By Elaine Anne Watt
Karen Jackson is a woman brimming over with warmth and gratitude. In many ways, hers is the quintessential story of a woman who found her place, both in love and life.
A native of Vero Beach, Florida, Karen discovered her passion for horses early and began showing them by age seven. She attended the University of Findlay in Ohio, the number one school for horses at that time, where she excelled in “reining,” and was equally versed in English and western riding styles. After her father bought a horse farm in Florida, she returned there to finish up her education at the University of Florida.
Her other interest was fashion. Having been voted “Best Dressed in High School,” Karen moved to Wellington after college to be assistant manager at Lord & Taylor while spending the weekends in Ocala showing horses. Her adventurous spirit next led her to Fort Worth, Texas, where the lure of barrel racing and working at Neiman Marcus provided her next challenge.
Even though she was happy, one of her friends became a flight attendant at American Airlines and wanted Karen to come aboard too, so that they’d be able to travel around the country. Karen applied and was sent to D.C. for what was to be a six-month assignment with American before transferring back to Texas. That was not to be.
Not long after Karen had moved to Annapolis to do her six-month stint, a lady she met while flying suggested that she should visit Middleburg, Virginia, the heart of hunt country. Intrigued by the sound of the charming small town, Karen drove over to visit in the spring of 1988, spotting some pretty little purses in a window as she parked her car.
Walking into the store called Fox & Hound Trading Corporation, not knowing that it was its first day open or that her life was about to set a new course, Karen was greeted by “such a nice, sweet man.” Tully, “a very young 63” in Karen’s words, swiftly closed his shop for the day and took the “older” 25-year-old across the street to the Red Fox Inn for a glass of wine and conversation.
“We just became best friends,” said Karen. “Tully was such a fun person, always in a good mood and so supportive. We loved horses. We both loved to work and be busy, we had everything in common…it was easy.”
Not long afterwards, Tully invited Karen to dinner cooked by his 9-year-old son. “And, that was that,” she said. Karen continued flying with American for 17 years, right up until 9-11. “The plane that hit the Pentagon was the same flight I flew 60-70 percent of the time. Three days later, I would have been on that flight,” she said.
But, during those first heady days of their friendship and then partnership, Karen spent all of her available time in Middleburg and then took up residence with Tully “in a little apartment on top of Thomas & Talbot.”
Tully had first visited Middleburg back when he’d been living in New York running a major film company with seven offices worldwide and came here to do a film for the New York Racing Association. He’d always fox hunted, and for many years while living in Pennsylvania, had been a successful importer of horses from Europe for sale in the United States. When he “retired,” he came to Middleburg to enjoy the equestrian culture and lifestyle.
“He hated the store but needed something to do,” said Karen. “So he designed and manufactured leather luggage. I was helping out in the store, which was located next to the Shaggy Ram, when not flying, and I decided I wanted to add clothing. I started putting clothes in his shop and just took over.”
So, Tully and Karen next rented a little store, annexing the small side of Tully Rector’s current location to open a men’s collection. When the adjoining store, Thoroughbreds, decided to give up their lease, they rented the whole space, finally combining their stores into what it is today.
“We just stuck with it, investing everything in the business for the first 10 years,” said Karen. “We lived quietly and worked hard. I was still flying and working with horses, too, and we were happy.”
And, watching her, you have no doubt. A soft glow lights up Karen’s face as she recounts her time with Tully.
“We just worked well and played well together, and his children were just great,” she said. “He was just a wonderful person and so interesting. Tully experienced The Dust Bowl and Depression and served in the battle of D-Day. He had an amazingly successful advertising business that he sold to Westinghouse. As part of the terms of the sale, he had a non-compete for seven to eight years, so he restored and collected cars, particularly Mercedes. He spent time living in Rome and Paris. He was a Renaissance man. He was active in so many things, and then our lives here were just so blessed with wonderful friends, customers and relationships.
“If there is one thing that I wish that we could have done that we never did, it would have been to go to Paris together.”
Karen had majored in animal science in college, and she met “Kats” Clark when she brought her horses up from Florida to board. “I didn’t work for her, but I boarded my horses and started helping her out around her barn and the breeding operation. She was a tough, lovely woman. Tully and I were crazy about her.”
Even though Kats suffered a terrible accident that left her paralyzed from the shoulders down, she continued to live her life fully, and eventually learned to walk again. Fifteen years later, she had a second accident walking out to get her picture taken with her favorite horse, “Admiration,” who had just won at Deep Run in Richmond. This fall broke her neck, and she was largely bedridden for the last eight to 10 years of her life.” But, “she was so resilient, she wanted to live, and never stopped traveling to see horse shows and threw wonderful parties. She died on her 85th birthday with a big party planned!
“I felt like I was the daughter she never had, but she said, ‘No, we are like sisters,’” said Karen with a laugh.
Other happy stories of long-time customers and daughters of friends and students from Foxcroft who have worked and trained with her over the years easily flowed as Karen reminisced about her life here.
“We had one couple who came in a couple times a year whose son was killed by a drunk driver on the beltway,” she said. “She passed away soon after from cancer, and the husband was just devastated. He came in to give me a book after Tully died, and the next time brought a girlfriend. They ended up getting married at Goodstone and invited me to come, and I helped them find a house. I’ve gotten to go through lives together with so many people!
“I’ve seen a lot of change, but the town is still very much keeping its character,” she added. “We get great people, and last year we saw a lot of nice people from Salamander, which is good for the town.”
Karen has been fortunate to have two long-time assistants with her at Tully Rector, Darlene Weeks and Marilyn Bigelow. “I’m not very good at delegating,” she said. “I still do all the buying and book work because I like it that way. But, these ladies are amazing and have been with me for 20 years, and I couldn’t do this without them.”
Karen lost her beloved Tully in 2014, but her days are filled with the people and work she loves, her 10 horses and multiple Labradors that she adores.
“My mother (Marjorie Jackson) has told me that if she had to pick the perfect place for her daughter it would be right where I am,” Karen said. “I have a cute little store in a great town with customers that are friends. What more could I want?” ML