John Kenneth Wackman died suddenly of an apparent heart attack on January 8 at his home in Kingston, New York. Born December 1, 1951, in New York City, John graduated from the Hackley School in Tarrytown, NY, and attended Davidson College in North Carolina. He graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with a bachelor’s degree in natural resources analysis and a master’s in communication arts.
After a happy stint with K.I.D.S, a Madison-based children’s theater group, he began his career in television production, first with Madison’s NBC affiliate. In 1987 he accepted a position with New Hampshire Public Television in Durham and moved with his family to the Seacoast, settling in Portsmouth. John eventually became NHPTV’s Executive Producer, working on NH Crossroads with Fritz Wetherbee, The Making of Ken Burns’ Baseball, and Ciao Italia. Later, in New York City he became co-creator of Hallmark Channel’s daily show, New Morning.
Following retirement from his TV career, John pursued his other passions and interests. In 2008, he recorded an album of original songs, Woods & Clearings. In 2012, he graduated with honors from the Connecticut Center for Massage Therapy and began working as a massage therapist focusing on patients with serious illness.
In his next and ultimately final act, John became deeply involved in community work throughout the Hudson Valley. He founded one of the first Repair Cafes in the United States, launching a movement that spread throughout the region. His love of film and music led to service on the board of the Rosendale Theatre. He worked as coordinator for the Solarize Hudson Valley campaign and served on Sustainable Hudson Valley’s board. Additionally, he participated in the Ulster County Climate Smart Commission and Zero Waste initiative. Finally, October 2020 saw the publication of John’s first book Repair Revolution: How Fixers Are Transforming Our Throwaway Culture (coauthored by Elizabeth Knight). In all of his positions and throughout his life, John always sought to bring people together, share their joy, and highlight their accomplishments.
John is survived by his children, Nathaniel K.S.Wackman (Shewanna) of Chicago, and Lucy S.S.Wackman of Kittery, and his grandchildren Nicholas and Zoe of Chicago; his partner, Holly Shader; his former wife, Susan Sinnott; his sister Anne W. Oros (John), brother Christopher B. Wackman (Nancy) and many beloved nieces, nephews, cousins, and dear friends from all parts of his life.
A private burial took place on January 13 at the Rosendale Plains Cemetery Natural Burial Ground, Rosendale, NY. His family looks forward to gathering at a future date to celebrate John’s inextinguishable bright light.
Donations to the Repair Cafe of the Hudson Valley and Catskills can be made in John’s honor through Sustainable Hudson Valley, the project’s fiscal sponsor, online (specifying Repair Café as your chosen project) or by mail c/o Post Office Box 3364, Kingston, NY 12402 with “Repair Cafe” in the subject line.