Jim Wisch stays busy helping Jefferson City community

This story originally appeared in the Jefferson City News Tribune. Read the full story at the News Tribune Website.

Jim Wisch has worn a number of hats — from engineer to business owner to hospital board member to volunteer to artist.

Although Wisch is retired, he finds himself very busy these days.Your

He oftentimes finds himself doing significant things.

Among all the other things he does, right now Wisch is overseeing the renovations at the Shikles Auditorium building for Catholic Charities of Central and Northern Missouri. Did we mention he’s a board member for Catholic Charities? He’s done that for 11 years.

“I heard that this project was going to be for sale at (Jefferson City) Parks and Recreation,” Wisch said. “I said something to the bishop, and he said, ‘Go, do it.'”

Wisch jokingly asks what he got himself into.

But, in honesty, he knows how much the community in the middle of Jefferson City needs attention.

“It’s great for the neighborhood,” Wisch said.

Back when he was on the board for Capital Region Medical Center (he served as chair for his last two years), the hospital conducted required community needs assessments. It found the area surrounding the auditorium is among the neediest in the city. More than one-third of the residents in the area didn’t have reliable transportation and couldn’t travel to the Samaritan Center in eastern Jefferson City to receive services, Wisch said.

That’s when Catholic Charities came up with the idea to develop the auditorium as a community center and a new home for the nonprofit organization.

Wisch has lived in Jefferson City all his life. He graduated from Lincoln University with an engineering degree and went directly to work for the Missouri Department of Transportation.

He lasted a year there.

“I sat behind a desk and looked out a window for a year,” he said.

He told himself, “I’ve got to get on the other side of that window.”

He found a job as an on-site engineer as Nichols Career Center was under construction.

Wisch stayed with that firm for three years.

“Richard Vaughan and I were having coffee one day and said, ‘Why don’t we do this ourselves or something?'” Wisch said. “He was a backhoe operator and did excavation.”

So the men started Wavco — Wisch and Vaughan Construction.

They also had Vaughan pools and a sewer division.

After working together for years, the men split the company up, with Vaughan taking the construction division.

Wisch, who has been married 49 years, eventually retired. He and his wife have three adult daughters.

They all help him stay busy on artistic projects.

While doing construction about 25 years ago, through necessity, he learned to create stained glass.

“We had a little accident up in California at a church and broke a window. The cost to repair it was exorbitant,” Wisch said.

He decided to replace the window himself and approached a local artist, who taught him how.

It became a hobby.

As did building model railroad scenery — not model railroading, just building the scenery. He does that to create landscapes for the couple’s Department 56 brand Dickens Village collectibles. They have 400 pieces, which they keep in a 20-foot-long glass display case Wisch made.

“I’m making mountains and valleys and trees and waterfalls and all that stuff for it,” he said. “We used to set it out at Christmas. That got to be too much trouble.”

Another hobby is woodcarving — but only for family, he said.

Although he can carve three-dimensional images, he prefers base-relief.

Among his works are a relief on one daughter’s natural-edge desk and a carved headboard with stained glass for another daughter.

“They’re usually wildlife. I’m big on wildlife and nature,” Wisch said.

While wildlife (oftentimes butterflies) are depicted in his stained glass, he’s more drawn to do religious pieces in that medium.

He’ll be creating (or has provided) three pieces for the chapel inside the new home for Catholic Charities.

Wisch said he has a large depiction of the Sacred Heart of Christ. The heart is often depicted with a crown of thorns surrounding it. Flames and a cross emerge from the top of the heart, and a spear is piercing it.

The heart could possibly stand in a large window between a big gathering space and the chapel, he said.

The chapel contains two arch-topped niches, each about 2 feet wide and 4 feet tall.

“I was just looking at them,” Wisch said, “and said, ‘Why don’t we do something significant here?'”