Cover photo for Dr. Yaqub Nassif Karkar's Obituary
Dr. Yaqub Nassif Karkar Profile Photo
1926 Dr. Yaqub "Jack" Karkar 2023

Dr. Yaqub Nassif Karkar

January 21, 1926 — March 18, 2023


Dr. Yaqub "Jack" Nassif Karkar was born on January 21,1926 in Jerusalem, Palestine to Nassif and Evelyn Karkar. The second of nine children, Jack came from a very prominent business family, and grew up in the Katamon Quarter, which is located below the tomb of King David. From a young age he loved to accompany and help his father at their Flour Mill, Orange Groves, and Wholesale Businesses. Being from a Christian family, Jack attended College Des Freres, a French Jesuit School in the Old City of Jerusalem. These formative years in his education instilled a love of learning that would stay with him a lifetime, Jack possessed an incredible intellect that included a mastery of five languages. In 1945-46 he attended the American University of Beirut to study Economics and Political science. In 1947, with war imminent, Jack was sent away to study at Cal Berkeley, flying on one of the first PanAm TransAtlantic Clipper flights. While at Cal, Jack made lifelong friends - although he did that everywhere he went. A talented athlete, he and his buddies enjoyed many intramural sports - favorites being soccer and tennis. He was responsible for the formation and later became President of the Arab Student Association, helping and guiding students from the Middle East and North Africa during difficult times. He graduated '49 with a BA in Economics and minor in Political Science and received his MA in '50. In early December the following year, Jack was drafted by the U.S. Army where he was highly regarded for his knowledge of language, European and Middle Eastern history, and political insight (Language Institute - Fort Ord and Heidelberg, Germany). Upon his honorable discharge from the army he was offered work as an assistant to President Eisenhower. 

Jack's desire to share his knowledge inspired him to study for a Teaching Certificate, which led him to a position at the American University in Beirut. He loved being close to his family and traveling - finding himself at times in some very interesting situations - including being in Cairo the day the Egyptian revolution took place. He left by boat from Alexandria, Egypt at the same time that King Farouk was exiled to Italy. It should be said that he never missed any opportunity to visit and celebrate all occasions with his family. (Until recently, he could be found zipping out to CA with his favorite travel companion, visiting with his siblings and relatives.)

Finishing his commitment at AUB, he decided to pursue his Doctorate Degree at the University of Indiana, Bloomington - receiving a Ford Fellowship to complete his Ph.D. in Economics which he did in August of 1963. His first teaching position was at the University of Minnesota from '63-'66 and then landing at UW Marathon County in Wausau, Wisconsin.

In 1969, Jack met and married the love of his life Waltraud. Soon after they created the Central Wisconsin School of Ballet, and Central Wisconsin Ballet Foundation (Wausau Dance Theatre). Their fledgling business first took place at their home, then moved into a new state of the art studio. 

Together Jack and Waltraud were instrumental in the development of the Wausau Arts Community as we know it today. He and Waltraud brought in Milwaukee Ballet, Joffrey II, and Harkness to perform at the Grand Theater, a Herculean effort at the time. Countless accolades have been given over the last 50+ years of CWSB, including articles and mention in many publications, notably Newsweek, Dance Magazine, Dance Teacher Now, to name a few. Jack couldn't have been more pleased and truly loved being at the studio and theater. He loved all the students and visiting instructors -- many of whom have become like family. Jack loved selling tickets to performances and relishing in the beauty of the productions. All performances and performers were met with his absolute approval and delight. Most importantly he loved his time with Waltraud, which we know kept him going for so long.

A master at balancing his time between running the CWSB and teaching at UWMC, Jack also took great pride in introducing Soccer to the UW systems and greater WI community, sharing his lifelong love and skill in the sport. One of his proudest moments, November 5, 1972, was when his UWMC team won the championship (Coach Karkar never forgot you guys!). His many achievements at UWMC included serving as the President of the Wisconsin Economics Association, speaking at conferences, and publishing numerous articles for journals and newspapers. He loved teaching and sharing his vast grasp of many subjects. Some more of his most noted accomplishments include but are not limited to the publication of his book Railway Development in the Ottoman Empire 1856-1914 and working to bring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to speak at UWMC in May of 1967. Dr. Karkar would go on teach at UWMC for over 26 years, receiving the coveted distinction of Professor Emeritus and the almost equally coveted distinction of not taking a single sick day. 

He was preceded in death by his parents, brothers, Odeh and Michel, sister Stella, and son Michael Kasper. 

Jack is survived by his beloved wife of 53 years, Waltraud, sisters: Laurette Fraatz (Deiter) Berlin; Elizabeth Karkar, San Francisco, CA; Nadia Virani, Phoenix, AZ and brothers, Dr. George Karkar (Hala) Baltimore, MD and Dr. Maurice Karkar (Nadia) Mission Viejo, CA - who he rarely missed a day chatting with. Lovingly remembered by his sons, Todd Kasper, Madison, WI; Patrik Kasper (Stephanie Stella), Wausau, WI; Christopher Kasper (Nina Ricciardi) Hilton Head, SC; and daughter Annaluna Karkar (Dr. James Collison). Jack absolutely loved and adored his Grandchildren, Jack and Davis Collison; Evelyn Kasper; and Auden Jack Kasper. 

We would also like to mention the many nieces and nephews that he was very proud of and loved so much - Nassif and Eva; Iris; Nadeen, Hadeel, Tala, Diala and Tariq; Sami, Ramez and Dina; Jennifer, Rania and Reem, and Nadeem. Lastly, ballet/bonus daughters, Jeanene Russell Perry, and Margot Vetter Borger. You all were never far from his heart. 

A heartfelt thanks to Susan Carlson, whose love and compassion in caring for our parents is unmatched. Susan, you were Jack's favorite rose. Another thanks to Kim Smith for your kind hearted, and loving care and special thank you to all at Aspirus Comfort Care Hospice. And of course, much love to longtime family friends, Mary Marshall and Lois Freeburg Hagen.Clearly Jack touched a lot of lives, if we may have forgotten you, Jack certainly didn't. 

Similarly, Jack's accomplishments in life and family are impossible to list. We are grateful for the time spent with him, he did not dwell on death, rather celebrated life.

No services will be held at this time. In lieu of flowers, memorials
are requested to be made to The Wausau Dance Theatre Fund for the Dr. Yaqub "Jack" Karkar Memorial Scholarship at the Community Foundation of North Central Wisconsin, 500 1st Street, Suite 2600, Wausau, WI 54403. Found at this link:


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