Jackson: An extraordinary man, an ordinary guy

by | 05.13.2011 | 1:36pm

Gov. Jerry Brown declared Thursday “Jess Stonestreet Jackson Day” in California, a day when 1,000 people filled the Wells Fargo Center for the Arts in Santa Rosa, the heart of wine country, to remember the man who built a personal fortune through the Kendall-Jackson winery and blazed a brief but unforgettable trail through the Thoroughbred racing and breeding industry. Jackson died April 21 at the age of 81 after a long battle with cancer.

Jackson's widow Barbara Banke, who is continuing to operate the Stonestreet Stables and farm her husband founded less than 10 years ago, sat in the front row with Jackon's five adult children. There were stories about his toughness and his work ethic. The Santa Rosa Press-Democrat said the “grandeur of the service nearly matched Jackson's big personality.”

Included were a eulogy written by San Francisco Giants baseball legend Willie Mays and a tribute sung by “Phantom of the Opera” performer Franc D'Armbrosio, along with a touching tribute by Jackson's youngest daughter, Julia, who told the story of how her father would put her on his lap, take her tiny hands in his, and they would play the piano together.

She then sat down at a piano onstage and played Claude Debussy's “Clair de Lune,” which she said was one of her father's favorites.

Toy Story director John Lasseter recalled the time he spent a night at Jackson's estate, and overslept after drinking a little too much wine. He was late for a production meeting, but Jackson saved the day by giving him a lift to the studio in his helicopter. There was an empty field next to the studio, Lasseter said, and he asked Jackson if it was OK to land there.

“You can land anywhere…once,” was Jackson's reply.

“So we landed in the field next to Pixar and, poof, he was gone,” the Press-Democrat quoted Lasseter as saying. “One thing I soon realized about Jess: we were both little boys who never grew up.

There were video clips and other stories, but none may have summed up Jackson better than this comment from Steve Miller, the chairman of insurance giant AIG: “He was an extraordinary man, and an ordinary guy.”

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