|11/25/2020 2:45:00 PM|
I've written far too many of these columns in the last year. Sadly, I suspected this one was coming sooner than later and on Sunday I learned another of my very good friends had passed away.
Don Jackson left this world on Saturday due to an inoperable brain tumor. Right up until the tumor was discovered, he was doing what he loved to do - working at the Island Park ball park. He was a fixture at the field, always maintaining the ball park, whether it was fixing a sprinkler head, ordering pop for the concession stand, trimming around the fence line, working on the bases, pitcher's mound or home plate. Don could do it all.
And I can say with certainty that even though some of the work he was doing at 80-plus years old was hard, manual labor, he enjoyed doing it, for a couple reasons.
First, and foremost, he enjoyed the work because he was giving youth an opportunity to play a game he loved playing in his younger days and a game he enjoyed watching his entire life. Secondly, Don took pride in working on the field to make Island Park one of the best ball parks in Southwest Minnesota - and it is.
I got to know Don through his son, Mike. When I came to Windom almost 37 years ago, Mike was still in college but was home during the summers pitching for the Windom Pirates. He was the ace on some outstanding teams at that time.
I would visit the Jackson household from time to time - OK, "a lot" in my single days - and, of course, got to know Mike's parents, Don and Loretta. Over time, I got to know Don especially well when he invited me to join the Windom Baseball Association.
Don's involvement in the community is unparalleled. When I came to Windom in 1984, he was still playing on a slo-pitch softball team. He also served on the Windom Fire Department for many years, including five years as Fire Chief. He was a fixture at First Baptist Church in Windom and, after being diagnosed with cancer, was a volunteer with Loretta for Cottonwood County's Relay For Life.
But it was his role with the Windom Baseball Association where I believe he most left a lasting community legacy. He was literally WBA President for life, not because he wanted to be, but because none of us in the organization could see anyone else better suited for the job. He was a true leader for the organization and had plenty of foresight when it came to projects. But he also listened to ideas and was the first to jump on board and lend a helping hand when a good idea was presented.
The WBA will definitely miss his leadership and direction.
Don was a diplomat, too. He could diffuse a potentially volatile situation with his calm and insightful demeanor.
What I'll miss more are the conversations we had as we drove to and from and watched a Pirates game on the road.
More so, I'll miss the banter and fun we had in the press box at Windom Eagles, Legion and Pirates games. While I did the public address announcing, Don was next to me running the scoreboard. I really enjoyed his insight into the game of baseball and discussions on projects that needed to get done at the ballpark.
We shared many laughs together in the box. He made watching a baseball game that much more fun.
Don had his hand in so many things at the ballpark. Often, if things needed to be done, he just did them. He had been doing them for so long, it was old hat to him. In recent years, he shared some of those things with members of the WBA, so hopefully, some of us will now know what, when and how some of the things he did, need to be done in his absence.
But I can guarantee that something will pop up and members of the association will look at each other and say, "I have no idea how to do that. Don always did that," or "Well, we all know who would know how this is supposed to be done." We all assumed Don would be around forever.
To Loretta and the family, my heartfelt condolences to you.