A portrait of Kathleen Jackson ne'e Bales represents as consummate a life as one could imagine for a woman in rural Oregon. Kathleen will be celebrating her 83rd birthday this year, and she will no doubt reflect on all her past endeavors; university student; teacher; artist; wife; mother and businesswoman.

Her earliest recollections are those at home with her four sisters on the Bales Brother's Ranch. Situated between Dayville and Spray, the Grant/Wheeler county line ran straight through their barn. Her father and uncle, known as Charles V. and W.B. respectively, worked the large ranch which today is called the Longview Ranch.

Kathleen, like her four sisters, became a teacher; studying first at Oregon State, then Monmouth and, finally, at the University of Oregon. Her affinity for art was cultivated during her college days, however she has been drawing steadily since age four.

Her first teaching job was for the town of Condon. It was a good beginning. "Getting back to this region was nice," she recalls. "I felt right at home." Her very next assignment was here in John Day, where she took an apartment and began teaching fourth, fifth and sixth grade, plus art for the entire John Day school.

It was in this setting that she met, worked with, and was courted by the school's principal, Cecil Jackson. Despite her student's protestations that principal Jackson was too straight-laced and strict, love prevailed, and the two married. Kathleen points out that "Once my young students were promoted to higher grades and had him in a class, they found him to be a very fine teacher."

After her two boys were born, Kathleen retired from teaching to raise them. She credits her mother with steering her in the right direction career-wise. And of course, it was de rigeur [for women] to retire once the children arrived.

When Cecil and Kathleen purchased the oil distributorship in Canyon City, Jackson Oil business was born. It remains a family operated concer, with son Greg at the helm. "When my father died," Greg recalls, "my mother told me she would let me work the company for six months; if I made a go of it, fine. If not, well ... there would be no second chance." At a turning point in his life, the challenge was clear: stand and deliver or walk away. Well that critical point in their lives was passed some 22 years ago, and the business has grown to envelop a service station and a mini-mart.

Back in 1951, Kathleen formed the Grant County Art Association and was its first president. The club has met regularly ever since, and is responsible for bringing in outside instructors, networking its members' skills, and supporting each other's talents. Today, their members range in age from young adults to 85 years old. There is open membership, and anyone interested in joining may call secretary Charlotte Blank of Canyon City.

Looking at her paintings, one recognizes the style of the old masters - practically no visible brush strokes - the mark of using a very fine paintbrush.

Also on display at her home are paintings done with a palette knife which are equally impressive. Several of her landscapes done in the last 20-25 years are positively breathtaking. It is with sadness that I learn she has given up her painting. It is just too taxing on her body. "What you see here is most of what is left," she says "I've given away and/or sold everything else."

Thankfully, you can glimpse some of her best work at the annual spring Juniper Art Show held at Grant Union. There you will see for yourself an image of what an accomplished woman in Grant County can produce.

1998 Roxann Gess Smith
All Rights Reserved

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