Briggs: Thanks for working your magic, Jack Sand

The iconic local TV personality died last week, but he left his mark on my career, Forum columnist Tracy Briggs says.

Sand Jack.jpg
Jack Sand sits for a portrait Jan. 8, 1992, in the WDAY studio in Fargo.
Forum file photo

FARGO —We’re still a couple of months away from graduation season, but I think I’ve already decided what to get for the college graduates on my list this spring: Jack Sand.

Of course, you can’t give another human being as a gift. So let’s just say I’d like to give the wisdom, enthusiasm and kindness of this man who provided that to me shortly after I graduated.

Jack Sand, the beloved television personality, weatherman, entertainer and magician, died Friday, Jan. 14, at the age of 82, leaving the kind of mark on our community that few do.

I could tell a lot of stories about Jack, but my favorite is how he helped me decide what to do with my life.

I met Jack in the late 1980s while working as a weekend reporter at WDAY-TV. In those days, Jack was the weekend weatherman. I recall every evening he’d stroll down to the newsroom and comment on how I’d be sitting in my work chair, cross-legged, in a yoga pose, as I tapped out my script on my big blue IBM Selectric. I guess he found it amusing.


But occasionally, we’d also have a nice visit. A lot of people might not have realized it, but doing the weather was not Jack’s main job at WDAY. During the week, he was a successful advertising salesman. I wanted to know how he juggled it all, mostly because I was dropping balls left and right.

That year, I was working weekdays in public relations and fundraising for a local nonprofit and weekend reporting at WDAY. I was doing that because I couldn’t decide which career path to pursue. While I first thought I wanted to be a journalist “when I grow up” in fourth grade, once I was in college, a few professors burst my bubble.

They told all of us would-be Jane Pauleys and Edward R. Murrows that we better really want it. Journalism isn’t glamorous, the pay isn’t always great and we’d better be comfortable with working nights, weekends and holidays. They weren’t wrong. The professors told us to consider public relations — in most cases, it’s more money, better hours and fewer holidays.

Jimmie J.J. Walker
Reporter Tracy Briggs at Jimmie J.J. Walker's Fargo Walk of Fame ceremony during her weekend reporting stint at WDAY-TV.
Forum archives

Being a rule follower, I listened and figured I would dabble in both worlds, public relations and broadcast journalism. I was fortunate that I found two employers willing to let me do it. But I was exhausted — physically from working six to seven days a week, and mentally from knowing that I probably needed to make a decision on which path to take.

That’s when I asked Jack why he chose to work in sales and weather. He simply replied, "Because it’s fun.” That’s it. Because it was fun. I think he saw the questioning look in my eyes as I pondered whether I was having fun in my two fields of work.

He listened intently as I told him of my career indecisiveness. I weighed out the pros and cons. He nodded and then said, “But which one is more fun?”

Jack was like that. With a big smile, a kind look and just a few words, he helped me figure it out — not just with his words, but with the way he lived his life.

I think his higher calling was joy. Through him, I saw that if you could find a vocation that will help you spread joy and find joy, you've hit the jackpot.


Jack Sand the magician
Jack Sand with Gwendolyn, the weather duck who told viewers whether to expect a Grade A day.
Contributed / Special to The Forum

When a full-time reporting job opened at WDAY a short time later, I gave notice to the nonprofit. The work they did was, and still is, incredibly important, and the employees there, wonderful. They spread joy every day, but my heart just wasn’t quite in that position.

I found my purpose in the messy, unpredictable, adrenaline-filled world of journalism. My professors were right. I’ve worked every shift in the book, spent holidays ripping wire copy and know that some friends in high-powered public relations positions might have made more money.

But, boy have I had fun!

And as I say goodbye to another iconic WDAY colleague, my heart hurts, but I realize what a blessing it was to know and learn from Jack, along with Marv Bossart, Boyd Christenson, Don Dresser and so many others who are now telling their stories in heaven.

And you know darn well that Jack is still working his magic.

Tracy Briggs Back Then with Tracy Briggs online column sig.jpg
Tracy Briggs, "Back Then with Tracy Briggs" columnist.
The Forum

Tracy Briggs is an Emmy-nominated News, Lifestyle and History reporter with Forum Communications with more than 35 years of experience, in broadcast, print and digital journalism.
What To Read Next
Get Local