Janet Clarelen Jensen Nooteboom, a longtime former Tiburon resident who was a personal assistant to actress Elizabeth Taylor in the late 1940s, died April 14 of congestive heart failure. She was 94.
Born in Aug. 10, 1925, in Chicago to prominent sculptors Holger and Helen Webster Jensen, Mrs. Nooteboom and her family moved to Florida briefly in the late 1920s before relocating to California in 1928, settling into Santa Monica Canyon.
The Jensens lived in a community with many well-known artists. Their own collection of works included bronze busts of many high-profile figures, including former President Dwight D. Eisenhower, former L.A. Times publisher Harry Chandler, physicist Robert Millikan, astronomer George Hale and Bank of America founder A.P. Giannini. Among their most beloved works was a pair of bronze gorillas that have been on display at the San Diego Zoo since the 1940s.
Mrs. Nooteboom graduated from University High School in Santa Monica and attended junior college.
During the final years of World War II, she was hired as a copy girl for the Los Angeles Times, a job that brought many invitations to special events and parties attended by actors.
One of the most lively, she once said, was an after-hours party for Hollywood types and press people at the Clyde Beatty Circus.
“We drank in the lion cage and partied with the clowns,” she said.
She said she got to know actress Natalie Wood at a beach party and met Elvis Presley in an elevator. She also recounted shrugging off a compliment about her legs by a “dirty old man” in a shoe store and had to be told, after the man left, that it was Groucho Marx.
When World War II ended, however, so did her position at the paper, as men were discharged from the military and returned to reclaim their jobs.
She soon was hired as an assistant at the gallery of noted art dealer Francis Lenn Taylor, the father of actress Elizabeth Taylor. As part of her job, Mrs. Nooteboom was asked to pick out a car for Elizabeth Taylor’s 16th birthday. She chose a baby-blue Cadillac, which was a hit.
Despite their seven-year age difference, Mrs. Nooteboom and Elizabeth Taylor got along well, and Taylor soon hired her as her secretary and personal companion.
Mrs. Nooteboom found herself double-dating with Taylor and Taylor’s new boyfriend, hotelier Conrad “Nicky” Hilton.
By this time, Mrs. Nooteboom had met her future husband, John, an engineer, when she crewed for him on his sailboat, the Snipe. They married in 1951, and Mrs. Nooteboom settled down to raise three children in Pacific Palisades.
After their children grew up, Mrs. Nooteboom and her husband moved to San Jose and then to Tiburon in about 1983.
Because she didn’t drive, Mrs. Nooteboom used mass transit. From Tiburon, she would take the ferry or bus into San Francisco to go to the opera and museums and to meet friends. Mrs. Nooteboom was well-read and curious about the world. She often engaged her fellow mass-transit riders in conversation, drawing them out with ease, returning home with stories about those she had met.
She was passionate about opera and the arts. For many years, she regularly attended San Francisco Opera performances with friends.
Mrs. Nooteboom and her husband joined the Corinthian Yacht Club in 1982 and were active members during the 30 years they lived in Tiburon. In 2012, several years after John Nooteboom developed Alzheimer’s disease, the couple moved to an assisted-living center in Woodland, closer to their two sons.
John Nooteboom died in 2013, and the couple’s daughter, Jan, died in 1992.
Mrs. Nooteboom is survived by her sons, Gary Nooteboom of Winters and Ken Nooteboom of Sacramento; three nieces, Lindsay Jensen of Columbia, Ore., Kari Jensen of Eugene, Ore., and Robyn Garcia of Beaumont; a nephew, Joel Jensen Jr. of Portland, Ore.; two grandnephews, Arthur Jensen-Blaine of Portland and Neal Jensen of Portland; two grandnieces, Erica Christianson of Portland and Phoebe Hall of Eugene; and two great-grandnephews, Rex and Leo. She was also close to her late husband’s nephew, Tom Key of Montague.
Her three younger brothers, Bryan, Joel and Mark Jensen, also predeceased her.
A memorial service will be held later. Donations in her memory may be sent to Marin Humane, 171 Bel Marin Keys Blvd., Novato CA 94949.
Deirdre McCrohan has reported on Tiburon local government and community issues for more than 30 years. Reach her at 415-944-4634.