Lela Madge Jackson
March 10, 1932 - January 25, 2021
Lela Madge Beach Jackson, born and raised in Salem, Oregon, leaves behind a legacy of joy.
She was active. She valued a strong, healthy body and proudly scaled many mountains in the Pacific NW and places like Switzerland, Peru and Nepal. Building on her years as a physical education teacher in high schools, she coached tennis and swimming. She had a competitive nature and paired that with her deep commitment to developing the character of the young people she coached. Summers usually meant time for backpacking which she did with gusto.
She was kind. Lela and her husband Wilbur returned to Oregon State University as graduate students in Guidance and Counseling in the early 1970’s. As a guidance counselor in high schools, Lela developed a peer mentoring program that had a dual purpose: train young people in emotional competence and teach them to serve one another through listening and support. She listened wholeheartedly to those around her and inquired with real curiosity about their lives. This is something many of us will miss the most as in her presence you felt heard and cared for. No one was a stranger to Lela. She loved to meet new people and draw them into a circle of friendship. This means she has true friends from all over the world, all ages, many walks of life.
She was a person of faith. If you traveled with Lela, you had to allow for the time required to peek into each cathedral, mosque, or other place of worship. She loved the First Christian Church of Salem and served in many ways there throughout the years as an elder and teacher. She loved Christian hymns and knew all the lyrics. Her plans to enter heaven have surely been realized.
She loved her family. Lela was orphaned at the age of 14 and this may have contributed to her deep commitment to her children, grandchildren and husband. In 1985, we asked Mom to fill out a book about her life. To the question “Have you been married more than once?” Lela wrote “Only once, forever and ever.” Together with Wilbur, she helped others with their marriages by counseling and leading marriage support programs. Lela made a point to gently but consistently communicate her values and her hopes for her family. She demonstrated through her own actions and also left behind very clear, written ideas about how to live a good life. She taught us that a “good life” means that we can fulfil our own dreams but we also pay attention to our responsibilities to others to make a better world. She delighted in games, songs and fun with us all. It was not unusual to unwrap a Christmas gift from her and find funny fake teeth or a squishy eyeball toy.
She modeled joy. The most common comment from people who encountered Lela is that she was fun and caring. Her decision to build a life of joy combined with her abundant energy made her a force to be appreciated. The world has lost a bright star but we know her energy lives on in so many people touched by her kindness.
Lela died of natural causes on January 25, 2021 and is survived by her husband Wilbur, three daughters, son-in-laws, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Lela’s family includes Julie Jackson, Natalie Speck and Ryan Campbell, Andrea, Chris, Axl and Ace Walters, Jill, Dean, David and Molly Knutson, Jeanne, Albrecht and Helena Enders, Kat and Tyler Watkins, and Son, Victoria, Amanda and Doug Do.
The family is grateful for her loving caregivers in the last years of her life.
A memorial service will be held for Lela online on February 28th at 2 pm. Please send an email to this address if you would like to attend and we will reply with the link: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Donations in her honor can be made to Family Building Blocks at www.familybuildingblocks.org.