An Astoria resident and Columbia River Bar pilot died Sunday after collapsing aboard an outbound container ship.

Paul Jackson, 56, was known as an actor, a trivia master, a KMUN programmer, a clown and "everybody's best friend."

He had lived in Astoria since 1986 with his wife Charlotte. His adult daughter, Katie, recently started law school at Lewis and Clark College, and a son, Chris, works in California.

At about 8 a.m. Sunday, a crew member on the pilot boat Chinook boarded the container ship and attempted CPR. An emergency medical technician aboard a U.S. Coast Guard's 47-foot lifeboat also assisted. An HH-60 Jayhawk helicopter hoisted Jackson to Columbia Memorial Hospital, where he was pronounced dead, said Petty Officer Kurt Fredrickson of District 13 Public Affairs in Seattle.

Family memebers suspect Jackson died of a heart attack, but an autopsy is pending, said a fellow bar pilot, Deborah Dempsey. "He was everything to everybody, and all I wanted was that he would just be one of those things to me," Charlotte Jackson told Dempsey.

In 1993, Jackson, president of the Columbia River Bar Association at the time, tracked Dempsey down and brought her to Astoria as a bar pilot a year later.

"From then on, I always called him 'coach,'" Dempsey said. "He was, quite literally, my best male friend."

As she was moving to Astoria, Dempsey's husband became ill. So Jackson filmed Astoria so she could show her family back East the town she would be moving to.

"He was endearing. He was insufferable," Dempsey recalled. "He had such an inquisitive mind. He was a champion at Trivial Pursuit."

Jackson was a regular at Baked Alaska's trivia night and often won the pot with friends. He also frequented the Ship Inn's Chart Room. He was an Astoria Clown and a regular master of ceremonies at the long-running melodrama "Shanghaied in Astoria."

Jackson hosted Monday's "Good Morning Show" at KMUN and featured a "mystery guest" along with other trivia.

"Paul's kindness, wit, love of the absurd and broad knowledge base (which made him Astoria's undisputed king of trivia) will be missed by his fans and friends alike," KMUN's station manager Lisa Smith said in an e-mail message to KMUN's members.

He was always eager to try something new, Dempsey said. "He signed up for the class to learn how to knit, for heaven's sake," she said.

Jackson also smoked for several years. "He wasn't one to take care of himself and to admit that he needed to do anything to take care of himself," she said.

Frank Vollmer, a Foss Maritime launch operator, recalled Jackson's kindness in the "short time" he lived in Astoria - more than a decade.

"He was one of the nicest guys you every want to be around," Vollmer said. "I never heard him say one word of disagreement against one person. He's going to be dearly missed."

Caldwell's Luce-Layton Mortuary is in charge of arrangements.


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