John Leonard Thalacker | 1937-2020

After residing 58 years in Friday Harbor on San Juan Island, John passed away peacefully at home with his daughter, Tanya, and his wife of 48 years, Vicky Whitaker Thalacker. He had fought the good fight against multiple health complications. He was predeceased by his daughter Kristina, who died on July 30, 2018.

John was born in Ottawa, Illinois, to Rev. Leonard and Margaretta Thalacker in 1937. Two years later, they moved to rural DeKalb County, Illinois. In 1942, he went to live with his paternal grandparents in Westfield, Wisconsin, so he could attend kindergarten.

In 1943, John graduated from a one-room school in Hinkley, Illinois. In 1947, the family relocated to Deer Lodge, Montana, until moving to Bradley, Illinois, in 1950. John graduated from St. Paul Lutheran Grade School, junior high school in West Kankeekee, and Bradley-Bourbonnais High School (1952). He continued his education at Indiana’s Valparaiso University and joined the Air Force as a “90-day wonder”: the only private to be assigned to a WAF (Women in the Air Force) battalion.

John and his first wife had two children, Kurt and Tanya, before divorcing in 1970. He married Vicky Whitaker on July 10, 1971, and they welcomed Kristina Lizanne Thalacker on Dec. 19, 1973.

John was a licensed Professional Land Surveyor in Washington (1963), Oregon, Idaho, California, Alaska and Arizona. He worked in the County Engineers Department in Montesano until 1964, when he entered private practice in San Juan County. He founded San Juan Surveying in 1972. He has served as ACSM/NSPS liaison to the American Bar Association, Canadian Council of Land Surveyors, and the International Federation of Surveyors Select Committee. He published in numerous state, regional, and national journals. John has served as a Director of the American Congress on Surveying and Mapping and the Surveyors Historical Society. He also served as President of the Land Surveyors Association of Washington (LSAW), Chairman of the Board of Governors for the Western Federation of Professional Land Surveyors, President of the National Society of Professional Surveyors, and founding President of the LSAW Foundation (2007-2012). He served on the advisory Board of the Washington State Bureau of Surveys and Maps (1983-1994).

Locally, John was the President of the Jaycees, co-founder (with Vicky) of the Lutheran church, a Boy Scout Leader and active in local politics. He was an associate member of the San Juan County Realtors Association. John received many awards and recognition in his career. He is only the second person to receive the Lifetime Achievement Award from LSAW for a lifetime of contribution, dedication and devoted service to land surveying in 2018.

John had a remarkable career as a land surveyor and his impact at the local, state, and national level will always be remembered. He was a devoted husband, father and friend. He had a great sense of humor and was always telling stories on any and all subjects.

A Celebration of Life will be held at the 4-H building at the San Juan County Fairgrounds on Saturday, April 18, starting at 11 a.m. Memorials in John’s name may be made to the LSAW Foundation for the John Thalacker Memorial Scholarship in support of continued education for land surveying students, c/o Vicky Thalacker, 41 Griffin View Lane, Friday Harbor WA, 98250.