Jack Batzer dies after a household accident
August 22, 2005
By SARAH LEMON
Batzer, 89, founded one of the region’s largest construction companies in 1955
A local construction giant has died after an accident at his Medford home.
Jack Batzer, 89, fell and struck his head on the garage floor at his Canyon Avenue residence Wednesday. He lingered in a coma at Providence Medford Medical Center before dying Saturday at about 5:45 a.m.
“He spent the last day of his life doing exactly what he wanted to do,” said his daughter, Mary Jo Baich, 62, of Medford.
Batzer went to his company’s Medford office and talked to his five sons about an estimate to raise the roof at Kids Unlimited. He had just come home from the grocery store when his wife, Virginia, found him on the concrete floor.
Honored by local home builders last year for a lifetime of achievement, Batzer launched his company in 1955 from his former Holly Street home. While Batzer Inc. will celebrate its 50th anniversary this October, Batzer would want to be remembered for his innovative construction, generosity and commitment to the community, Baich said.
“There’s so many people that he mentored and who started their own businesses.”
Now headquartered on Ross Lane, Batzer Inc. is one of the valley’s largest construction companies and has operations in four states. In 1995, his company received the Skill, Integrity and Responsibility Award from the Associated General Contractors of Oregon. In 2003, Batzer was named Contractor of the Year by the Oregon Building Congress.
“He gave back to the community, and he believed in it,” said Jim Wright, vice-chairman of LTM Incorporated General Contractors, who worked in the industry with Batzer since 1963.
Born in 1916, in Royalton, Minn., Batzer left the family farm during the Great Depression. He worked his way through mills in Seattle and Camas, Wash., before joining the U.S. Navy Seabees during World War II.
He and Josephine Lee Hunter, who grew up in Medford, were married two months before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.
After the war, the Batzers moved from Camas to Medford, where Batzer built homes and schools for various contractors. Acting as superintendent for the construction of Hedrick Junior High, completed in 1955, led Batzer to start his own firm.
Batzer’s company built the Mount Ashland Ski Lodge and weather station and remodeled buildings at Crater Lake National Park and the Kodak plant in White City. Batzer Construction has worked on 17 church projects, ranging from First Christian Church in 1964 to the Sacred Heart rectory. He even took part in restoration work on historic Jacksonville buildings.
“He was one of the people who made Southern Oregon what it is,” Wright said.
Tough times hit Batzer in 1982 when a hitchhiker he picked up near Trail tried to rob him and Josephine. The man wounded Batzer and stabbed Josephine to death. The killer remains in prison.
Batzer remembered his wife as a “tremendous woman” who had a large role in the success of his company. Now led by Batzer’s son, Russ, Batzer Inc. is building the Harry & David Baseball Stadium at the new Medford Sports Park on Highway 99.
In addition to Russ Batzer, Batzer’s four other sons — John, Jim, Bill and Andy — are all involved in various parts of the operation. With the exception of his daughter, Laura Cate, of Irvine Calif., Batzer’s seven children all live in the Rogue Valley.
Reach reporter Sarah Lemon at 776-4487, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org