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Tiffany was born Jan. 19, 1978, in Corvallis, the fifth of six children to Richard and Kathleen (Jenks) Johnson. She spent her early life in Philomath. Her family moved to Pennsylvania, for a little less than a year, after her dad got his master’s degree in nuclear engineering from Oregon State University, and then settled for many years in Los Alamos, N.M.
Tiffany and her family moved to Harney County in 1989, and she spent her sixth-grade year attending Crane Elementary School. The following year, her father took a sabbatical to England and brought the whole clan along with him. Tiffany enjoyed her time in England and traveling in Europe immensely. She made many long-time friends there, and came back to the states with a British accent that took her a while to get rid of.
The family returned to Crane in 1991, and Tiffany finished her school years at Crane. She participated in sports, and especially excelled at track, where she broke records for the 1,500-meter and the 800-meter, and took first in state her sophomore year of high school. She still holds the school record for the 800. While there, she also received the $1,000 Excellence in Recycling Award for starting a recycling program at the school. She was the editor of the Crane school newspaper, The Whirlwind, and was voted “most athletic,” “most artistic” and “craziest driver” her senior year. She graduated from Crane Union High School in 1996.
Tiffany got a track scholarship, and went on to obtain a B.S. in business management and marketing in 2001, a masters in economics in 2002 and a B.S. in physics and geology in 2004 from Portland State University, and resided in Portland the rest of her life.
Tiffany worked as a physical scientist in real-time power generation at Bonneville Power Administration in Portland from 2001 until 2012, when she left her job to travel and write, after having had a hard time dealing with her father’s death from brain cancer in 2010. Tiffany named him as the most inspirational person in her life, followed by Steve Jobs and Tina Fey. Her favorite quote was by Steve Jobs, and it sums her up quite nicely: “Here’s to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the round pegs in the square holes… the ones who see things differently — they’re not fond of rules…You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them, but the only thing you can’t do is ignore them, because they change things…they push the human race forward, and while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius, because the ones who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world, are the ones who do.”
Tiffany was extremely active. She loved hiking, skiing, snowboarding, camping, surfing, wakeboarding, and, of course, running. Tiffany continued to train for, and run in, marathons her entire life. She ran the Hood to Coast Relay one year with a team from Bonneville Power. She also ran in the Race for the Cure and many other fun marathons, such as a St. Patrick’s Day run, in which she wore all green, and had her face painted with four-leaf clovers. This is another way to show that Tiffany never did anything halfway, it was all or nothing with her. Her brother, Brett, recalls, “When I lived with her in Portland, she asked me if I wanted to go for a jog. About three miles into it, I thought she might slow down, but she didn’t. At the six-mile mark, I felt like I was going to vomit, but didn’t want to look weak in front of my sister. She asked, nonchalantly, like she had just got done brushing her hair, ‘How are you doing so far?’ I pretended to smile, and struggled to talk, so I just nodded my head like everything was alright even though things were getting fuzzy. I saw a no crossing light up ahead and was praying for it to stay red, but somehow Tiffany made it flash ‘walk.’ I mean, the woman just kept on going, like Forrest Gump. After that ‘jog,’ I had trouble walking for four days, and swore from that day forward, I would be very clear about how far we would be going on a jog.”
Tiffany learned to play the viola as a child, and as an adult, had been learning to play the cello. She said she loved playing the cello because of the way it resonated in her. She said the cello was the closest sounding musical instrument to the human voice.
Tiffany was a great friend, sister, daughter and aunt, and she absolutely adored her nieces and nephew. She loved to shop and loved buying gifts, especially for the little ones. She always had a kind word for anyone who was having a hard time with life, even if she was having trouble in her own. She loved meeting new people from all walks of life, and learning as much as she could from them. She truly never met a stranger. She also loved traveling and had been all over the world.
In the eulogy, her brother, Brett, noted, “Tiffany was always looking for adventure. She was outgoing, looking for the unknown, dancing with the dangerous, and sitting on the edge. You’ve heard the story about how ‘Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well-preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming, ‘Wow, what a ride!’ That was Tiffany!”
At the time of her murder, Tiffany was getting ready to take an extended trip, and intended to visit her old home in England again, as well as her old home in New Mexico, and a return visit to Thailand. She had just gotten her belongings stored away, and was saying goodbye to her Portland friends and family. She was also writing a lot, and working on a novel she hoped to eventually have published. She was very positive about her future and the part she would play in it.
Tiffany is survived by her mother, Kathleen Johnson of rural Harney County; sister, Jennifer Jenks of Hines; brother, Justin Jenks of McMinnville; brother and sister-in-law, Brett and Ryan Jenks of Waitsburg, Wash.; brother, Zachary Jenks of Bend; brother and sister-in-law, Jeromy and Erin Jenks of Washington; four nieces: Elina Jenks, Kaylani Kam, Sonora Jenks and Taylor Jenks; a nephew, Logan Jenks; and many aunts, uncles, cousins, other extended family and close friends.
She was preceded in death by her father, Richard Paul Johnson.
A memorial was held in the Crane High School gym Oct. 19. A second memorial will be held Saturday, Nov. 2, at the Westminster Presbyterian Church, 1624 NE Hancock in Portland, at noon.
Donations in Tiffany’s memory may be made to the “Tiffany Jenks Memorial Fund” at any US Bank. Money from the account will be used to pay for funeral expenses, and any legal costs the family might incur in the prosecution of her murderer(s). Any money remaining in the fund will be donated to the non-profit Tiffany Jenks Memorial Scholarship in Portland, which will be used to send child soldiers in Uganda to school to get a full education. This was a cause Tiffany had expressed an interest in supporting shortly before her untimely death.