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Tigard's 'second mom' leaves lasting legacy

by: ANNA HOVE PHOTOGRAPHY - Kittelsons family and friends during the Pancreatic Cancer Action Networks annual PurpleStride fundraising walk in October.Dressed in orange and black Oregon State University attire, Jan Kittelson was as recognizable at Tigard High School as any member of the faculty.

But the 61-year-old Roseburg native never collected a paycheck for the more than three decades of work she did to improve the school and the district.

Kittelson died Thursday, Feb. 7, after a years-long battle with pancreatic cancer, leaving behind a school district forever changed by a woman who dedicated herself to children and her community.

A memorial service is planned for this Saturday at Calvin Presbyterian Church.

Although she never served on the School Board, Kittelson was well known in the community for her involvement with the district, often working behind the scenes to raise money or serve on high-profile committees.

“She would get misidentified at meetings as a school board member or as the mayor of Tigard,” her husband, Wayne Kittelson said. “She had that presence, and she knew everyone. People thought she must be important.”

She served on several committees and organizations until her death, including as a decade-long member of the district’s Budget Committee and a member of both the Foundation for Tigard Tualatin Schools and Tigard Turns the Tide.

She served on the Tigard High School site council and was a mainstay at Parent-Student Organization meetings and site councils at Templeton Elementary School and Twality Middle School.

Kittelson served on every school district election committee since 1989, putting together ballot initiatives which funded the construction of Tualatin High School, Hazelbrook Middle School and Deer Creek and Alberta Rider elementary schools, as well as rebuilding new Metzger, Tualatin and C.F. Tigard elementary schools.

Kittelson created the annual Tigard-Tualatin Stuff the Bus rally, which collects clothes and other items for the district’s underprivileged students.

Service Information

Where: Calvin Presbyterian Church, 10445 S.W. Canterbury Lane,  in Tigard

When: Saturday at 2 p.m.

For more information on the service and the Jan Kittelson Educational Fund, visit jankittelson.wordpress.com.

She worked on three local option levy campaigns, helped pass initiatives that built a swim center and auditorium at Tualatin High School and fund additions and improvements to countless classrooms across the district.

“She was the longest tenured employee that never got a paycheck,” her son Matt Kittelson said.

But through all her work, Kittelson shied away from the spotlight and never had much interest in running for elected office — though she was asked to run more than once.

“She never aspired to be in a leadership position, and I don’t think she wanted that,” Wayne Kittelson said. “She made the greatest impact behind the scenes and not getting painted into a particular philosophy.”

‘Always think about the kids’

}by: SUBMITTED PHOTO - Jan KittelsonKittelson’s entire life revolved around education, long before her family moved to Tigard.

She met her husband when she was in the seventh grade. He was the son of her favorite teacher.

She graduated valedictorian at Roseburg High School and as an adult, became an educator herself, working as a physical education teacher and track and field coach in Lebanon, Ore., and McLean, Va.

When she moved back to Oregon in 1980, she chose Tigard because of its high-quality public schools and dedicated herself to more than three decades of service, volunteering at schools across the district and working to better the community.

Her daughter Karen Hughart would go on to become a kindergarten teacher in the district.

“She always felt that she could make a difference,” Hughart said. “She always told me that you can make a big difference with kids if you focus on where the need is.”

Kittelson got her love for community service from her childhood, her son Matt Kittelson said.

“Growing up in Roseburg, both sets of my grandparents went to all the high school football games their whole lives,” he said. “She tried to create that here. She was always trying to do things to bring people together and give people a sense of pride in their community. For her, the schools were the biggest piece of pride you could have. If you had a good school system, you were doing alright.”

Throughout her time serving the district, Kittelson worked by one guiding philosophy, her family said: “Whatever you do, make sure you always think about the kids.”

‘All became family’

by: SUBMITTED PHOTO - Kittelson and granddaughter Molly Hughart attend the Tigard Homecoming Parade in October, 2012. Since her death, Hughart and Matt Kittelson have heard from several people who said they thought of their mother as a “second mom” to them and much of the community.

One teacher at Metzger Elementary called Kittelson, “the queen of Tigard-Tualatin.”

“It’s hard to find the right words to express how important Jan has been to the school district and to me as a friend,” said Tigard-Tualatin spokeswoman Susan Stark Haydon, who has known Kittelson for more than two decades. “She has been Tigard-Tualatin’s greatest volunteer and cheerleader for more than 20 years. She loved our schools, our teachers and our kids and did everything she could to make sure we provided as many opportunities as possible for them.”

Stark Haydon said there was hardly a week that went by that Kittelson wouldn’t call and ask how she could help, even if it was helping to set up chairs at an event.

“She showed how powerful someone could be by doing the little things,” Stark Haydon said.

Kittelson would attend every school activity and community event she could.

“I would call her on a Thursday night and ask what she was up to and she would say, ‘I’m going to the School Board meeting,’” Hughart said. “She loved them. She would say that she had to be there.”

Each summer, when students would graduate from high school, Kittelson’s schedule would often be booked, attending as many as six graduation parties in one day.

“They all became family,” her sister Kathleen Loomis said. “Her door was always open.”

One story, Hughart said, exemplifies what Kittelson was all about:

“She would work hours and hours to put together an auction for the Foundation (for Tigard-Tualatin Schools), and then she is the first one bidding on all the entries.”

Kittelson Education Fund

Kittelson’s children have started a special fund in their mother’s name to help students across the district.

“We wanted to do something to benefit the kids,” Hughart said.

Unlike a memorial scholarship, the Jan Kittelson Education Fund won’t be pigeon-holed into a specific topic, Wayne Kittelson said.

“There are a number of people who were influential in the district who have scholarships, but after a few years, a lot of the kids don’t know who those people were,” Wayne Kittelson said. “It felt to (Jan) like it gets to be automatic, where every year you give $500 for the same thing and how is that really having an impact on the kids?”

The fund will be more flexible, Wayne Kittelson said. It could be a scholarship for a student, help tackle “pay to play” fees for sports teams or go to help fund clubs such as Lego robotics competitions in elementary schools.

“It’s about how can we help kids in school now,” Wayne Kittelson said.

Her son Matt Kittelson agreed. “Mom always wanted to complete a need and focus on the individual,” he said.

“Her involvement started with us when we started school, but her desire to help didn’t stop when we graduated from high school.” Matt Kittelson said.




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