A talented artist and legendary joker, longtime Piner High School art teacher Robert "Bob" E. Jackson, 86, kept his teaching buddies laughing long after retirement.

Jackson died Dec. 17 of lung cancer. He was at his Santa Rosa home with his wife, Marilyn, at his side.

"He always wanted to make people laugh and have fun," said his daughter Lindy Jones of Rohnert Park. "He had a wonderful life, always made something happy out of a bad situation."

Jackson and his sister were born and raised in Berkeley. From 1944 to 1946 he was in the Army, serving at the end of World War II.

College followed the Army, and the artistic young man graduated from the California College of Arts and Crafts in Oakland.

He moved to Sonoma County to start his 30-year teaching career in Santa Rosa schools. It began in the 1950-51 school year, when he was hired to teach art at Santa Rosa Junior High's new campus near downtown. The same year, Charlie Juricich started there as a history teacher.

A few years later Principal Larry Cook brought Jackson and Juricich to Herbert Slater Junior High in east Santa Rosa. Years later, Principal Al Biella took them crosstown to Piner when it opened in 1966. Jackson was the school's art teacher and Juricich was a history teacher and counselor, and the two worked together for another 15years.

"We were best friends for years and years and years," said Juricich, of Santa Rosa. "He was so gentle and kind, and always with a smile on his face."

Jackson's classes at Piner included figure drawing and watercolors. His sense of humor and ability to encourage his students helped many teens find a passion for their own art.

In a perfect blend of Jackson's sense of humor and his drawing skills, his cartoons and caricatures of his fellow teachers over the years filled sketchbooks.

"He loved to draw cartoons. He had a regular face for me, regular cartoons for practically everybody on the faculty," Juricich said.

With his February birthday, Jackson took great delight in organizing his annual "Aquarian" birthday party, held for himself and all his friends with February birthdays, plus anyone else who wanted to come.

The event for years included everyone getting their own set of fake glasses with large noses attached.

For his grandkids, he sometimes buried pennies in the yard, then played pirates on a treasure hunt. And he was known to swap out rocks for the eggs in the chicken coop for a grandson to gather.

One time he planted asparagus plants in his garden, then went to the market and bought the vegetable. He quickly planted the spears and reported to onlookers in astonishment, "look how fast they grew," Jones recalled.

Jackson married four times. He had four children with his first wife, Frances Petty. That marriage ended in divorce.

He later married Santa Rosa teacher Ellie Riddell. After she died of cancer, he later married another high school teacher, Rene Frost, who also died of cancer.

Jackson retired early, in 1981, to help nurse his ailing wife, said his daughter said.

Despite being retired, Jackson kept in close contact with his many teaching buddies. About 10years ago he married Marilyn Jackson, a retired librarian's assistant from Rincon Valley Junior High School. The couple was active in attending and organizing regular gatherings of retirees from their schools, Jones said.

Jackson also had a love of sailing and fly fishing and for years played the bass drum for the New Horizon Band.

He'd been ill in recent years with emphysema, but kept a positive attitude and was cracking jokes in his last days, his daughter said.

His son Glenn Jackson died two years ago, Jones said.

In addition to his daughter and wife, he is survived by another daughter, Christine O'Connell of Visalia, a son, Ryan Jackson of Santa Rosa; two stepsons, Mike Riddell of Calpella and Conrad Frost of Eugene, Ore; two stepdaughters, Julie Riddell of Sebastopol and Lynn Frost of Eugene; 16 grandchildren; and 17 great-grandchildren.

A memorial service will be at 1 p.m. Saturday at the First Presbyterian Church on Pacific Avenue in Santa Rosa.

Memorial donations may be made to Memorial Hospice, New Horizons Band or the First Presbyterian Church.

— Randi Rossmann