John

Found a Way Through Music


John grew up in Storm Lake, Iowa, where his family attended Lakeside Presbyterian Church. 

Not going to church was never an option.  My parents were very committed to their faith.  When I was nine my dad died.  My mom carried on their encouragement of my church involvement.  Her dedication to missions – especially Native Americans in the west – always had her sewing clothes to be sent away.  Her example of living will always remain with me.

His fondest memories are the youth program he grew up in. 

His favorite Bible verse is  Ephesians 2: 8-9. 

For it is by his grace you are saved, through trusting him; it is not your own doing.  It is God’s gift, not a reward for work done.

John changed majors each year he was in college, moving from Math, to Physics, to Sociology, and finally Music in his senior year.  He then worked as a band director in Wadena for 32 years, his only teaching job, and a piano tuner/technician.

John married Wendy, a Lutheran, and also a band director. Her real love was her piano studio and teaching those skills to many kids (and a few adults).  They attended Immanuel Lutheran Church in Wadena and raised a son, Jeff, who is now a 5th grade teacher and cross country  and track coach; and a daughter, Monica, who is now a nurse anesthetist.

After retiring from teaching in 2000, John worked for another 17 years as a tax preparer for H&R Block in Wadena and then in Buffalo. They moved to Buffalo to be closer to Jeff and Monica and five grandkids who were in St Cloud and Shorewood. 

Both Wendy and I wanted to find a church that offered a traditional service.  We were pleased that Zion soon felt like home, even though it was a much larger church than we came from.

John had been involved with the finance committee when they attended Immanuel in Wadena. 

Given that experience and the fact that finance/numbers has always been interesting to me, I offered to join Zion’s Finance Committee.  Our basic responsibility is to monitor the financial condition of the church and to make financial recommendations to the church council as needed. 

Getting involved in music was just a natural fit for Wendy and me.  With both of us coming from music education backgrounds, we felt that getting involved in Zion’s music program was the best way for us to “find our way” into life at Zion.  Going back to congregational singing has been great; however, the very long layoff has not done me any favors.  Mike may well tell me to go find a place in the congregation! 

They had been married for 46 years before Wendy died in 2017.

John now spends a lot of service time working with the various projects of Zion’s Social Ministry Committee, such as the Blessing Closet and Fare for All.

Roger and Sandy Brenny make sure that I am not bored without anything to do!  It is fulfilling to see the results of the many projects they lead.

I don’t feel like God has changed my life.  Rather, I feel that he has been with me throughout my life.  As a family we experienced a number of medical events – premature birth, lung collapses, cancer – where we always knew that God was with us.  And it was the presence of the Holy Spirit that guided us and supported us in each of these times.

My hope for Zion’s future is that we will remain relevant to the needs of our congregation, community, and ultimately the world.  Things are going to be different as we open up from the pandemic.  We don’t live in a time when we can just do things the way we always have.  We may well need to find other ways to “tell the story” as we move forward.

The congregation also thanks John for being Zion’s in-house piano tuner. Along with the financial gift of free services, it is also wonderful to know that he is available even for emergency tunings of our many pianos.

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