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John "Jack" Charles Van Berg

June 7, 1936 December 27, 2017
John "Jack" Charles Van Berg
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Obituary for John "Jack" Charles Van Berg

John ‘Jack’ Charles Van Berg, 81, of Hot Springs, Arkansas, passed away December 27, 2017 at Baptist Health Medical Center after a lengthy battle with cancer. He was born June 7, 1936 in Columbus, Nebraska to Marion H. and Viola Van Berg.

Van Berg followed in his father’s footsteps and obtained his trainer’s license at the age of 15. His list of accomplishments is endless - leading trainer at Ak-Sar-Ben Racetrack for 19 consecutive years, set a record for the most wins in a single year with 496, and stands 4th on the all-time list of thoroughbred trainers by wins according to Equibase.

One of the first horses that put Van Berg on the national scene was 1984 Preakness winner, Gate Dancer. He earned the Eclipse Award for Outstanding Trainer in 1984 and was inducted into the National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame the following year. He was also the first trainer in the industry to saddle 5000 career wins - achieving that feat in 1987. That same year, he also saddled Alysheba to win the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes. Alysheba would also win the Breeders’ Cup Classic the following year, would earn three Eclipse Awards and was inducted alongside his trainer in the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame.

Van Berg mentored numerous successful horsemen during his career: Joe Petalino, Billy Gowan, Kellyn Gorder, Wayne Catalano, Frankie Brothers, and Hall of Famer Bill Mott.

Van Berg’s life was the subject of the book “Jack- From Grit to Glory. A Lifetime of Mentoring, Dedication and Perserverance. The True Story of Jack Van Berg, An American Horse Racing Legend” authored by Chris Kotulak. Nick Nolte’s character, William Smith, in the HBO series “Luck” was based on Jack Van Berg. Nolte spent approximately 7 months with Van Berg to learn his quirks and mannerisms to get into character.

Van Berg was known for his tough “John Wayne” no-nonsense exterior, but was a kind gentle soul at heart with a true love and compassion for animals. He never met a stranger and was known for taking time to share stories of his tales and experience.

He is predeceased in death by his parents Marion and Viola Van Berg, partner Liza G. Fly, son Tim Van Berg and siblings Elwin “Bud” Van Berg, Eleanor Loshbaugh, Helen Smith, Betty Scholz, Wilma Marquardt, Alyce Cummings, Jean Chase.

He is survived by sister, Virginia Smith of Columbus, Nebraska; daughters: Traci (Rich) Hoops of Boulder, Colorado, Tami (Rick) Hoegerl of Denver, Colorado, Tori Van Berg of Ownensboro, Kentucky; son, Tom (Angi) Van Berg of Louisville, Kentucky, and daughter-in-law Sandy Van Berg of Mesa, Arizona; ex-wife and friend, Helen Van Berg of Hot Springs, Arkansas; stepson, Billy Fieselman of Hot Springs, Arkansas; stepdaughter, Tonya Hass of Little Rock, Arkansas; granddaughters: Brooke Watson - Turley, Brittany Tarkington, Lexi Hoops, Payton Hoops, McCall Hoops, Remi Hoops; grandsons: Dustin Hoegerl, Chaz Hoegerl, T.J. Van Berg, Tanner Van Berg, Tyler Van Berg, Heath Dobbs; great- grandchildren: Ashtyn Watson, Layne Turley, Paizlee Turley; and step-grandson Daniel Fieselman of Louisville, Kentucky. He also leaves behind longtime assistant Sammy Almarez, ranch manager Arnold Almarez, dedicated owners, legions of adoring racing fans, countless friends, and three beloved rescue dogs: Buster, Emmy Lou and Rosebud.

Visitation will be 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. Monday, January 8, at Caruth-Hale Funeral Home Chapel.

Funeral services will be 2:00 p.m. Monday, January 8 at Horner Hall in Hot Springs Convention Center. At Jack’s request’s, please come dressed in your favorite jeans and cowboy boots aka “Cowboy casual.”

In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made to the Humane Society of Garland County or the Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance. Jack was passionate about WHOA (Water Hay Oats Alliance). He wanted to encourage everyone to support the cause for clean racing to protect our horses, the breed, the jockeys and our future.

To send flowers or a remembrance gift to the family of John "Jack" Charles Van Berg, please visit our Tribute Store.

Previous Events





9:00 AM 1/8/2018 9:00:00 AM - 12:00 PM 1/8/2018 12:00:00 PM
Caruth-Hale Funeral Home

155 Section Line Road
Hot Springs, AR 71913

Caruth-Hale Funeral Home
155 Section Line Road Hot Springs 71913 AR
United States





2:00 PM 1/8/2018 2:00:00 PM
Horner Hall - Hot Springs Convention Center

134 Convention Blvd
Hot Springs, AR 71901

Horner Hall - Hot Springs Convention Center
134 Convention Blvd Hot Springs 71901 AR
United States

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