Recollections: Remembering Jack Hackman
By Thom Gerretsen
Continued from previous edition
In all those years, there was only one time I saw him truly angry. When I couldn’t get a live broadcast to work from the city’s police station, Jack didn’t accept my excuse that the building had lots of wiring and possible interference with emergency radio signals. He called me, our program director, our chief engineer, and anyone else with programming responsibilities into his office, and he said angrily, “I’ve done 1,500 basketball games and I never had a problem” getting a signal out. Fifteen-hundred might have been exaggerating, but that was not the point.
I didn’t arrive in Marshfield until after Jack represented much of the east side on the Common Council. But, as chairman of the city’s Library Board in the 1980s, I had a front row seat as he used the “bulldog” in him to push for an expansion of the original library building erected in the 1950s at Second & Maple. The expansion prevailed, in the face of critics who pointed out that street improvements and police and fire services were much more important uses of the city’s limited tax dollars.
Also, I can never remember when Jack wasn’t involved in the Marshfield Area Chamber of Commerce & Industry in some way. I was honored to be his first employee to take part in Leadership Marshfield, as a member of the program’s third class in 1995.
Jack and our former Goetz Broadcasting chain of 15 radio stations were trailblazers in Wisconsin – and he encouraged me in that regard. His induction into the Wisconsin Broadcasters Association Foundation’s Hall of Fame in 1995 was more than deserved. He set up one of the first statewide audio networks in which Madison correspondent Jeff Roberts gave us state government news, and stations throughout the state contributed “sound bites” through WTMJ-Milwaukee’s network for its Brewers’ broadcasts. Jack’s efforts resulted in my covering three Super Bowls and the 2002 Major League Baseball All-Star Game for that network.
He also supported my involvement as the 1977-78 chairman of the WBA’s state News Council; the presidency of the Wisconsin Associated Press Broadcasters from 1991-93; and more than a decade of service on the state’s Freedom of Information Council. I drove to Madison four times a year for those meetings, and I always stopped at the State Capitol to see my legislators and learn more about how the “sausage” was put together. In 1995, I stayed almost all night to witness the dramatic ending of the Senate’s rejection and then approval of a local sales tax to build the Brewers’ Miller Park. Senator George Petak switched his no vote at the last minute so it could pass.
Jack also made sure that Marshfield met Paul Harvey. WDLB-AM and its FM station at the time, WLJY, aired Harvey’s daily ABC Radio news and commentary programs including “The Rest of the Story.” And in the 1990s, Jack and Goetz Broadcasting owner Nate Goetz showed him the state’s tallest radio tower that Goetz himself had a hand in building for WLJY. Harvey also made a speaking appearance at Marshfield High School — and on the following Saturday, Harvey’s 15-minute noon broadcast included a nationwide salute that aired for several minutes in which he talked about Marshfield, the radio tower, and WDLB.
I’ll always be fond of Jack Hackman. Until a couple years ago, he called me every year just to wish me a happy birthday. He and his wife Joanie were such wonderful, God-loving people. I am blessed beyond blessed to have known them both.