Peter Hardin Jackson, 1966-2020
In loving memory
LORI ANN REINHALL
The Norwegian American
Washington state lost one of its favorite sons with the death of Peter Hardin Jackson, who, at 53, passed away after a three-year battle with pancreatic cancer on March 20. His struggle to survive included surgery, radiation, and more than 65 rounds of chemotherapy—and he fought like a Viking until the very end.
Peter Hardin Jackson was born into the world of politics and power on April 3, 1966, in Washington, D.C., the son of iconic U.S. Sen. Henry M. “Scoop” and Helen Hardin Jackson. His father, who would later make a run for the White House, was a U.S. senator from 1953 until his death in 1983, and he earlier served in the U.S. House.
Peter was educated at St. Albans School and graduated from Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. During his childhood and youth there, Peter met some of the world’s most influential leaders, but politics was not Peter’s path. He had an enormous vocabulary and loved to write: journalism was his calling. He felt at home working in the newsroom and later served as editor of the opinion page at The Daily Herald in his hometown, Everett, Wash. He was also a founding member of the Seattle blog Crosscut.com, where he often championed human rights and the environment. For a time, Peter dabbled in speechwriting, which came naturally to him, but he was almost too much his own person to serve as the voice of others.
Peter always stood up for what he believed in and was a committed public servant. He sat on the advisory board of the University of Washington Center for Human Rights, an entity he helped create through an act of the Washington state legislature in 2009. He was also a board member of the North Cascades Institute and HistoryLink.org.
But the most pivotal moment of his life happened at a Democratic fundraiser in 2004, where met the love of his life, Laurie Werner. The two soulmates were married in 2010. While I enjoyed all of Peter’s columns over the years, I was most moved by one of his last, “A Love Story Rooted in the Unthinkable,” published in 2018. It was a Valentine’s Day tribute to Laurie, his reason to live and his rock throughout his struggle to beat his illness.
The Jackson family had Norwegian roots, and Peter was very proud of them. His father was the son of immigrants, and the family traveled to Norway together. I recall Peter telling me about how the hands of a relative in northern Norway had made such an impression on him. He was a rugged Norwegian fisherman with hands big and strong, worn and calloused from of a life of hard work. There were strong values in the Jackson family, and Peter understood the meaning of the immigrant experience in shaping who he was.
With all his intellect and eloquence, I believe most would describe Peter Hardin Jackson as a kind and gentle soul. In the words of his sister Anna Marie Laurence, he came across as “very humble, a bit soft-spoken.” He was caring and generous, always willing to volunteer and support his community. Peter will be missed by all who knew him, but his legacy will live on in our hearts.
This article originally appeared in the April 17, 2020, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.