ST. JOSEPH – BJ Hackler liked to keep busy.
He belonged to the Tea-Totalers of Saint-Joseph, a group of residents who meet in the afternoon for a glass of tea.
He volunteered for years with the Saint-Joseph Chamber of Commerce.
He served on the committees of St. Joseph’s United Methodist Church.
He was a member of the St. Joseph American Legion.
He helped serve as a district drainage commissioner.
He travelled. He fished.
He visited friends in his “man cave” which he built in his garden.
He was helping friends with their business.
And he loved to visit the town hall of Saint-Joseph, where he had been mayor for 36 years, and where his friendly face was a welcome sight to those who knew him so well.
âThe chief came to the office at least twice a week to check in with us girls,â said Julie Hendrickson, village manager.
After stopping, Mr. Hackler often took staff to lunch.
âWe often told him that he didn’t need to buy our lunch,â said Hendrickson. “Just having the opportunity to visit him was enough for us.”
Mr Hackler, who served as mayor of Saint-Joseph from 1981 until his retirement in 2017, died last week at age 83 after battling a short illness. A celebration of life will be held in his honor at 4 p.m. Sunday at the park named in his honor at Saint-Joseph.
Mr Hackler’s successor as mayor, Tami Fruhling-Voges, said the loss is difficult for the close-knit community to understand.
âBJ has been an integral part of this community for so long,â said Fruhling-Voges. “It will be really hard to think of Saint Joseph without expecting to see him somewhere in town.”
Amicable Mr. Hackler was always looking to the future, she said.
In 2004, he approached Fruhling-Voges about his participation in the village board. She said she was not sure whether she qualified for the job.
âBut BJ and a close friend were very convincing that I would be a good candidate and enjoy the challenge,â she said. âShortly after serving on the board for a few years, I realized that BJ had other plans for my future.
Mr Hackler appointed the deputy mayor of Fruhling-Voges and began advising her for the post he had held for over 30 years.
âIt was always a pleasure to attend receptions with BJ and amazing to see him work in the venue,â said Fruhling-Voges. âIt didn’t matter if we were at home here in Chicago or Springfield. Everyone seemed to know BJ “
St. Joseph residents Luke and Marlo Fisher said Mr. Hackler was a dear friend who shared his love of fishing with their daughter, Hannah.
âWhen Hannah caught her first fish and really started to love fishing, there was no one more excited besides her dad and then BJ,â said Marlo.
Mr. Hackler gave Hannah some items to fill her tackle box and bought her a t-shirt with “Daddy’s fishing buddy” written on it.
âHe wanted to go fishing with her and Luke one day,â Marlo said. âAlthough we haven’t had this fishing date, we will still be thinking of BJ every time we go fishing.â
Hendrickson said St. Joseph has Mr. Hackler to thank for his expansion and solid reputation in the state.
âI personally think that St. Joseph is the community that it is today because of the leader,â she said. âHe has worked diligently for 36 years to help shape and shape this community. “