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Philanthropy and parties: Founding Las Patronas member turns 100

Josephine “Jo Bobbie” MacConnell Showley celebrated her 100th birthday April 11.
(Courtesy of Kellogg Hooker)

Josephine “Jo Bobbie” MacConnell Showley, a consummate hostess and the last surviving founding member of the women’s philanthropy Las Patronas, turned 100 on April 11, celebrating with immediate family members at her home in La Jolla.

MacConnell Showley was born in Chicago and moved to La Jolla as a child. After graduating from The Bishop’s School (class of 1938), she studied theater across the country before returning to San Diego.

She also traveled the world, which provided diverse inspirations for parties. Her family, including son Kellogg Hooker, said she is known for her hospitality, savory meals and elaborate decorations, especially during the holidays.

MacConnell Showley combined her love of parties and philanthropy as a founding member of Las Patronas. The La Jolla-based group was formed in 1946 by 14 women who wanted to hold an event to raise money for the United States Service to China organization in the aftermath of World War II. They held the first Jewel Ball as a fundraiser. It would become a signature event, raising more than $17 million for more than a thousand charitable institutions in San Diego since its inception.

Las Patronas founding member Josephine MacConnell is pictured in an advertisement in a Jewel Ball booklet.
Las Patronas founding member Josephine MacConnell is pictured in an advertisement in a Jewel Ball booklet.
(Courtesy of Las Patronas)

Current Las Patronas President Martha Sottosanti said of the new centenarian: “It is a tremendous honor to carry on the tradition of service Jo Bobbie and the other founding members of Las Patronas conceived 75 years ago. Current Las Patronas members look back on our founders with admiration and gratitude for their vision and creation of a lasting philanthropy organization that would contribute to our community for generations. We are especially grateful to Jo Bobbie for her ongoing generous support of and participation in the Jewel Ball every year. As we celebrate her 100th birthday this year, she inspires us with her never-ending graciousness, fun-loving spirit and lifelong commitment to assisting San Diego nonprofits.”

MacConnell Showley served in various roles during the early Jewel Balls, from decorations to refreshments and more.

“[My mom] loves a party and is a gracious hostess,” her son said. “She is determined her guests enjoy a festive time, delicious meal and elegant decor. She brought that hospitality to fundraising events for various charities.”

Her fundraising and hosting abilities were written about in the La Jolla Light over several decades.

Her decor choices for a fundraiser in 1952 “will be remembered, [and] parties will be held up to it for some time to come,” according to a Light article.

Another, from 1985, stated: “Beautiful was the word on everyone’s lips Friday night at the San Diego Museum of Art’s Viennese Reflections, a ball to open the exhibition of Dutch and Flemish masters from the Vienna Academy of Art. … La Jollan Jo Bobbie MacConnell chaired a party with perfection of detail.”

Her philanthropy was augmented as a member of a group known as The Committee, which presented fundraising events for the Scripps Clinic and Research Foundation (now known as Scripps Research).

Her hosting accolades continued in the home she shared with husband Walton MacConnell, built by famed architect William Kesling in La Jolla Shores. The home was featured in a Life magazine photo spread, including several pictures of MacConnell Showley hosting parties.

With an eye toward what philanthropy could do for the future, her favorite expression is “Never look back, always look ahead,” Hooker said. ◆