Jacqueline Betty Strong (Leach), 91 of Comstock, passed away at home surrounded by her family on August 12, 2023. She was born in Kalamazoo, MI on January 10, 1932, the daughter and only child of Roscoe and Violet (Engel) Leach. She grew up on 40 acres in Comstock, learning at an early age to work alongside her parents. She was in 4-H, milked Jersey cows before school, raised pigs, and tended large gardens. When her dad got their first tractor, a Ford 9 N, he didn't let her drive it "forward" until she could back it up with a trailer and park it on a dime. She enjoyed music and dance as a young girl. That fueled her life passion to go to Western Michigan University to get her master's degree in music and art. Her desire for a music degree was so intense that she would walk three and a half miles to the edge of town to catch the bus to WMU, even in the winter with bare legs wearing a skirt. She had an older gentleman, Mr. Redmond, who encouraged her love of horses and found the first horse in her life, a thoroughbred gelding named Major. These were happy days for Jackie.
During early college years, she met Paul Strong, and they were married in 1952. They were married 70 years before he preceded her in death in March 2023. After graduating from WMU, she taught music in public schools until they started their family.
The next seven years brought four children to the family, Toni, Terri, Tobe, and Ted. Jackie found a lake cottage on Austin Lake and raised the family there. Jackie was the kind of mom all my friends wanted. To this day, I hear from those that knew us how jealous they were of our life. Her talent for everything she tackled was unprecedented. From her cooking, baking, sewing, knitting, and gardening skills, there was no comparison. She had many shoeboxes full of blue ribbons from the Kalamazoo County Fair for her canning and pies. Eventually she became the canning superintendent for several years. Picking fruit was a seasonal must. This led to us kids helping prep the fruit before we could go swimming. During cherry season, she made us homemade pitters out of a cork with a giant bobby pin stuck in it. Five-gallon buckets of cherries took forever on hot summer vacation days, but we learned to work from her and to do a good job!
She gave piano lessons in her home on her baby grand piano. She could play anything you put in front of her, and it would be beautiful. She was gifted with a clear soprano voice; she sang in church and was also the youth choir director. Often there were voice students and band solo kids getting lessons also. Always, there was music, even just on the stereo.
Jackie and Paul took the kids on many vacations around the U.S. Canoeing in Michigan, fishing in Minnesota, Yellowstone and the Badlands, Mammoth Caves, the Dells in Wisconsin, even cooking lobsters on the beach in Maine. Jackie continued travelling with Paul to Hawaii and Venezuela. Later in life she traveled to New Zealand and Norway with her spinner and weaver groups.
Horses came back into Jackie's life in 1970 and never left again. She shared that with me until the end. Early on, she had a Tennessee Walker she showed. She would ride in all the classes, even a side saddle class wearing a beautiful dress she made herself. When she was 48 years old, she got the endurance riding bug. We found a young Arabian mare, a.k.a. Sinnette, suited for the task. This mare was her partner for 30 years. They completed 4,000 documented miles together in races, winning many 1st places, high point, and best condition awards. She rode this mare into her 70s on rides all over the tristate area, Virginia and Wisconsin. Other horses came later and kept her riding for years. Later in life, she decided to try a mule and had mules for the last few years.
Jackie's creative side led her into the art world of spinning and weaving. She had a flock of fleece sheep for years. She learned how to card and spin the fleece, dye it, and used it to knit the most beautiful sweaters. Weaving came along at the same time with her joining the Weaver's Guild. Her weaving talents led her to juried art shows where she showcased rugs, table settings, scarves, tote bags, purses, and vests. Her generosity was well known. She would give her hand-woven bags to the mail ladies and others. The Sharp Sho guys would get pans or cinnamon rolls for picking up and returning her tractors right back into her barn. Every fruit season brought pie after pie to our house.
Jackie was preceded in death by her husband Paul Strong and their son Ted Strong. Surviving is her daughter Toni Strong (Roger Glidden) and daughter-in-law Michelle Strong; grandchildren Jospeh (Heather) Glidden, Martina Glidden, Lucas Morley, and Brooks (David) Layton; great -grandchildren Liam, Grace, Theo, David, Abigail, Seth, Hazel Jane, Redd, Rex, Ruby, Lu, Charlie Marie, and Samson. Also surviving are her son Tobe Strong and daughter Terri Irving; and their children and grandchildren.
A memorial for Jackie will be announced in the fall. In lieu of flowers, donations in honor of Jackie may be made to Compassus Hospice. Please visit Jackie's memorial page to share condolences and memories at
Mom, I love you and will hold you in my heart forever, Toni.