Eileen M. Jackson: 1941–2024

On February 7, 2024, Eileen Marilyn Jackson passed away peacefully at her South Whidbey home with her beloved, Mary K “MK” Sandford, by her side.

Besides her wife, MK, and the couple’s devoted spaniel mix, Miles Joe Cocker, Eileen’s survivors include nieces Kathleen Santos and Stephanie Santos-Owens, and nephews Steven and Johnny Santos. She loved and was loved by MK’s family, including her niece, Christina M. Wells, and her wife, Jennifer McKinney, who are frequent visitors to Whidbey. MK’s sister, Susan McMillan (Robert), provided loving support and expertise.

Eileen grew up in Hollywood, CA, the daughter of first-generation immigrants Leo Michael Jackson, from New Zealand, and Mary Bridget O’Sullivan, from New Market, County Cork, Ireland. Her aunt, Margaret O’Sullivan, spent many weekends in the Jackson household with her niece.

As a young child, Eileen met the sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary (IHM), a progressive group of nuns who committed to reforms outlined at the Second Vatican Council.

She admired the nuns’ compassionate teaching and activism and worked to emulate them. After graduating from Immaculate Heart High in 1959, she entered the Novitiate and studied at Immaculate Heart College. In true IHM style, Eileen became a passionate feminist and an activist for civil rights, social justice, and unionization, and against nuclear weapons. This era for the IHM has been immortalized in the documentary, Rebel Hearts (2021).

After leaving the Convent, Eileen studied music at the University of California, San Diego. Known for her eclectic interests and desire to help others, she completed her undergraduate degree (BS) in Biology at Mundelein College before earning her nursing degree from Rush University in 1975 (BSN).

Soon after, she moved to the Bay Area in California, worked at several hospitals, and became a union organizer for the California Nurses Association, later serving as its President and board member. She obtained her master’s in nursing from the University of California, San Francisco, with credentials in community health, psychiatric nursing, and gerontology.

For her doctoral research, she studied models of care using anthropology, earning her Ph.D. in the discipline from the University of Missouri, Columbia in 1991. She taught nursing and/or anthropology at several institutions including the University of Edmonton, the University of North Carolina Greensboro, and North Carolina A&T University.

Eileen volunteered for many Whidbey organizations, including the Care ministry at St. Augustine’s in-the-Woods Episcopal Church in Freeland. Most of all, she lived according to the IHM ideals as a woman of “great heart” and “good conscience.” These values were apparent in her relationships with family, friends, acquaintances, and the many rescue animals she and MK adopted.

A Celebration of Life is planned for Saturday, May 11th, 2024, at 2:00 p.m., at St. Augustine’s in-the-Woods Episcopal Church in Freeland. Immediately following the service there will be a party, as requested by Eileen, at the Church.