Jacques Mequet Littlefield, who assembled one of the largest private collections of military vehicles in the world and championed open space on the Midpeninsula, died Jan. 7 in Portola Valley. Littlefield was 59 and had battled cancer for the past decade.
Littlefield's fascination with armored vehicles began in his childhood when he started building plastic models of tanks. While in college, he built his first scale model, radio-controlled tank. He acquired his first full-sized vehicle in 1975.
In 1998 he set up the Military Vehicle Technology Foundation to manage his collection of more than 150 vehicles and restore new additions. The collection ranges from a World War II-era U.S. Army M3A1 wheeled scout car, his first acquisition, to a Soviet-era Scud missile launcher. It includes famous tanks such as the U.S. Sherman and Patton class; the U.K. Centurion, Conqueror and Chieftain; German World War II vehicles, including a Panther; and Soviet-era Russian tanks.
Littlefield was a member of the Palo Alto-based Museum of American Heritage (MOAH) Advisory Board since 1991. He hosted two major fundraisers at his military museums, one with the theme of "Tanks for the Memories."
"The history of armored vehicles is more complete due to his research and preservation of one of the country's largest private collections of tanks and other military vehicles," according to Gwenyth Claughton of MOAH.
He was considered a scholar and expert on the history of armored warfare, and the foundation helps serve the interests of authors, historians, educators, the defense industry, veterans groups, model makers and the entertainment industry, say family members.
Littlefield's collection is housed at Pony Tracks Ranch in the hills above Portola Valley. Pony Tracks was the country estate of former San Francisco mayor and California governor James "Sunny Jim" Rolph Jr. Over the years, Littlefield restored many of the old buildings on the ranch, helping maintain open space in the hills above Portola Valley.
The son of the late Edmund Wattis Littlefield and Jeannik Mequet Littlefield, he was born in San Francisco in 1949. His father was CEO of Utah International. His mother is a strong supporter of the arts and a member of the Chairman's Council of the San Francisco Opera.
Growing up in Burlingame, Littlefield attended Cate School in Carpinteria before studying at Stanford University, where he received his bachelor's degree in 1971 and an MBA two years later. He worked for Hewlett Packard as a manufacturing engineer before focusing solely on building his museum and restoration facility.
A man of many interests, Littlefield was an organist who studied under Stanford University organist Professor Herbert Nanney. A large (45-stop) Fisk organ is housed in a custom-built hall attached to the Littlefield home.
He was also a steam railroad fan, and had rail lines for a large-scale model railroad installed at his 470-acre ranch.
Littlefield served on the boards of the George S. Patton Museum in Fort Knox, Kentucky, Cate School, Coyote Point Museum for Environmental Education, the Hoover Institution, California Academy of Sciences, and Filoli Center. He was a member of the Bohemian Club and captain of the Sempervirens Camp.
Surviving Littlefield are his wife, Sandy Montenegro Littlefield; his five children, David, Scott, Allison, Jacques Jr. and Jeannik; his mother, Jeannik Mequet Littlefield; brother Edmund Littlefield Jr. and sister Denise Littlefield Sobel; and one grandson.
A public memorial service will be scheduled for the near future. Memorials may be made to one of the organizations Littlefield supported: The Patton Museum, Cate School, Coyote Point Museum for Environmental Education, California Academy of Sciences, the Hoover Institution, or the Filoli Center.