Arts community remembering Doug Jackson as an inspiration onstage and off

Funeral services pending for charismatic entertainer

Doug Jackson

Cedar Rapids
Doug Jackson Cedar Rapids


CEDAR RAPIDS — The Paramount Theatre stage where Doug Jackson brought such joy to 22 years of Follies audiences will provide the final spotlight for the charismatic entertainer. His memorial service will be held there at 10:30 a.m. Saturday. (5/3/14)

A wake will be held from 3 to 8 p.m. Friday (5/2) at Stewart Baxter Funeral Home, 1844 First Ave. NE.

Jackson — who drove Miss Daisy, rumbled out numerous pleas to “feed me Seymour” as the man-eating plant in “Little Shop of Horrors,” shivered our timbers as Capt. Hook in “Peter Pan,” guided Huck Finn’s raft down the muddy waters in “Big River” and bared his all in “The Full Monty” — died Friday (4/25) night in his Cedar Rapids home. He was 60.

He had battled prostate cancer since 2008, but kept working, kept singing, kept acting, kept dancing and kept living through it all, flashing his effervescent grin. He handled his illness with unwavering grace and courage.

As a reporter, my job is to talk to the people who knew him best. I knew him best. Everyone who knew him knew him best. He was everyone’s best friend, onstage and off.

Hundreds of tributes flooded Facebook as word of his death spread over the weekend. Messages and memories have come from as far as New York, California and China. They all said the same thing. Doug Jackson was the best person we had ever known — someone who spread joy with every step, every note, every wave of his hand as the music flowed from his soul.

Among the myriad social media comments:

l “He was and will always be an inspiration to me to be more kind, more generous, and always appreciate each moment that is given us to love this world and everyone in it. Whenever he was around everything seemed a little brighter.”

l “I’ve never met anyone else with the happiest soul. An extraordinary talent. He was truly one of a kind.”

l “The loveliest person to ever walk this earth. Show the angels how to sing, DJ.”

l “His kindness, friendship and his never-ending love for his Lord always touched my heart. Rest in peace, my dear friend ... finally, rest in peace.”

l “If Cedar Rapids had a King, Douglas Jackson would’ve been it.”

Jackson was born in Memphis, Tenn., and grew up in East St. Louis, Ill. He earned a degree in electronics from State Community College in East St. Louis, and moved with his brother to Cedar Rapids in 1979 to work at Rockwell Collins. At the time of his death, he worked at GE Capital.

He began sharing his musical gifts here in 1983, and right up to the end, performed at many charity functions, churches and on various stages.

He wowed audiences at Theatre Cedar Rapids, the Paramount Theatre and Brucemore’s outdoor stage in Cedar Rapids; Liars Theatre in Marion; Starlighters II in Anamosa; and the Iowa City Community Theatre. He also shared his love for music through KCCK-FM’s “Smooth Brunch with Doug Jackson,” a Saturday morning staple of jazz, soul and R & B tunes since June 2004.

He was a favorite soloist for the annual “Follies” and in March, his mere presence onstage brought cheers from the audience even before he started singing “Shout,” “Heard it Through the Grapevine” and “Old Time Rock and Roll.”

In October and November, he performed in “Jesus Christ Superstar” at Theatre Cedar Rapids, where he appeared in more than 30 productions — equally at home in musicals and searing dramas like “To Kill a Mockingbird” and “Fences.”

The staff at Theatre Cedar Rapids quickly responded to Saturday’s outpouring of shock and sorrow on Facebook:

Doug Jackson meant something unique and personal to every person he met. Always ready with the warmest hug and the most sincere smile, he was as genuine offstage as he was on.

“The first show each of us experienced with Doug was a lesson in spreading joy. He was magnetic, and you could not help but want to emulate that gift he was able to give each audience at every performance. He connected with every person he met, and made an impression that we carry with us.

“Today, we are collectively missing someone dear to us. We know he is in a better place, but we can’t help but feel a bit selfish to think we won’t be able to share one more hug, see that smile one last time, and listen to that incredible voice sing one more note.”

He was a man of great faith and a family man who dearly loved his wife, Janice — whom he married in 2000 on the Theatre Cedar Rapids stage — his three children, four grandchildren and a large extended family.

The rest of us were family, too. Not by blood or by law, but in the best way possible — by heart.

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