My great-uncle, Ted Jordan, passed away unexpectedly last week. I last saw Ted when I was five years old, when he came to Christmas in Illinois. I don’t remember much about our encounters that year, but I remember him as jolly and friendly, and had a genuine smile. Although I didn’t know him well, I’ve gotten to know him through talking to those who worked with him, cared about him, and were his family. Below is my memorial to him.
Ted C. Jordan
Ted Clarence Jordan was born July 28, 1939 in Chicago, IL, and died February 15, 2018 in Portland, OR at the age of 78 after being struck by a vehicle while crossing the street. He was the son of Erwin and Dorothy (née Mueller) Wischmeyer.
Ted grew up in Chicago, and the family lived for a short time in California. After Erwin passed away in 1944, Dorothy married Waldemar “Wally” G. Jordan in 1949. Ted and his sister were officially adopted by their stepfather and they changed their last names to Jordan. They all moved to Seattle, WA in June of 1949. He graduated from Roosevelt High School in Seattle in 1959. He lived in several cities, including Pescadero and San Diego, and ultimately settled in Portland, Oregon in about 1972. During that time, he also loved traveling with his parents and sister, and they visited sights like the Grand Canyon and Door County, WI. Ted played in an accordion band, and loved to sing and act.
In Portland, Ted worked at Lewis and Clark College as a “Bon Appetit employee extraordinaire.” He was known as “Yogi” and was beloved by the students. (He apparently earned the nickname Yogi when he was growing up and playing baseball with some neighborhood friends. They said “hit the ball like Yogi” and the name stuck.) He took pride in his work and became the steadfast friendly and smiling face that welcomed the students every day as they ate their meals. The would affectionately refer to the Lewis and Clark students as “my kids,” even if they had graduated a long time ago and had kids of their own. He encouraged the students by handing out balloons, jokes, and smiles. He especially enjoyed giving out Mickey Mouse balloons. One of his coworkers, Ryan Jensen said, “Most people on campus have fond memories of Ted handing out balloons and welcoming students every day, attending arts and athletic events, and offering his generous smile to all of us. He was a fixture of campus life that can never be replaced.” When Ted encountered some financial difficulties, the students helped him get on his feet again by starting a GoFundMe campaign. The funds helped him stay in his apartment and help with daily living expenses. He worked at the college for nearly 40 years.
His kindness and generosity extended beyond the community college campus. He built friendships with people everywhere he went. He was well known all around Portland as he walked and used the public transit to attend every cultural event, dinner, and classical concert he could find. He loved to meet new people and hear their stories. He knew every part of Portland, and knew how to get anywhere using the bus, tram or train. In the summer, he loved the freedom of traveling in the areas around Portland, and to enjoy the mountains and fresh air. He dreamed of traveling abroad to London or Australia. Ted also loved music. He believed that “the most important thing a parent can do is get their child an instrument.” In his early years, he played cymbals for the Lewis and Clark pep band, and especially enjoyed a cappella groups on campus. He still had dreams of learning to play the organ at Flanagan Chapel at Lewis and Clark, and Grace Lutheran Church, his home congregation. At the end of his memorial service, the organist played Ted’s two favorite organ arrangements, which are full of joy and energy.
He had been a member of Grace Lutheran Church ever since he arrived in Portland in the early 1970’s. He loved his family there, and had a profound and joyful faith. His pastor Thad Bitter said that those who knew him knew how blessed he was. His “unique sense of fashion” and his rough exterior was just a shell to the beautiful, joyful soul that he had. The pastor described Ted as a beautiful flower that was planted in an old rusty pail. The flower didn’t match his temporary container, and could only grow so big while in its small pail. After death, Ted’s flower has now been transplanted into the heavenly garden and can flourish on its own. He had the unique ability to be content with whatever circumstances that he was in, and to share his joy for life with others. In his faith, he lived ready to meet his Savior, and didn’t let his earthly troubles discourage him from sharing his faith and joy for life. One of the hymns during his memorial service seems to describe his life well, saying “When peace like a river attendeth my way, Whenever sorrows like sea billows roll — Whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say, It is well, it is well with my soul.”
Ted touched so many lives through his friendship and enthusiasm for life. Fellow members of his congregation described him as “the nicest man I’ve ever met,” and “very knowledgeable about people and Portland.” He was beloved by students, who said “Thanks for being you Yogi!” and “For the years of jokes, balloons, and words of encouragement.” and “Thank you for creating a friendly and safe environment in the Bon, and for working so tirelessly day in and day out. You’re one of my favorite parts of this school.” He was clearly an important part of daily life for both his “kids” and his coworkers at Lewis and Clark. His coworkers at Bon Appetit wrote to him saying, “The kitchen is not the same without you. Know you are loved. We all carry you in our heart.” and “You are a shining example of someone who enjoys life.” Another coworker wrote, “Your conversations, personality and balloons are an essential piece of the cafeteria. We are all missing you…”
Every year on February 14, he would sing “Happy Birthday” to the state of Oregon. Unfortunately, he was unable to sing for Oregon this year, but I know he inspired others to continue the tradition. He passed away the following day, on February 15. He will be greatly missed by his friends, family, students, congregation, and coworkers!
Ted is survived by his sister, two nephews, four great-nieces, and five first cousins. He is preceded in death by his father Erwin Wischmeyer; his mother Dorothy (Mueller) Wischmeyer Jordan; his stepfather Waldemar (aka Wally) G. Jordan; his cousins Rowena (Jordan) Koshinski, Elbert Jordan, and Jim Diener; and his niece Jean (Weil) Wensink. He is also remembered by his Grace Lutheran Church family, his Bon Appetit and Lewis and Clark family, and his countless friends.
A celebration of Ted’s life was held at Grace Lutheran Church on Monday, February 19th at 3:00 pm. He will be buried in the family plot in St. Luke Cemetery in Chicago, IL.
- “Home Sweet Bon: Get to Know Ted.” by Miranda Shakes. Pioneer Log, Lewis and Clark College, Portland, Oregon. 19 Feb 2015. http://www.piolog.com/2015/02/19/home-sweet-bon-get-to-know-ted/
- “Beloved Lewis and Clark cafeteria worker who served students for 4 decades dies.” by Lizzy Acker. The Oregonian, Portland, Oregon. 16 Feb 2017. http://s.oregonlive.com/QmJWP9C
- “Lewis and Clark Students, alumni save affable food service worker from eviction.” by Eder Campuzano. The Oregonian, Portland, Oregon. 23 Mar 2017. http://www.oregonlive.com/trending/2017/03/lewis_and_clark_students_alumni_save_ted_yogi_shakes_from_eviction.html
- “Students, alumni save longtime Lewis and Clark food services employee from eviction” by The Oregonian. Video. 22 Mar 2017. https://youtu.be/Z6_6A-VFxks
- Facebook posts by Grace Lutheran Church, 16 Feb 2018 and 13 Feb 2018.
- Memorial Service for Ted Jordan, 19 Feb 2018, 3 pm at Grace Lutheran Church, Portland, OR.
- All family photos are Wischmeyer/Jordan family photos, privately held by Paul Weil.