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Donald Dale Jackson

Published: March 3, 2006

JOANNA LESTIC

    Donald Dale Jackson

    Noted Writer And Beloved Husband And Father

    Was A True Renaissance Man

    Donald Dale Jackson, 70, died in his sleep February 23 at the home he shared in Newtown with his wife of 47½ years, Darlene. He had suffered numerous open heart operations for two by-passes and an aortic valve replacement, so had been physically, but not mentally limited for a number of years.

    Mr Jackson was born in San Francisco and grew up in San Mateo, Calif. He knew from the age of 8 he wanted to write. He attended Northwestern University for one year and then transferred to Stanford University where he was a history major.

    He worked as a copyboy for The San Francisco Chronicle and covered high school sports while in San Mateo High School. He worked the summer of 1957 for The Washington Post in Washington, D.C., and then moved on to Columbia University in New York City, where he earned a his master’s degree in the Graduate School of Journalism.

    Mr Jackson had a very fulfilling career as a reporter and writer that began shortly after he and his wife graduated in 1958 from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. He was drafted after graduation and they were married on a weekend pass before he was sent to Baltimore for counterintelligence school. Following a six-week motor scooter trip through Western Europe before returning to Mr Jackson’s beloved birthplace, San Francisco, he immediately went to work for United Press International (UPI).

    From there he was recruited by Life magazine in New York, where he worked until he got his first trade book contract. By this time he was a staff writer and he and Darlene had moved to Connecticut.

    Their son, Dale Allen, was born in New York in 1965. In September of that year they moved to Cambridge, where Don was selected to be a Nieman Fellow. He returned to Life magazine after that and the family lived for three years in New Jersey before moving to Newtown on April 1, 1969. Their daughter, Amy Lynn Jackson Ayala, was born in New York in 1967.

    His first real break came when he wrote the Lee Harvey Oswald cover story for Life after the assassination of John F. Kennedy. He eventually wound up a contract writer for Smithsonian Magazine.

    Don had his first book, Judges, published 1974 by Atheneum, and Gold Dust in 1980. He was awarded the Western Heritage Wrangler Award for Best Non-Fiction Book in 1981 by the Cowboy Hall of Fame in Oklahoma City for Gold Dust.

    After that he was a freelance writer for a variety of magazines, including Reader‘s Digest, Smithsonian, Sports Illustrated, and several outdoor magazines.

    He received numerous writing awards for coverage of civil rights, environmental studies, parole board and prison stories. He traveled to the jungles of South America to write about monkeys, a new-found ecological mountain, traveled with medicine men and an ethnobiologist in the South American jungle. He spent several nights alone after being dropped in the desert to see what the experience felt like. He wrote about cowboys and wild horses. He wrote a number of Time-Life series books. He had a wonderful, exciting career that he always shared with his wife and children. Most of his writing was done at his home in Newtown.

    Mr Jackson was known for his sense of humor, which both of his children inherited. He had several speaking engagements and was chosen to roast the retiring editor of Smithsonian Magazine.

    He had been a tennis player since his father introduced the game to him as a child. His father played until he was well into his 80s, his son Dale plays, and his wife Darlene still plays. Unfortunately, after his last major surgery in 2002 he could no longer play. He organized the beginning of the Newtown Open Tennis Tournament when he invited men’s doubles teams to compete on private courts around town.

    The Jacksons were big supporters of the old Newtown/Brookfield tournament that was held every year. Both Jacksons received the NTA Tennis Award for Outstanding and Dedicated Service to the sport.

    Mr Jackson and his wife loved to travel and loved to go to tennis tournaments. They attended the French Open and one of the Master Tournaments in Monte Carlo. They toured the Greek Islands, both West and East Germany, Ireland, Mexico, and northern Italy, and in 1999 went to Australia and New Zealand. They have a schoolmate in St Croix and spent some time there, as well as most parts of the United States and Canada, driving, camping, canoeing, sightseeing, and skiing.

    In recent years he had an eBay business selling old magazines, movie posters, and other memorabilia. He read a lot and enjoyed watching sports: basketball, baseball, tennis, etc on television. He was watching the Olympics the night before he died.

    Besides his wife, Mr Jackson leaves two children and their families, Dale and Kathi Jackson and three daughters, Mackenzie, Lindsey, and Sydney, of Upland, Calif., and Amy and Rob Ayala and their two children, Boone and Eliza, of Norwalk. He is survived by one brother, Allen Jackson and his wife, Linda, of Windsor, Calif., and their children and families; as well as two first cousins, Roberta Collins of Loch Arbor, N.J., and her children and families, and Jeanetta Sullivan of Mount Holly, Va., and her children and families.

    Funeral Services were held February 27 at Newtown Congregational Church. The Rev Lee Moore officiated. Interment will be in Newtown Village Cemetery in the spring.

    Donations may be made to the charity of one’s choice or to Newtown Congregational Church, 14 West Street, Newtown CT 06470, where his wife is an active member.

    The Newtown Bee                     March 3, 2006