By Karah Morrison, Managing Editor
John Willard was born in Moline, Illinois on August 20, 1942 and passed away peacefully on April 25, 2018 with his loving wife Joanne by his side. John was married to Joanne for a wonderful 45 years.
I met John Willard almost 5 years ago when I walked into the office of St. Cloud in the News for a job interview. My first impression of John was “wow, it is going to be tough to impress this man.” I could tell he wasn’t sure if this was the right place for me, but he offered me the job and I have been here ever since. He took a chance on me, as he did with so many others.
John was an entrepreneur and as Jack King would say, John was a visionary. To me, John was a go-getter and worked very hard for the things that he had. Over the years, John shared with me how he sold meat packages and Encyclopedia Britannica before starting Marketeers of America and St. Cloud in the News. He supported and truly cared about small, local businesses. He wanted to see everyone succeed. John spent many years coaching St. Cloud Little League and was very active in the St. Cloud Chamber of Commerce.
John started St. Cloud in the News almost 17 years ago for the sole purpose that St. Cloud needed a newspaper of it’s own. He wanted to make sure residents knew what was happening in their City. He believed in the newspaper and I am honored to make sure his legacy lives on.
If you knew John, you knew he was a character. John’s sarcasm and humor could make anyone’s day a little brighter. John was an avid lover of sports, he would always greet the staff with a “Good Morning Sports Fans”, even if it was in the afternoon. John enjoyed the Green Bay Packers, the Florida Gators and NASCAR racer Jeff Gordan. Monday mornings, I could always count on him to tease me about how poorly the Seminoles played the weekend before, even if they won.
I will always cherish my memories of John Willard – the bets we made for a nickel, the talks about Sheldon and the Big Bang Theory, our disagreements over politics and the many mornings spent sitting outside soaking up his wisdom.
John is survived by his wife Joanne Willard, daughter Kathleen Willard, son Mike Willard, daughter-in-law Suzanne Willard, granddaughter Olivia Willard, sisters Sharon Keil and Sue Zimmerman and sister-in-law Charlotte Willard.
John Willard was a great man and I will forever be grateful for the impact he made on my life.