Jake has fond memories of visiting his maternal grandparents’ 80-acre hobby farm in Canby when he was a young child. The farm was actually the largest private aviary in Oregon. “We aren’t talking about a guy with an extra parakeet,” stated Jake of his grandfather. In fact, the farm had over 1,000 exotic birds ranging from South African whooping cranes to peacocks to black Australian swans. Jake remembers a story about a barn owl his grandparents raised that would fly in the kitchen window and perch on the refrigerator. “The place was winding down once I was old enough to remember what I was seeing,” stated Jake. “But that little bit was probably what started me down the taxidermy path.”
Jake’s foray into taxidermy started with a how-to magazine, a video and a taxidermy catalog. In his sophomore year of high school, Jake transferred to Corvallis, just a short drive to a branch of one of the largest taxidermy firms in the United States. He was fortunate to be able to visit the branch from time to time. Jake recollects, “I was 15-ish with a dimple, so the ladies there gave me the run of the place.”
For the next few years Jake’s taxidermy was a lot of trial and error. At the age of 18, while hunting in the south Willamette Valley, Jake was fortunate to cross paths with a taxidermist who had received both national and world competition honors. Jake sought his counsel and the man obliged. From there, Jake spent most of his days helping out on the man’s property, but in the evenings, Jake would work on taxidermy projects with him. Throughout college, Jake continued soaking in what he could from his mentor.
Speaking of college, let’s wander a bit off the taxidermy path because there is something else very interesting about Jake that deserves attention. Jake attended Oregon State University on a full baseball scholarship. In his junior year, he turned down the Texas Rangers in the MLB draft. A year later, after a couple of Pac-10 All-Conference performances, Jake was drafted in the seventh round by the Colorado Rockies. He signed a contract with the team and another with Topps/Bowman. He spent three years in professional baseball before he was forced out due to injury. During one of his outings, he suffered a stress fracture in his shoulder. Jake would later need reconstructive surgery on his elbow.
During his time playing for the Rockies, Jake spent his first offseason living in his mentor’s shop. Jake would take on his mentor’s projects and any he could bring in on his own. He continued refining his craft during subsequent baseball offseasons while living in Cheshire, Oregon.
During spring training one evening, Jake’s dad mentioned joining the bank during the next offseason. “I remember him saying if I don’t like it I can just go to the next spring training and not come back,” recalled Jake. In 2007, Jake decided to take his dad up on the offer and has been at the bank ever since. While officially vice president of commercial and consumer lending, Jake simply describes his job as “cutting deals with borrowers no matter the type of loan.” In addition to underwriting loans, Jake finds himself being the “maintenance guy” and “errand boy” from time to time. In his role as a banker, Jake enjoys witnessing the success of others, learning the ins and outs of a business, and structuring loans to fit the customer’s model. Outside of banking, Jake has volunteered for various boards and committees and currently serves on the Oregon Dungeness Crab Commission.
Two years ago, Jake was contacted to help start and coach an American Legion baseball team. Being 10 years removed from baseball, Jake figured it was time to get back into the game. Coaching eats into his taxidermy time, but I’m guessing it’s worth it to Jake. Jake shared that he asked his young baseball players to search his name on eBay. “You should have seen their faces,” stated Jake. “Priceless.”
Nowadays, between coaching, three kids, his bank career and a hunting addiction, Jake’s taxidermy is strictly hobby-based, yet his dedication to the craft remains. He is currently working on a life-size bear. His prior body of work includes badgers, beavers, caribou, cougars, coyotes, albino nutria, otters, raccoons, porcupines, bobcats, squirrels, blacktail and mule deer, Roosevelt and Rocky Mountain elk, warthog, several antelope species, and an assortment of ducks, geese and upland birds.