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Jack Hankins dies

July 19, 2006

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Illinois Harness Horsemen’s Association (IHHA) Hall of Fame member Jack Hankins, also a founding director of the IHHA, died Monday, July 17, after a long struggle with Parkinson’s disease. He was 80.

Mr. Hankins, along with his wife, Joyce, was inducted in the Illinois Hall of Fame in 1989, becoming the first married couple to join that esteemed group.

Mr. Hankins began driving harness horses in 1945 at Terre Haute, Ind., and then met Joyce Burright, daughter of Hall of Fame Immortal Neva “Grandma” Burright, in 1946 at the opening of Maywood Park. When married in 1948 the newlyweds shared a barn at Indianapolis with Hall of Famers Sep Palin, George Sholty, and Doug Ackerman.

After a four-year stint as the private trainer for the powerful Dougherty Stables, Hankins and his wife opened a public stable in Chicago and raced such top horses as Dr. Hyslop, Crazy Otto, Ross Abbe, Kim Creed, Royal Escort, Dandy Randy, Ozanna, Que’s Mystery, Tank, Ozark Jimmy, and Identa Hour.
He was also highly sought after as a catch-driver, and drove for many of the top Grand Circuit trainers when stakes commitments conflicted.

For maintaining their barn as a showplace for all State Fairgoers and visiting dignitaries for over 40 years, Illinois Governor Jim Edgar, in 1995, proclaimed Barn 41 at the Illinois State Fairgrounds the “Hankins Barn” after the Illinois Senate and House of Representatives had so voted.

Mr. Hankins is survived by his sons, Ross and Kim, the latter a former five-term president of the IHHA. He is also survived by five grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. He was preceded in death by his beloved wife, Joyce, in 1994.

Visitation will be offered on Wednesday, July 19, between 5 p.m. and 8 p.m. (EDT) at the Shelby Funeral Home in Covington, Ind., and funeral services will be conducted at noon on Thursday, July 20. Memorial contributions should be sent to the Christian Harness Horsemen’s Association, of which Hankins was a longtime member.
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