Jackie Sutton has led an incredible life of community activism. She is a proud member of Our Lady of Malibu Church and has helped keep the “Keep Christ in Christmas” nonprofit organization running for 50 years. Every year, she organizes the Christian nativity scene on the corner of Pacific Coast Highway and Webb Way. She also created the docent program at the Getty Villa and helped create the education department at the Getty Museum. Married for 57 years, Sutton has six children, and has lived in Malibu since 1954.
The Malibu Times got a chance to sit down with Sutton, who, along with her husband Bob, was a proud recipient of the 2012 Malibu Times Citizens of the Year Dolphin Award.
You are one of the original members of “Keep Christ in Christmas,” which has been around for 50 years. How did you get involved and what is the organization?
Mary Keupper started it in 1963 and I started helping her at the time. In the past 10-15 years I have taken over. It’s a lot of work and we love doing it, but we are concerned about all the laws and regulations that have stopped Santa Monica from doing a nativity scene—all the efforts of separating church and state. We have been doing it for 50 years and hopefully we can continue for a long time. Pepperdine University led the caroling the first Sunday, then Calvary Chapel Malibu, Our Lady of Malibu is on December 15, and Malibu United Methodist & St. Aidan’s is on December 22. We want to be able to celebrate the true meaning of Christmas. We do not get 10 cents from any organization in Malibu. All the donations come from the community, from individuals. That’s how we keep it going. We keep the statues stored in Serra Retreat, which had a fire but the statues were the only things unharmed. Before that it was at Roberts Ranch, which was also hit with a fire, but the statues were unharmed.
How are you involved with Our Lady of Malibu Church?
My husband and I have been part of the church since 1954. Our six children went to Our Lady of Malibu School. My husband helped build a portion of the school and is still very active. Religion has been a strong part of my life and my family’s life. There are some very good people in our church.
You have brought change to the Getty Museum as well. Can you tell me a little about that?
I worked at the Getty for 26 years. I started the docent program and then helped create the education department. My daughter Carrie Sutton Cook came to work at the bookstore and ended up organizing the teachers program. I was with the Getty Villa for 20 years and then the Museum for six years before I stopped to travel with my son.
You have been living in Malibu for a long time. What are your impressions as it has changed over the years?
It’s not the beautiful little town that I came to. It has kind of gotten out of control. The traffic is horrendous. My husband was involved in the process of adding the middle lane to the highway. The traffic, the motorcycles, you can’t even sleep at night anymore. But someone once told me if I get upset to just go out on my deck and look at the ocean. We are happy in our little nest. It’s a beautiful place. The people that I know are great. Whenever I need someone, they are right there. If there were one thing that I could change, it would be the traffic.
How was it having your portrait painted by Johanna Spinks?
It was just lovely. You didn’t even know she’s doing it. I thought you had to sit there and do nothing. But it was really relaxing and she is charming. My children are all excited about it. She’s a lovely woman and has gorgeous portraits.
Johanna Spinks paints portrait by commission. Visit johannaspinks. com or call 310.384.7029 for more information.