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Judge Anna J. Brown: “Fundamentally inclined toward solving problems” –Lifetime Service Award 2019

 

Adalbert and Margarete Jaeger family photo, 1957. Anna stands between her father’s knees.

Anna’s first language was the German she spoke with her family and later the English her sisters were picking up at school. In the meantime, Adalbert and Margarete attended night school to study English and the civics components they would need to learn to become U. S. citizens. After passing their citizenship tests in 1957, they each took the Oath of Allegiance in front of U.S. District Judge William East, never imagining that 42 years in the future their five-year-old would fill Judge East’s judicial seat. Two more children, Mary and Joseph, joined the family in 1958 and 1960. Around this time, Hugo and Lydia sold the dry-cleaners and, after a short stint with the new owners, Adalbert went to work as a janitor for Emanuel Hospital until he retired in 1974.

St. Agatha eighth grader Anna Jaeger.

All the Jaeger children attended St. Agatha Catholic School in Sellwood. All of them began working different jobs at a young age to help pay for tuition, uniforms, and to supplement the household income. Anna noted dryly that “child labor laws notwithstanding” she, her siblings, and neighborhood friends would board a school bus each summer weekday at four in the morning to travel to berry fields in the Woodburn area south of Portland. They picked berries until early afternoon, returned home, went swimming at Sellwood Park, and then repeated the routine the next day. By eighth grade, Anna spent her summers working as a live-in mother’s helper, a job she kept on weekends during the school year.

High School and Higher Education

The Jaeger daughters went to high school at St. Mary’s Academy (SMA), an all-girls Catholic school a public-bus ride away in downtown Portland. Anna’s classmates came from all over the metropolitan region, and she made multi-decade friendships there. The Sisters of the Holy Names who ran SMA made it clear that each student was expected to meet high academic standards and to engage regularly in community service, beginning immediately. During her first week there, Anna’s homeroom class was taken to SW Fourth and Burnside in downtown Portland to assist with cooking for and feeding the hungry. Although Anna’s father was quite irked the family was paying tuition “for that,” the Sisters crisply reminded him that service was a mandatory part of Anna’s Catholic education.

After the assassination of Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. in April 1968, Anna and some of her friends volunteered for Senator Robert F. Kennedy’s presidential campaign. His Oregon offices were just a few blocks from St. Mary’s. They answered phones, stuffed envelopes, and helped in any way they could, so they were excited just to be in the same room as Senator Kennedy on election night. Even though he lost the Oregon Democratic primary to Minnesota Senator Eugene McCarthy, they anticipated a better outcome in the California primary and were thrilled when he declared victory in Los Angeles. They were completely devastated a few hours later when they learned Senator Kennedy was shot and killed in the early hours of June 5, 1968.

Anna turned 16 that summer of 1968 and, despite the year’s national tragedies, she looked forward to the start of her junior year at St. Mary’s. Tragedy struck again, this time at home just before Christmas when her mother, Margarete, suffered a debilitating stroke. Anna’s younger sister and brother were just 10 and 8. When Margarete regained consciousness after several weeks in a coma, she was unable to speak and partially paralyzed.

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