EVERETT — Happy 56th birthday, Peter Hardin Jackson.
On Sunday, there will be a celebration with apple pie and cheesecake, per his request. Several hundred people are expected to attend the bash at Town Hall in Seattle.
Jackson, the former Daily Herald editorial page editor, will be there in spirit. He died in March 2020 of pancreatic cancer.
April 3 is his birthday.
“Peter did not like celebrating his birthday,” said his widow, Laurie Werner. “It’s the irony of ironies that we’re throwing this big party on his birthday.”
Jackson surely would have had something clever to say about that.
He was known for his wit and warmth as well as his great hair. Smart and genuine, with boyish good looks and self-effacing charm.
Even after he lost strength and hair from 65 rounds of chemotherapy, he was still the same Peter.
The pandemic delayed a service to honor him.
“Because it is two years later, it really is a celebration of life rather than a funeral or memorial,” Werner said. “It’s about celebrating who he was, his passions in life and the things he really dedicated his life to.”
The son of the late U.S. Sen. Henry M. “Scoop” Jackson, Peter grew up with privileges a lot of people don’t have. That wasn’t the life he later chose.
Peter Jackson made a name for himself as a journalist and as an advocate of human rights and the environment.
After college, he was an AmeriCorps VISTA volunteer in Port Townsend. He was a speechwriter for Gov. Gary Locke and later for Gov. Christine Gregoire. At Crosscut in Seattle, he wrote the Daily Scan and covered politics. His byline was in The Seattle Times. He was a board member of the North Cascades Institute and HistoryLink.org.
As The Herald’s editorial page editor from 2012 to 2014, Jackson won the Dolly Connelly Award for Excellence in Environmental Journalism.
He took it upon himself to lead Herald volunteers in an annual United Way Day of Action community project, getting his hands dirty cleaning up grit on school grounds and grime from downtown flowerbeds.
Jackson’s desk was piled with papers and his door was always open.
“He had a way of putting you at ease in conversations,” said Jim Davis, a former Herald assistant city editor. “He had such a distinctive voice and every now and then it pops in your head, and you just wish you could hear him tell another one of his stories. … Once you became friends, you kind of expected him to always be a part of your life. In a way, he will be.”
Added Jim’s wife, Melissa Davis, the night copy desk chief for The Seattle Times: “You knew you were in a presence of a mind greater than your own, but it was not intimidating. You wanted to share that space with him.”
Peter and his sister, Anna Marie Laurence, grew up in Washington, D.C. They spent summers and holidays in Scoop’s native Everett, in the Grand Avenue home where their mom, Helen Hardin Jackson, lived until her death in 2018.
In 2008, the Jackson Foundation endowed the Helen H. Jackson Chair in Human Rights at the University of Washington, which led to the creation of its Center for Human Rights.
Angelina Godoy, the center’s chair and director, in a 2020 written tribute likened Jackson to “a storybook lion … possessed of a great and generous heart.”
“Steadfastly loyal, relentlessly unassuming, Peter grew up in the corridors of power but he always seemed allergic to claiming status or recognition for himself,” Godoy wrote.
Werner and Jackson met at a 2004 fundraiser for presidential candidate John Kerry.
“He was so funny and he had a deep voice, too. I was like, ‘Who is this guy?’” she said.
The couple married in 2010.
“I wonder over and over what would his interpretation of all these crazy events be,” she said of the past two years. “I miss his intellect and reflection. … I have to look things up. I don’t have my person. ‘Hey, what is this? Who’s that?’”
Shortly before Jackson’s death, at his wish, the Advancing Human Rights at Home Fund was established to support UW’s Center for Human Rights. Donations can be made at giving.uw.edu/peterjackson. The center will match contributions of $100 or more, up to $25,000.
For Sunday’s event, Jackson also left his wishes for the music, poetry and dessert.
Apple pie and cheesecake.
The 2 p.m. celebration at Town Hall, 1119 Eighth Ave. in Seattle, will be live-streamed at www.youtube.com/watch?v=wTcybDWJBC0.