 

It was the first time someone painted me. She was really good. I was happy to have her paint me. I really like the photograph of it. 

Johanna Spinks paints portraits by commission. Visit or call 310.384.7029

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