The Oregon Association of Nurseries is saddened to report the passing of Oregon Nurseries’ Hall of Fame member Jean Fessler, who co-founded Woodburn Nursery & Azaleas together with her husband, Bob.
She died December 22, 2019 at the age of 80, following a battle with breast cancer. A rosary was held December 26 at St. Mary Catholic Church in Mt. Angel. A Mass of Christian burial was held December 27 at the church.
Martha Jean Coleman was born September 16, 1939 in Woodburn, Oregon to Robert and Martha Coleman. She was raised in St. Paul, Oregon and graduated from the Providence School of Nursing in 1961. She worked for Salem Hospital and Newberg Hospital.
Jean married Bob Fessler on October 28, 1961, and shortly after, the young couple started Fessler Farms Inc., raising mink, cane berries and filberts.
In 1968, they started Woodburn Nursery & Azaleas Inc., which became one of Oregon’s signature nursery operations. They started by growing florist azalea liners in a 25-foot by 96-foot greenhouse. They added outdoor nursery stock in the 1970s and added pot-in-pot production in 2000. The nursery today has 401 acres in production, including 220 acres of pot-in-pot, 65 acres of outdoor containers, and 116 acres of covered production area (including 65 for azalea production).
The couple raised five children, all of whom became involved in running the family business. Jean managed the bookkeeping and assisted in the day-to-day operations until the time of her death.
The company celebrated its 50th Anniversary in 2018. In 2019, Jean and Bob were inducted into the Oregon Nurseries’ Hall of Fame.
A woman of faith, she was a member of Catholic Daughters of America and St. Ann’s Altar Society. She volunteered in church and school booths at Oktoberfest. She served on the Silverton Hospital foundation board. Jointly, she and her husband have earned many local community awards, including the Mt. Angel 1st Citizen Award, Mt. Angel Business of the Year Award, and Silver Spirit Award (Legacy Silverton Hospital).
Jean is survived by her her husband, Bob; children Tom (Debbie) Fessler, Rick (Melanie) Fessler, Karen (Ross) Jaeger, Sandy (Greg) Traeger and Jodi (Lance) Arritola; silblings Mary Ellen Wolf, John Coleman, Kathleen Macken, Jane Wavra and Bill Coleman; 19 grandchildren; and 17 great-grandchildren. Jean was preceded in death by her parents and by her brothers, Bobby and James Coleman.
Memorial donations may be made to St. Mary Catholic Church in Mt. Angel, Oregon. Unger Funeral Chapel in Mt. Angel was in care of funeral arrangements.