Helen Jackson’s voice has been missed in Everett

It wasn’t all about Scoop.

When a crowd gathered in Everett on what would have been Sen. Henry M. “Scoop” Jackson’s 100th birthday, speakers also reminisced about the woman who had stood by his side.

Helen Jackson, the late senator’s widow, could not attend the celebration Thursday in Comcast Arena’s Edward D. Hansen Conference Center.

For the first time publicly, her family explained why.

Anna Marie Laurence, Henry and Helen Jackson’s daughter, said at the gathering that her mother couldn’t be there because for more than a decade she has battled Alzheimer’s disease.

“I wanted people to know there was a reason she wasn’t there. Some people might not know,” Laurence said Friday.

In recent years, she has told people about her mother’s illness when they asked how Mrs. Jackson was doing. “We haven’t had that opportunity at a big public event. This was the first one,” said Laurence, 49, who lives in Seattle.

“I’m not shy about it. We really need to figure out some kind of cure,” she said.

Scoop Jackson’s death in 1983 cut short his unmatched career as a senator and statesman. His loss was felt deeply around the world and in Snohomish County.

Although Helen Jackson, now 78, still lives in Everett, this community also has suffered a loss in her absence from civic life.

For many years after her husband’s death, Helen Jackson was a constant presence at area fundraisers and other events. She has been a local philanthropist, using her home and hospitality to help organizations such as the Snohomish County Chapter of the American Red Cross and the Everett Symphony.

Still reaching out to the wider world, after the senator’s death she established the Seattle-based Henry M. Jackson Foundation.

Peter Jackson, the senator’s son, wrote in a piece published May 27 in The Herald: “My mom, Helen Hardin, was the linchpin to Scoop’s success. … She breathed life into his unfinished work when, less than a year into his sixth term, he suddenly died.”

Jackson said Friday that at the time of his father’s death, his mother could have used roughly $600,000 from the senator’s campaign coffers for whatever she wanted.

“She started the foundation,” he said. The Jackson Foundation focuses on human rights and other issues, and funds scholarships at the University of Washington’s Jackson School of International Studies.

“Mom loved Everett,” Laurence said Friday. “She could have stayed in D.C. or gone elsewhere. She had the choice after my dad died. She felt a strong tie to the community and felt welcome.”

With an instantly recognized face, Helen Jackson could hardly avoid her community. She always had a gracious hello for shoppers she’d see at the QFC store on Broadway in Everett. One Halloween when my youngest child was very small, we rang the doorbell at the Jackson home. Helen Jackson opened the door with a bowl of candy, and invited me in for tea.

When she decided to remodel the kitchen in the vintage home after the senator’s death, her children wondered why. “Mom is not a cook,” Laurence said. “We asked her, ‘Mom, why are you doing this huge kitchen?’ She wanted to have organizations come in and people use the house.”

Early in his mother’s illness, Peter Jackson said he and his sister tried to accompany her to events. She was so active in the community, he said, “it was more than a full-time job.”

Laurence is now in Everett three days a week as her mother’s caregiver. Helen Jackson, beautiful as ever, was greeted by visitors at a private event at the family home May 20, the day the Henry M. Jackson bust was unveiled in nearby Grand Avenue Park.

“She’s forgetting to shake hands now. She’s not quite sure what that means,” Laurence said. “She still puts a smile on her face.”

Born in New Mexico, Helen met Scoop when she was in Washington, D.C., working for Sen. Clinton Anderson, D-N.M. There was a 21-year age difference between the couple, who married in 1961, according to a profile on the HistoryLink website.

“They were a good team,” Laurence said. “My Dad was more outgoing, Mom was more reserved.” Peter Jackson said his mother added both polish and substance to her husband’s political style.

Helen Jackson had no understanding of the 100th anniversary of her husband’s birth, her daughter said. “She would have been proud and excited about these events. They brought back lots of memories that were great to share with my children,” Laurence said.

“People miss her,” Peter Jackson added.

Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460; muhlstein@heraldnet.com.

Alzheimer’s Association events

The Alzheimer’s Association plans several free events in Snohomish County.

“The Basics: Memory Loss, Dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease” is scheduled from 1 to 2:30 p.m. Thursday at United Way of Snohomish County, 3120 McDougall Ave., Everett; and 6:30 to 8 p.m. Thursday at Josephine Sunset Home, 9901 272nd Pl. NW, Stanwood.

“Legal and Financial Planning for Alzheimer’s Disease” will be held 1 to 3 p.m. June 18 at United Way of Snohomish County in Everett; and 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. June 18 at Josephine Sunset Home in Stanwood.

Reservations are required.

Call 206-363-5500, ext. 504, to leave your name, contact information and which session you will attend.

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