Peggy Jackson can sew, cook, paint and do construction work with the best of them. The 75-year-old retiree has sewed nine wedding dresses, catered weddings, completely remodeled her own bathroom and sold commissioned paintings. But Jackson is modest about her projects, the most recent of which was a pirate ship for her church’s vacation Bible school.
“Whenever something needed to be done, I just hopped in and helped,” she said. “After a while, you get a reputation, I guess.”
Jackson started learning her collection of skills when she was young. She would ask her father for things she wanted, but he would tell her he couldn’t afford it. So she got creative and figured out how to build things herself, often by repurposing something else.
When she and her husband Jerry were young and bought their first house, they didn’t know anything about home maintenance. They asked people they knew questions and quizzed the hardware store employees. “We just kind of learned together,” she said.
At the time Jackson could knit, crochet and sew. But she knew if she wanted to spend more time with her husband, she would have to go outside. “I went to the garage and I learned,” she said.
Her skills have impressed her longtime friend, Bonnie Crawford. “She’s well-known as an expert self-taught seamstress,” Crawford said. “Due to her natural creative and engineering abilities, she can design-build anything. She’s gutted and remodeled her master bathroom in the past. Her craftsmanship is perfection.”
Jackson said she didn’t quite do the bathroom by herself. “I did have help with the plumbing,” she said.
Crawford describes Jackson as a remarkable friend who should be recognized for her generosity toward others. “She’s a humble, loving person,” Crawford said.
Jackson and her sons built a backyard gazebo that she uses for meetings of her art group and her widows group. But what she’s most proud of are her skills as a painter, which she only started doing 10 years ago. “I didn’t start until after I retired,” she said.
Her husband had dropped her off to spend a few hours at Art on the Green, and Jackson stood and watched a woman paint a flower. She thought it was something she could do, too. She was right. “I went out and bought some paints and tried it,” she said.
Since then, she’s sold some of her work at Spokane Valley Senior Center art shows and has done some commissions. But Jackson said selling paintings isn’t her goal. “I do it because it’s something I enjoy,” she said.
Last year, she and a few helpers painted a mural of Noah’s Ark in the children’s department at her church, Valley Bible Church. Jackson said she was asked to help with the project and ended up taking it over when the other person couldn’t finish.
But her mural is a little bit different. It shows Noah’s Ark from the inside. “Everyone always does it from the outside, with animals going in two by two,” she said.
This year, when her church was looking for a ship to be a prop for their Mystery Island-themed vacation Bible School, they naturally called Jackson. She said she built the ship, which is a façade propped up on the church’s stage, out of plastic cardboard. It’s thinner than cardboard and is white.
“It’s 16 feet from stem to stern,” she said of the boat. “The mast is 12 feet high. I just cut out the shapes and taped it together and painted it.”
But Jackson also took the trouble to cut out portholes, installing cannons in two of them. She also put and anchor and chain on the stern on the boat. She had help getting the boat from her garage to the church last weekend. “It took us a couple hours to get it set up,” she said.
Over the years Jackson has done so many props and paintings for her church and other churches that she’s lost track. But now Jackson said she’s getting to the age where she’s not able to do as much. “I just don’t even remember them all,” she said. “I’m getting too old for this. This will be my last, I’m sure.”
Valley Bible Church teaching pastor Ben Orchard said he’s known Jackson for 16 years. She’s consistently done professional quality work whenever the church needed something made, he said. “She’s been tireless and incredibly creative,” he said. “I remember a train that she made that looked like something you would see on a TV set. Her work is always top-notch.”
Jackson’s work has added to the quality of the church’s ministry, Orchard said, and he’s grateful for everything she’s done. He said she’s often modest about her accomplishments and downplays her contributions. “She does what she does in service to the Lord and the people of the church,” he said. “She never expects any recognition.”
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