Pillar of local motorsport community remembered after dying in car crash

NOW: Pillar of local motorsport community remembered after dying in car crash

SLINGER, Wis. (CBS 58) -- Family and friends are remembering Jerry Priesgen for his contributions to the southeastern Wisconsin motorsport community and for his warmth and kindness on and off the race track.

"Jerry was always a man with a kind heart and always looking for other people," longtime friend Jeff Wesell told CBS 58.

Priesgen was known as a driver, car builder and racing official. But most importantly, he was known as someone who cared deeply about his community.

"Very kind man, very giving and just had a sweet soul," Wesell said. "I mean everything about him speaks to hometown and what I as a person and what I hope others aspire to be."

Jerry Priesgen. Photo courtesy: Diane Mech Photography

Wesell and Priesgen shared their passion for motorsport through a radio show the two hosted together on Wednesday nights.

"We had a lot of great times with that, and I will for sure miss those evenings," Wesell said.

Priesgen died Monday, March 27 in a traffic accident. According to the Washington County Sheriff's Office, the incident happened around 1:15 p.m. at the intersection of Highway 33 and Alpine Drive. Officials say a car, driven by Priesgen, slowed and attempted to stop to turn onto Alpine Drive but was rear-ended by another vehicle and was forced into oncoming traffic at which point Priesgen's car was hit by a semitruck. Priesgen was pronounced dead at Froedtert Hospital in Wauwatosa. He was 61.

Jerry Priesgen (left) and Jeff Wesell (right).

On the race track, Priesgen wore multiple hats as an official, a mentor and fan of the sport. But it was one pink hat that made him iconic.

"It was hard to find him so it came into play, 'I'll wear a pink hat,' and the iconic pink hat will be forever etched in so many racer's minds that raced Slinger Speedway, Beaver Dam Raceway and so many tracks here in southeast Wisconsin," Wesell recalled.

Priesgen was known for sharing his wealth of knowledge and experience of the sport.

"Jerry was a walking encyclopedia," Todd Thelen, the owner of Slinger Speedway, told CBS 58 in an interview.

Thelen worked with Priesgen for several years and said his passion for the sport was invaluable to the southeastern Wisconsin motorsport community.

"People that are heavily involved do it because they're passionate, they're not chasing money, they just love the sport and Jerry fit that mold," Thelen said. "He lived, ate and slept racing."

Thelen said Priesgen's nickname was "The Bear" and his absence will be deeply felt in the upcoming racing season.

"[Priesgen] did everything he could do for not only the young racer coming up but the older racer on his way out," Thelen said. "Everyone was treated equally and as fair as possible and he just cared about everybody all the time."

Family and friends are planning on continuing to honor Priesgen's life and legacy in several ways, including a scholarship that will be established in his name in the future.

Jerry Priesgen. Photo courtesy: Diane Mech Photography Jerry Priesgen. Photo courtesy: Diane Mech Photography

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