Entertainer, Teacher, Musician, Friend Leaves Legacy of Care for Communities
October 20, 2022
“It started out really small and then people kept joining and he just loved it. He loved being around people. He loved to entertain. He was the ultimate host, even at the ‘Table of Knowledge,” said Holly Kanengieter, Foundation Coordinator for Winneshiek Medical Center (WMC), as she reflected on her late friend Guy Johnson.
The “Table of Knowledge” came to be when Guy and his longtime friend Marlin were both receiving services at WMC and would visit the cafeteria daily for lunch. Staff and others would join them and take part in all sorts of engaging conversations, which is how the table got its name. “He was such a full personality, one that you were just drawn to,” Holly recalls of Guy. “He was so good at bringing groups and people together and getting to know you.”
These traits translated over to Guy’s professional life, too. He was a brilliant pianist who traveled across the country to perform, compete, and accompany. Guy was introduced to music as a child. Growing up, he had some health conditions which limited him, so his parents enrolled him in piano lessons. “At a young age music became his life, and he worked hard at it because it was something he could do,” said Holly.
Guy was also a beloved instructor and mentor and served as the Head of the Piano Departments at Drury University in Springfield, MO; Luther College in Decorah, IA; and Friends University in Wichita, KS.
“Music to him was always making sure people did their best,” Holly said. “He didn’t sugarcoat things. He let you know if he wanted you to grow, and he wanted you to be what he knew you could be, so he was the ultimate teacher as well.”
While a focus on health was ever present, Guy developed a deeper appreciation for health care later in life and an affinity for those who provide it. “He believed strongly in local health care and believed in the work and care that happens at WMC,” said Holly. So much so that Guy shared a personal goal to give the Winneshiek Medical Center Foundation $1 million.
After Guy’s passing in 2019, the WMC Foundation received an estate gift from Guy that they used to establish the Guy Johnson Memorial Endowment Fund with the Winneshiek County Community Foundation in 2021. “Guy trusted us to do what was best with his gift,” Holly said. “To fulfill his wishes, we are working to meet the $1 million goal and his legacy will continue through this fund to support healthier communities.”
Once the goal is reached, gifts to the fund will be utilized to support areas of greatest need within WMC with priority consideration given to diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, and health-related education and training.
“The fund truly creates a gift that we will always have for WMC and Guy’s memory will always be with us,” Holly said. “I just wish everyone could have met him. I miss him. He was a good friend.”