Almost a Christmas baby, Linda (Cotton) Jennings was born on December 23rd, 1938 in Fort Smith Arkansas. She grew up in Fort Smith and attended school there, graduating from Northside High School in 1956. Everyone she knew was going to the University of Arkansas after high school, but Linda wanted to venture beyond her home state. She attended Lindenwood College outside of St. Louis, Missouri for her first two years of college, later transferring to the University of Kentucky as an American History major.
After graduating, she moved to Houston, Texas, first working in retail. It was shortly after moving there, that she met her future husband, Stephen Jennings. They married in 1965, making their home in Houston. After a decade in retail sales, Linda later got a surprising job offer to help in the local juvenile corrections department. Without previous training, she learned many new skills and found the work challenging and rewarding!
Her husband, Steve, had loved the idea of moving to California as he was a Stanford University graduate. When a job offer in the Golden State came along, they moved to Southern California with their two children, Lida and Stuart. She had always been involved in her children’s school, but now got further involved in the school and community.
She became President of the Santa Ana/Tustin branch of A.A.U.W, got involved with the Tustin Area Council for Fine Arts (TACFA) and later became its president, and along with her good friend, Nancy Cast, started a tremendous non-profit that has added crucial funding to our Tustin schools – the Tustin Public Schools Foundation. They founded this organization in 1989, first meeting in their homes. After learning about other school foundations, they brought in then Superintendent Dave Andrews, found a local space to rent for an office, and began the fundraising event known as the Dinosaur Dash in 1991. This non-profit continues to grow and thrive over 30 years later, thanks to their initiative, insight, and networking.
As she worked in the TPSF office located in Old Town Tustin, she admired the charming, historic homes each day as she drove to and from work. One day, she saw a “For Sale” sign in front of the Hewes House on B. Street. She called and made an appointment to see the home that day with her husband, and as she says, “We decided and bought it that very day! We were kind of crazy, but we were excited, too!” Steve and Linda lived in the historic Hewes House from 1995-2019, hosting home tours, holiday parties, and most incredible Halloween evenings in the neighborhood. She recounts how trick-or-treaters would visit their home starting at 5 pm until 10 pm. The Jennings invited guests over to celebrate the evening and everyone helped pass out candy! Steve and Linda were known for hosting neighborhood events and garden parties in their beautiful back yard.
Linda’s other contributions to Tustin include her volunteering with the Tustin Historical Society as president and chair of the Home and Garden Tour, the Tustin Planning Commission, the Historic Resources Committee, and the Old Town Tustin Architectural Trolley Tour. She also founded the Tustin Preservation Conservancy in 2004 as a response to the demolition of the historic Utt Juice Factory building. While serving in the Conservancy, Linda was chosen to narrate a video tour of Old Town Tustin with Huell Howser, for the television series, California Gold. The Conservancy helped to recognize conservancy efforts, giving recognition to properties that were remodeled or reused in historically accurate ways. She was recognized with the Athena Award by the Panhellenic as their Orange County Woman of the Year and became Tustin’s Woman of the Year in 2004.
Steve and Linda sold their historic old town Tustin home in 2019 and now live in Fullerton, California. They enjoy visits with their daughter, Lida, and their Ohio family of son, Stuart, daughter in law, Mindy, and grandchildren, Lane and Elise.