By Per Peterson
Fulfilling a request made years ago, Tracy resident Tom Dobson on Monday eulogized his late friend, Jans Visker, who was laid to rest after a funeral service at Tracy Lutheran Church.
Shortly after the death of World War II veteran Dick Donaldson, the Tracy community last week lost another beloved member of its community and veteran when Visker passed away at the age of 89.
“After my mom’s service, as individuals were leaving, he told me he wanted me to preach at his funeral,” said Dobson, a former preacher and son of Pastor Homer Dobson. “I had forgotten about that with everything else going on that day, but when Mabel and their sons came out to the shop to ask, I was honored to say yes.”
Visker was a member of the U.S. Air Force, as an airplane mechanic at the Roswell, NM, Air Force base. After returning to Tracy, he served the local school district as its transportation supervisor and bus driver. He also ran a service station in town, drove a mail route and was a volunteer firefighter for 20 years, all the while, serving as a member of the Tracy American Legion and Color Guard.
Dobson shared his memories of Visker, with his ownership of the old Gulf Station standing out the most in his mind.
“It will always be Jans’ station to me, no matter what anyone else calls it,” Dobson said. “(Jans’ sons) JD and Richard were my age, so since they had to be there, we wound up hanging around there. And hanging around the shop, I remember vividly Jans, sitting there with his head a little cocked so he could fit underneath whatever car he had on the hoist, with that cigar in the corner of his mouth, working as we asked all sorts of questions.
Dobson also recalled memories of Visker as a member of the Tracy Engineers amateur baseball team — back when the local nine played on a field now occupied by The Caboose restaurant. He said the team played much better than it looked, what with mismatching uniforms. Visker was a prolific pitcher as a youngster and also pitched on his Air Force fastpitch softball team.
“They didn’t have expensive shoes, their gloves were pretty well-worn,” said Dobson. “You could see some of these towns come in and say, ‘Oh my, look at this group.’ They were soon shocked at what they had coming at ‘em at the plate and the way that those gloves worked. They might not have looked like an organized team, but they played hard.”
Another sports-related memory shared at Visker’s service Monday came from former Scrappers football coach Gale Otto, who recalled a B-squad game played in Springfield. As Otto’s story went, Visker, who drove the team bus, ended up having to take over the game after the B-squad coach was thrown out for arguing with the officials.
“I wasn’t even there, but I heard about it from the players,” Otto said. “My assistant coach got kicked out of the game … so in stepped the bus driver, Jans Visker, and he was very proud of his win that day. I always appreciated Jans. He was also very good about assistant coaching on the varsity level when he and his pack would run up and down the sidelines, being very vocal and letting the officials know they were there.”