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Cheers to 90 Years - Cooksey: 'Just keep doing what you love'

Jean Cooksey, owner of Tonasket-based antique and second-hand store Jeans on 3rd, is proof that age is just a number.

Having recently celebrated her 90th birthday last month, she shows no signs of slowing down.

“The years went by, and I didn’t really feel old,” she said. “Then all of a sudden, somebody said, ‘You’re going to be 90,’ and I thought, ‘What happened in between?’”

From a small one-car garage to a full-scale store with several additional outbuildings, Jeans on 3rd offers a variety of everything, including her personal favorites: Glassware, teddy bears, kitchen items and what she describes as “unusual items.”

“I’ve always been fond of kitchen items and the unusual,” she said. “I tend to buy anything that nobody knows what it is. I would take it to a (antique) shows and whoever could tell me what it was, got it.”

“Mom and grandma started doing it together when mom was still working at the school. That would have been the summer of 1989,” daughter Susan Cooksey said. “They would go yard sailing and find things.”

Neil Helberg remodeled the one-car garage. That was the first shop.

Mom and grandma would also go and rent booths at different antique places here, in Cashmere and Spokane.

“They would load the car with new inventory and go to Cashmere to trade out their booths on Friday night,” Susan recalled. “Then, they’d go to Spokane, spend the night, get up early, go yard sailing, and go to the booths there. They had more than one, even at different locations in Spokane.”

Through the years her store has continued to grow and expand – offering everything from household items, knickknacks, clothing, toys and more.

In addition to her business achievements, Jean has a rich personal history.

She was married to the late Jerry Cooksey, and together they raised four children: Danny, Susan, Kenny, and Shari.

The couple met in 1954 in Pullman. Jerry attended Washington State College (now Washington State University) and studied animal science. He later attended the University of Wisconsin where he received a master’s degree in animal genetics.

He was stationed in Ft. Sam Houston, Texas, as an Army ROTC cadet while attending college.

He worked as an inspector in a meat slaughter plant and Jean worked in a secretarial pool.

The couple then felt the call to return to the Okanogan Valley. They moved into a two-story house in Brewster where Jerry worked as a fieldman for Chamberlin and Jean was employed by the Tonasket School District under the leadership of Ken Smith and Jerry Mills.

They eventually moved further up the valley, first in Tonasket and then to Loomis.

Along with raising their children, growing a garden and everyday housekeeping, the couple also had orchards and raised cattle.

“Dad only wanted to raise cows. And at that point, he had cows and alfalfa,” Susan said. “He still helped grandpa with the orchard and everything, but when grandpa passed away dad had to…take care of the orchard.”

In 1976 Jerry and Jean, along with their partners Bob and Lorraine Cook, purchased Bullfrog Mountain.

“We really didn’t get any cattle until ’76, when we bought Bullfrog,” Susan said. “Then we went from probably 20 head of cattle to 100, because then we had a lot of acreage.”

“You really learn a lot,” Susan said with a laugh as she remembers hauling water to the cattle during drought year.

When the Loomis school closed, students were transported to Tonasket. Jean would ride the bus to help keep an eye on mischievous children.

“There was one bus from Loomis,” Jean said, noting unsupervised children were known to get into trouble. “(They) were darned glad to have me there for more eyes.”

Jean enjoyed a fulfilling career at Tonasket School District, where she strived to make an impact on the lives of elementary students before her retirement.

“She was an aid at school and taught kids their multiplication tables and she did recess, too,” Susan said.

Through the years, Jean has cultivated a warm and welcoming atmosphere that keeps customers - from near and far - returning time and again.

“Here’s one from New Zealand,” said Jenni Clark as she began thumbing through the store’s guestbook registry. “There’s one from Nebraska, too.”

Clark has been at Cooksey’s side for the past five years helping her with day-to-day operations of the store.

“She is the creativeness behind all of the wonderful decorations,” Susan said pointing to neatly arraigned decretive household items.

“We’ve had a lot of new customers. There’s so many new people coming into the area,” Jean said. “We’ve had people from all over the world; probably every state.”

Jean’s 90th birthday is not just a milestone, but also a celebration of the values she embodies – following her passion, perseverance and community spirit.

When asked what her secret to happiness is, she said, “You just keep doing what you love.”

Jeans on 3rd is located at 233 Joseph Ave. For more information, see Jeans on 3rd on Facebook, or call  509-429-6264.



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