jamie’s self-written obit

Jamie Passaro was a mom and friend and lover of stories who quietly excelled at having fun and finding joy in the mundane. She liked getting to the good part—the ahh feeling after the hike, the book on the shore, the gathering of friends on the front porch at the end of a workday. She died …

Some of Jamie’s favorite things were impromptu dinner parties and gatherings (she often found planned things disappointingly boring), connecting people with mutual interests, meandering walks and bike rides, rescue animals, thrift store shopping—especially in posh locales, reading books with her kids or on her own, and roadtrips, though she considered herself an 85 percent homebody. Some of her least favorite things had to do with obligation (to exercise, to clean the house, to write the thank-you note), and she had a deal with many friends that they would buy each other gifts not for birthdays or Christmases but when the spirit moved them. She disliked air conditioning, leaf blowers, chain stores, and cars traveling too fast or too loud down her street.

Born Jamie Anderson and raised in Forks, Washington, the damp and isolated logging town that later became famous for being the setting for the Twilight series, Jamie grew up enjoying small-town pastimes that she would later refer to, sometimes wistfully, as part of her redneck childhood: cruising, water skiing, four-wheeling on muddy old logging roads. Her parents owned an electrical contracting business and an appliance store, later a gift store, and she worked in “the shop” in the afternoons after school. Having grown up in a working-class town, Jamie had a mild sense of imposter syndrome later in life, often a bemused one.

Jamie studied journalism at Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma, Washington. For an internship during the summer after her sophomore year, she traveled across the country in her pick-up truck staying in hostels and on the couches of journalists, who let her shadow them at their newspapers and took her to their favorite haunts. It was an experience that gave Jamie great faith in journalism and the kindness of strangers. She took her first job after college at the Idaho Falls Post-Register in Idaho Falls, Idaho, a town described to her by the editor as “not pretty but you can see pretty from here.” At the paper, where she was later named “Rookie of the Year” by the Idaho Press Association, she met a shy copy editor named Bob Passaro who taught her how to snow ski—downhill and cross-country—and ice skate. The two hiked and camped and skied in Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, and Utah during most of the weekends that they dated, and, though she bought all the gear and said she loved it, she realized it was spending time with Bob that she loved the most. After a stint in Salt Lake City, Jamie and Bob moved to Eugene, Oregon, where Jamie studied literary nonfiction at the University of Oregon. She worked at an alternative school, at a bookstore (one of her all-time favorite jobs), and for the Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association before taking time off to raise two daughters, Olive and Vivienne.

Jamie loved being a mother and found joy in the repetitive aspects of child-raising: picking up her kids from school and grocery shopping and preparing snacks and meals. At the dinner table, the family tradition was that each member would tell a “mundane story,” giving narrative arc to whatever boring thing had happened that day.

While raising her daughters, Jamie freelanced and published her interviews, articles, and personal essays in The Sun, The New York Times, The Atlantic.com, The Washington Post parenting blog, Oregon Humanities, Utne Magazine, and Full Grown People, among other publications. In addition to freelance writing, Jamie founded and ran the company dear person obits. She found it an honor working with grieving families, helping them remember essential stories about loved ones and capturing these in portraits, whether formal obits or tributes just for the family. She questioned the nature of traditional obits— the value in repeating only the highlights and achievements. Even now writing this, she wonders if it should mention how bad she was with money—how she would sometimes spend too much on a very fine thing and then not have enough for necessities. Or her wicked sweet tooth or vanity and delight in clothes, or dislike of housework, or poor recollection of historical and scientific facts.

Jamie loved padding out to her garden with scissors to harvest fruits and vegetables for meals. She came to gardening in her thirties when she and Bob dug up the grass in their front yard and added planter boxes, and even after years of gardening she was astonished every spring and summer that she could actually grow food. Despite the (mostly) healthy eating her most favorite food was burritos scored from food trucks, where it was about the lard.

Jamie lived most of her life in the working-class bungalow that she and Bob bought on the corner of 17th and Lawrence in Eugene—within low-range walkie-talkie distance of all of her neighbors—and though the house was small and old, she loved the worn hardwood floors and the sunlight in her kitchen. One of Jamie’s great joys was talking with her neighbors while working in her garden, and this is where you would find her many Saturday and Sunday afternoons, doing more visiting than work.

Jamie was preceded in death by her mom, Bonnie Anderson, who had a mighty heart and taught Jamie about importance of community.

Jamie is survived by her husband, Bob, and daughters, Olive and Vivienne.

Join Jamie’s family for burritos and music at their home after her natural burial. In lieu of flowers or gifts and in memory of Jamie, please donate money to your favorite animal rescue or environmental organization and invite your oldest neighbor over for dinner.