Obituary: Jesse Clarke Umbarger Oct. 1, 1973 – May 24, 2021

JESSE CLARKE UMBARGER Oct. 1, 1973 – May 24, 2021

Jesse Umbarger passed away May 24, 2021, at his home in Aurora, Colorado. 

Born to C. John and Kathryn Umbarger, the third of four children, Jesse grew up in Los Alamos, New Mexico, where he graduated from Los Alamos High School by the skin of his teeth. Not that he wasn’t smart; he was brilliant. Jesse was creative, inventive, artistic, and mechanical, and fascinated with brewing beer. 

From teenage self-taught chemistry, microbiology, physics, and engineering for his homemade kitchen product (which he learned was legal for him to do in New Mexico), to his completion of the Master Brewer Program at Siebel Institute’s World Brewing Academy a dozen years later, Jesse became proficient in every aspect of microbrewing including being certified to judge brewing competitions.

During his career, he worked as assistant brewer and head brewer at microbreweries in Albuquerque, NM, Pasco, WA, and Eugene, OR. 

He completed his AA with Honor at Lane Community College and Bachelor of Arts and Science in Accounting at the University of Oregon in Eugene and moved to Yakima, WA, to become a hops distributer for Yakima Chief Hops.

From there he connected with brewers in the western states including Hawaii, along with England, France, and Germany. This suited him perfectly because Jesse was full of life and loved being with people. His infectious laugh, crazy ideas and jokes drew everyone into his fun and silliness. Clients joined his circle of friends with whom he enjoyed snowboarding, sailing, kayaking, fishing, golfing, jamming, and just having a good old time. 

Jesse was so quick witted, he could create songs and lyrics on any topic on the spot, or parody any situation to keep anyone listening in stitches. He made the most mundane things hilarious, from his early-morning paper route (when he was ten he pressed “footprints” into the fresh snow across the hood of a customer’s car, so convincing they called the police on him), to shopping at Dillard’s (as a tall and lanky sixteen-year-old, he posed, frozen, on an empty manikin stand, shifting briefly as each customer walked by; we could barely stifle our laughter at their reactions). These are only two mama-memories; his friends and sibs could fill books with them.

An extreme extrovert, and jobless from early in the Covid year, Jesse probably suffered more than most in isolation. Still, his unstoppable creativity and humor continued. He pursued art; he taught himself to sew and created unique and hilarious masks; he added to his ideas for inventions; he made copious notes for a movie he wanted to write about childhood escapades; he created videos; he called people from his past that he appreciated; he zoomed and face-timed with family and friends, staying upbeat as usual. But complications from his diabetes became more frequent and acute, eventually robbing us all of his bright light and mischievous grin.

Jesse leaves behind his parents, sister Kristin (Steve) Keene, brothers Charlie and Aaron, five nieces, extended family and too many friends to count. One of those friends described Jesse as “fiercely loyal…a brother for life.” He filled our hearts and will be greatly missed. His ashes will be distributed in some of his favorite places by those who loved him.

Rather than flowers or a donation, we ask that when you think of Jesse, reach out to someone with a word or act of kindness. Let them know they matter. Everyone has a story; everyone has a need.

A memorial service will be held at Richland Lutheran Church, 901 Van Giesen, Richland, WA., on Saturday, June 12, at 2:00.

Celebrations of life are also being planned by friends in Eugene, OR., (soon) and Los Alamos, NM (August 7).