Jessie Starbuck was born on Valentine’s Day, 1918 and died peacefully in her sleep on October 16, 2013. Near the end of her 95 years she often said that she had had a wonderful life, and that continued to be true to her last day. She spent her final five days reminiscing and enjoying being with her three children and their spouses. Until June, she was able to be physically active—having transitioned in stages from tennis to walking—, was happily engaged in a variety of activities with family and friends, and enjoyed who and what she found around her with enthusiasm, acceptance, and gratitude.
She and her husband Don raised four children—Judith, Marcus, Timothy (who died in 1988), and Christopher—in Salem, Ohio. She attended high school at Olney Friends School, and after her children were grown, she spent seven meaningful years as hostess at Olney while Don was head of maintenance. They moved from there to the Seattle area in 1977 to be near Judith and her husband Peter Greenfield, where they had settled seven years earlier.
Jessie and Don were birthright Quakers and had been active in Ohio Yearly Meeting for most of their adult lives. A few years after they moved to the Pacific Northwest, they discovered their new spiritual home at Eastside Friends Meeting. After Don’s death in 1985, Jessie decided she could contribute to the Meeting best by editing the newsletter, which she did for several years. She continued to attend Meeting regularly until shortly before she died, always sitting in her accustomed chair in the back row by the window. She enjoyed watching the Meeting children grow up and deepening her friendships with many members.Jessie often said in her later years that she had had a wonderful life. And she had. Until her last few months, she was able to be physically active, having transitioned over the years from tennis to walking. She was happily engaged in a variety of activities with family and friends and enjoyed who and what she found around her with enthusiasm, acceptance, and gratitude.
It’s not that she always had it easy. Her father was killed by a falling tree three weeks before she was born, and several of her eight siblings were raised in the homes of different relatives. She was very close to her mother, who died suddenly when Jessie had a brand new baby and two toddlers, and her husband, Don Starbuck, was away in the service as a noncombatant. She lost Don when she was only 67 and her son Timothy ten years later. She suffered a ruptured aorta when she was in her early 80s and survived only because of quick help from the members of Eastside Friends Meeting, emergency surgery, and a lot of determination to get through the year-long rehabilitation. After each of these set-backs, she soon accepted the new reality and looked forward.
She grew up in Salem, Ohio, and went to Olney Friends School in Barnesville, Ohio, for four especially happy high school years that yielded life-long friendships. The years she and Don spent raising their four children—Judith, Marcus, Timothy, and Christopher—were deeply fulfilling. She stayed at home until the kids were old enough to go to Olney, and then she began a series of sales jobs in Salem (from clerk in a gift shop to Avon Lady), which she enjoyed. She took a break from that line of work to become hostess at Olney while Don was head of maintenance from 1970 to 1977. Those were very satisfying years for both of them. Jessie returned to selling Avon after their next move, to the Seattle area where Judith and her husband Peter Greenfield had settled seven years earlier.
After a couple of years, Don was ready to retire from the job he’d found in his old line of work, heating and air conditioning. Then the two of them fixed up a little camper and started camping in parks in the nearby Cascade Mountains. They also took it to Arizona where they spent happy winters with Jessie’s brother Jim and other friends. This was a continuation of their life-long enthusiasm for travel. Jessie bragged that she’d been to all 50 states, most of them with Don and several with the whole young family.
Don was diagnosed with prostate cancer soon after he retired. Surgery and radiation treatment gave them five more years to travel and enjoy their lives together. Not long after he died (at home with the help of Group Health Hospice), Jessie started volunteering as a bereavement counselor at the hospice program nearby. This was a meaningful part of her life for the next seven years, and she stayed in touch with several of her former clients long after she left the program. At this time, she also started spending winter months in St. George, Utah, helping her niece, nephew and his wife take care of her brother Jim, who now had Alzheimers disease. She continued to make that trip south until after Jim died.
Jessie and Don were birthright Quakers in Ohio Yearly Meeting and had been active there for most of their adult lives. A few years after they moved to the Pacific Northwest, they discovered their new spiritual home at the Eastside Friends Meeting and found involvement in that community rewarding. After Don’s death, Jessie took on the job of editing the newsletter, which she did with Judith’s technical help for several years. She continued to attend Meeting regularly until shortly before she died, though she chose to be less involved in committee work after the newsletter. She enjoyed watching the Meeting children grow up and deepening her friendships with many members.
Jessie moved, not long after Don died, from the mobile home they had shared in Bothell to a townhouse in Kirkland. There she lived alone in her own home for the first time in her life, and she discovered she liked it. Ten years later she moved to an apartment in a retirement center at Crossroads in Bellevue. She enjoyed living in that community for most of her last 12 years. Her final move was to Judith and Peter’s home in Seattle. First pneumonia and then a broken hip weakened her so much that she wasn’t able to regain her health. She was grateful that a fine hospice team helped make her comfortable. During those last four months, she found pleasure in contact with her family and friends, in person or by letter, email, phone, or Skype. After enjoying five days with her three remaining children and their spouses—looking at old photos, reminiscing, and just being together—she died in her sleep. She is survived by her children—Judith and Peter, Marcus and wife Barbara, Christopher and wife Mary—five grandchildren, and five great grandchildren.