The Forest to the Sea

Jan Saalfeld

Born January 25, 1952 in Vancouver, WA

Died April 20, 2010 in Seattle, WA

As a child Jan was full of snake and tadpole catching, syn­chronized and competitive swimming spunk. In 1972 she took a summer job as a lifeguard at Coulee Dam National Recreation Area near Kettle Falls. Shortly after she arrived, a ne’er–do–well college dropout pulled up in a 1947 Buick Roadmaster towing a small sailboat. Joel also had a summer lifeguard position. In some odd way, Jan occasionally thought of him as a migrating fish, a sacred totem in the mythology of the Northwest and her family. Her father was a fisheries biologist who started out working in Vancouver, where Jan was born, before moving to Michigan to work with landlocked salmon in the Great Lakes. Within days, Jan and Joel were spending all of their off duty hours together.

After graduating with a degree in mathematics from Michigan State University, she moved out to Washington where she and Joel built a small hand-hewn timber framed cabin on land they had found with views looking north up the Columbia River to Canada and south to where the river vanished in the hills. They forged a living and wonderful friendships with locals and others with similar aspirations drawn to the area by the beauty and low land prices.

Jan was the first female forestry technician hired by the local Boise Cascade timber management team. When the work con­tinued into the winter after the road to the cabin was impass­able, she would walk or ski down the hill a couple of miles to where her car was parked, drive to the paved highway, and re­move the chains for the drive to work, reversing the process on returning in the evening after a day in the woods.

At the end of the 70s, Jan completed a Master’s program in forest measurements at WSU, creating log-scaling and cruising programs for personal computers. She then went to work with cooperative extension training foresters how to use these pro­grams. In 1983, Joel took a job at Campbell Scientific in Logan, Utah.  Jan finished up the job with WSU and moved to Logan, took off to Europe with her mother and sister, and a few days after a cross-country skiing afternoon at Thanksgiving had her son Ezra in December. The winter of 1983 set a record in Cache Valley for the number of days without sun and for continuous snow on the valley floor (the record was bettered the following year).  But the mountains were wonderful, as were the new friends and associates.

Jan started working at Utah State University and then at Omnidata International supporting forestry and natural resource applications on rugged hand-held computers. Ella was born in 1986 and when Jan could arrange a relative or friend as a babysitter would take a business trip bringing along Ella, still nursing. The children’s enlightenment, sports and academic achievements delighted her and she even took a crack at being a soccer coach.

In 1994, Jan was instrumental in the sale of the forestry market from Omnidata to the HarvestMaster agricultural research company. Jan became the director of this new forestry division and suggested the name Juniper Systems, drawing from the company’s Utah heritage. In 2001 she became Vice President of Marketing and Sales and a board member. The parent company’s name had changed to Juniper Systems, of which HarvestMaster was now a division. In June 2008, after being diagnosed with pulmonary fibrosis, Jan moved back to Kettle Falls to be at lower elevation and to enjoy a place she loved. She remained in charge of marketing and sales until January 2009. Jan loved her work and continued on as a Marketing Specialist.

At the end of October, Jan and Joel moved to a friend’s cabin on Camano Island to be within driving distance of the lung transplant center and closer to their children. Jan continued to work with views of eagles, otters, seals, seabirds and the occasional whale.

Jan’s immediate family: husband, Joel Greene, Kettle Falls, WA; son Ezra Greene, Vancouver, BC, daughter Ella Greene, Yakima, WA.

In Jan’s honor, please consider registering as an organ donor or making a donation to the Pulmonary Fibrosis Foundation.