As the wife and later the widow of U.S. Sen. Henry M. “Scoop” Jackson, Helen Jackson proudly carried on her husband’s legacy. And in her adopted home of Everett, she was a gracious and tireless supporter of this community in her own right.
“Helen had a legacy all her own,” said Nancy Johnson, executive director of the Imagine Children’s Museum in Everett.
Helen Jackson died at her Everett home Feb. 24, some 15 years after being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. She was 84. A memorial service is scheduled for 2 p.m. March 24 at Everett’s First Presbyterian Church.
The late senator’s funeral at the same church in 1983 was attended by more than 200 dignitaries, among them then-Vice President George H.W. Bush, former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and U.S. Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, who in a eulogy said “Those of us who had the joy of sharing Scoop’s life must now share the sorrow of his loss.”
After Sen. Jackson’s death Sept. 1, 1983, his widow continued to live in their Grand Avenue home. She devoted much time and effort to seeing the completion of Naval Station Everett, where she attended ceremonies with Navy officials. The Everett homeport, officially dedicated in 1994, was a project the senator had long championed.
“Helen was magnificent. She was well liked by everybody on both sides of the aisle,” said Norm Dicks, 77, who is retired from Congress after representing Washington’s 6th Congressional District from 1977 to 2013.
“The Jackson legacy lives on,” Dicks said, noting Helen Jackson’s support “from the very start” of the Henry M. Jackson Foundation. Founded in 1983, the Seattle-based foundation works through grants and initiatives on issues that were important to the late senator, including human rights, the environment and public service. Through its leadership fellows, the foundation’s influence reaches a new generation.
Dicks said Helen Jackson was also committed to the Henry M. Jackson School of International Studies at the University of Washington. “Her support for human rights issues was also impressive,” he said.
“Scoop Jackson came home all the time,” said Dicks, a Democrat from Bremerton. “Helen would go with him to various events and have events at their house. It was a huge honor to be invited to the Jackson home. She was wonderful to work with, thoughtful and energetic and willing to do her part.”
She is survived by her daughter, Anna Marie Laurence, her son, Peter Jackson, her children’s spouses and two grandchildren, Jack and Julia.
Laurence described her mother as kind, intelligent, gracious and devoted to her family. “She loved Everett, too, and was an active member in her community,” she said. Her mother led by example, said Laurence, adding that a often-heard phrase was “What we do can make a difference.”
“Mom made a difference in her adopted hometown of Everett, and she certainly left a legacy for her family to be proud of,” Laurence said.
Johnson met Helen Jackson in 1998, years before the Imagine Children’s Museum opened in 2004 at its current Hoyt Avenue site. The senator’s widow opened her home for meetings during the museum’s first fund-raising campaign, and wrote letters to bolster the effort.
“She was one of those people who really believed Everett should be home to a wonderful children’s museum,” Johnson said. “Not only was she so full of grace and kindness, she had her own quiet way of making everyone understand how doable it was.”
Howie Bargreen, the owner of Everett’s Bargreen Coffee Co. and a member of the Rotary Club of Everett, said the club has started raising money for a Helen Jackson Scholarship. The effort began at a Rotary meeting last week when Larry O’Donnell, a retired Everett School District administrator, made a donation “in honor of Helen Jackson,” Bargreen said.
“How lucky we were to have her,” said Bargreen, whose late father Howard S. Bargreen was a state lawmaker who once lost a congressional race to Scoop Jackson. Bargreen said nearly $2,000 has been raised so far for the Helen Jackson Scholarship, which will be awarded this spring to a graduating senior.
Bargreen recalled the days of seeing Helen Jackson out to lunch in Everett with her friends Jane Best and Mary Duryee. Mrs. Best, who died in 2005, was the widow of former Everett Daily Herald publisher Robert Best.
“When you think about Helen Jackson, the words gracious, gentle and generous come to mind,” said Jeanne Metzger. “And I would add patient to that list, a great trait for being the wife of a politician.”
A retired Herald editor and writer, Metzger is also a founding member of the Providence Hospice and Home Care Foundation Board. For many years, her family’s Rucker Avenue home shared an alley with the Jackson house just to the west.
“She was a wonderful partner for Scoop during his campaigns and political activities, always with that beautiful smile on her face. There were lots of challenges being married to a high-energy, well-known politician like Scoop,” Metzger said. “But being a good mother to Anna Marie and Peter was of utmost importance to Helen, and she worked hard to keep a balance with all the demands on her time.”
Metzger said friends were happy to have Helen Jackson stay in Everett after her husband’s death. “She enjoyed her volunteer efforts in the community and her close group of friends,” she said.
Nanna Skalley knew Helen Jackson through their membership in the Woman’s Book Club, an Everett institution dating to 1894 and the founding of the Everett Public Library.
“She was brilliant,” said Skalley. “When she did a book club report, it was like having a graduate class for the day. She had a world view, definitely, because of her life with Scoop.”
Born in New Mexico, Helen Hardin studied at Vassar College before earning a degree in English and philosophy at Scripps College in Claremont, California. In 1958, she earned a master’s degree in English literature from Columbia University, where she studied with Pulitzer Prize-winning poet and writer Mark Van Doren.
She met her future husband in 1961 in Washington, D.C. It was her first day on the job working for Sen. Clinton Anderson of New Mexico. Helen and Scoop Jackson were married in December 1961.
Skalley said that she and her husband Dr. Tom Skalley, a longtime Everett obstetrician, years ago were involved with friends in a group they called the “jubilee dance club.” The Jacksons joined them for parties several times each year.
And Skalley recalled that she and Helen Jackson, during their early years in the book club, were pregnant with their daughters at the same time. Skalley said her friend’s graciousness always showed. “She greeted every person like she was their long-lost friend,” she said. “She had this warmth, friendliness and interest in you.”
She also had what Skalley described as a wry, dry sense of humor “and a sense of the ridiculous, having to do with politics and politicians.”
“And she was always so perfect, with every hair in place. She did everything right, it seemed to me,” Skalley said.
Helen Jackson’s involvement in civic life spanned decades, and included local and global causes.
She had been chairwoman of the Henry M. Jackson Foundation, a trustee of the Gertrude Jackson Memorial Fund, co-chairwoman of the Adopt-A-Stream Foundation, and an American Red Cross and Senate Ladies Red Cross supporter. She was on the advisory council at the Imagine Children’s Museum, and had opened her home to charities and agencies including Deaconess Children’s Services, Luther Child Center, Catholic Community Services, General Hospital Foundation, Everett Community College, the Everett Symphony and many more.
She supported the Center for Battered Women, now Domestic Violence Services of Snohomish County, the Everett Public Schools Foundation, and Volunteers of America. She hosted Democratic Party functions, was a Washington World Affairs fellow, and a was on the National Osteoporosis Foundation board. She had been a Pacific Northwest Ballet board member, was on the Chairman’s Round Table for the Museum of Flight, and was part of a Society of Sponsors for the U.S. Navy.
State Sen. Sam Hunt, D-Olympia, and Sen. Reuven Carlyle, D-Seattle, worked on a resolution in Helen Jackson’s honor that was to be presented Saturday on the Senate floor. Carlyle was once a page for Sen. Jackson, Peter Jackson said.
“We lost a gem in our community. I have the warmest spot in my heart for Helen,” said Bob Drewel, former Snohomish County executive. Among his memories is a lighthearted moment. Once, Drewel said, he and his wife, Cheryl, went to Costco with Helen Jackson to get a fax machine so she could stay in touch with her son in Washington, D.C. “She said, ‘This appears to be the blind leading the blind,’ ” he said.
Helen Jackson also is remembered for quiet acts of kindness.
Lynnwood’s Priscilla More remembers one such act. “My husband, Hugh More, was a plumber who repaired something at Sen. Jackson’s house many years ago,” she said. At the time, the senator was in China, More said, but Helen Jackson was home.
Her husband had taken their little boy Scot, who was about 6 at the time, to work that day. “Hugh was upstairs and had picked up his tools just in time to see Scot go, whoosh, down the banister of the Jacksons’ sweeping stairway,” More said.
Rather than scold the child, More said Helen Jackson “was very sweet and told him he’d have to come back when her husband got home.” After Sen. Jackson died, More helped Scot write and send a sympathy note. They never expected what later arrived in the mail. “It was so sweet,” More said. “She took the time to write Scot a thank-you note.”
Her son, now in his 40s, still tells that story, More said.
“It was always just this wonderful, magical time with Helen. Personally, she was one of those women of Everett who was a mentor to me,” said Johnson, the children’s museum director. “She was tremendously loved and and respected in this community.”
Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460; email@example.com.
Memorial March 24
A memorial service for Helen Jackson, the widow of the late U.S. Sen. Henry M. “Scoop” Jackson, is scheduled for 2 p.m. March 24 at Everett’s First Presbyterian Church, 2936 Rockefeller Ave.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Helen H. Jackson Endowed Chair in Human Rights at the University of Washington: www.giving.uw.edu/helenjackson