Columbus, OH --- John C. Cisna, 73, a member of the Board of Directors of the U.S. Trotting Association for 42 years and longtime Illinois horseman, died Thursday evening, Nov. 4, 2010, as the result of injuries sustained in a grade crossing accident in Douglas County, Ill., approximately 90 miles north of his Springfield, Ill. home. The vehicle he was driving was struck by a train.
The Douglas County Sheriff’s office said the accident occurred at about 6:52 p.m., central, in Bourbon, Ill., located in the western part of the county. Mr. Cisna was driving a pickup, hauling an empty trailer in which horses he had purchased nearby were to be hauled.
Union Pacific railway employees told authorities that they saw the vehicle and put the train into an emergency stop, but struck and pushed the truck about one mile. There were no gates at the crossing, but flashing lights were operating at the time of the collision.
Mr. Cisna was first elected to the USTA Board of Directors in 1968, and his nearly 43 years of service made him second only to Corwin M. Nixon’s 48 years, in terms of service on the Board. He was a long-serving chairman of USTA District 5 (Illinois).
“I knew John 60 years, since we were both 16,” Phil Langley, president of the U.S. Trotting Association, said. “He did as much or more than anyone for Illinois harness racing. He was a great driver and trainer, and was always working to further the sport.”
A native of Gladstone, Ill., Mr. Cisna was a graduate of Oklahoma State University. He financed his college education, in part, thanks to his first good horse, Hark Win, who was a winner of the Illinois State Fair Colt Stakes in 1959 as a 2-year-old colt. Active as a driver until 2002 and as a trainer until 2006, his racing and training activities were long centered in the Chicago area and on the Illinois Colt Stake Circuits.
For 21 years, Mr. Cisna was a director of the Illinois Standardbred Owners and Breeders Association, of which he was a co-founder, served as the group’s president for 10 years and was its executive director at the time of his death. He was a long-time vice-president of the Grand Circuit and currently served as a Grand Circuit steward for the Illinois State Fair. He was also president and a director of the Review Association.
Mr. Cisna was also a former president and director of the Illinois Harness Horsemen’s Association and was also vice chair of the committee which founded and then managed the World Trotting Derby in the wake of the Hambletonian’s move from Du Quoin, Ill. to New Jersey. For many years he managed Lincoln Land Farm, one of Illinois’ leading nurseries.
Promotional-minded and keen to preserve harness racing history, Mr. Cisna was currently involved in writing, along with Kurt Becker and Tom Shinn, a history of racing in Illinois and at the State Fair meets at Springfield and Du Quoin, Ill.
Mr. Cisna was inducted into the Illinois Harness Horsemen’s Hall of Fame in 1996.
Funeral arrangements are not yet complete. Mr. Cisna is survived by his wife, Gloria; and their two children, Stephanie and Brian.
Editor's Note: Click here to read a feature story on John Cisna from the August 2010 edition of Hoof Beats.