John Konheim passed away on Sunday, May 30, 2021, the day before Memorial Day, in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, at the age of 78. John was preceded in death by his parents and his brother Bud, and by his wife Lynne (Taylor) Konheim, and his wife Jane (Sampson) Konheim. He is survived by his partner-in-life Anne Ekstrom, his dear family-by-choice Michelle Wood and her children, his loving sisters Barbara Kolb and Jane Kasov and his loving niece and nephews and their families and by certain people he regarded as family. John was generous in his love and concern for others. Throughout his life he collected people in a loving embrace. He did everything he could to aid or befriend them, and the people who were closest to him had that quality too.
He was given a good start in life by parents he always greatly admired, learned to achieve just by being one of four children in a home that was a busy hub, and was given a fine academic and spiritual education at Williston Academy in Easthampton, Massachusetts. He explored New York City when he was on vacation from Williston, mingling with and getting to know the work of all the many people who interested him.
He began to draw quick sketches with a Rapidograph pen, in art class. Soon he could quick-sketch entire scenes such as weddings or buildings such as a Japanese temple. (Visit konheim-art.com for a gallery of sketches from all over the world and his artist autobiography.) Fifty years later he could be seen amiably and routinely sketching folks in their friendship or family groups on a local Florida beach, or, now as a tourist, sitting and sketching the street scene in Saigon where children gathered round to see him work.
For college he chose a New York school, Columbia, his father’s alma mater, and studied while pursuing a wide variety of interests or working. John often drove a cab, once in a blizzard when there were no cabs out at all, he proudly told a nephew. An activist for student social rights at Columbia, he got coverage from Gael Greene of the “Times.” In his travels abroad in the Sixties, he acted boldly in Berlin when he saw help was needed to get friends out to the West. John was not risk averse when it came to stepping in quickly to help and often achieved dramatic successes.
In 1968, a few years after graduation, he joined the Army, went through training at Fort Sill, Oklahoma and completed a tour of duty in Vietnam. Already proficient in French, he applied himself now to acquiring Vietnamese language and dialect quickly and ultimately got to interview Montagnard children and record their music near where he was stationed. He also made audiotapes of battles, (for example: YouTube – Konheim – Vietnam Battle Field Audio November 1969). He and Lynne (Taylor) announced their engagement via a joint audiotape from Vietnam and Michigan, which they sent to parents and family around the U.S.
John lived in Columbus, Ohio and worked as an insurance broker/agent for many years. It was a great job for him, involving assessing risk and helping people. For fun, he and Lynne belonged to a friendship group that took lessons in social dancing at their gatherings. They also invited people onto their houseboat on the long, narrow reservoir near their home. They were deeply connected to Lynne’s family as well as his over the years.
As volunteers in Columbus, Ohio he and his wife hosted opera singers from all over who were engaged for rehearsals and performances in Columbus. As part of their hosting foreign economic visitors to Columbus, they visited Cuba with an economic mission from Columbus. On their last day in Havana, John was detained for sketching his hotel, the Hotel Nacional de Cuba. Luckily, he found a business card in his pocket (from a finance minister he’d just met with) to show the police, and they then whisked him out of jail in time to make the plane home. Lynne and John continued to take foreign trips accepting the risks that go with it.
When John lost his first wife, he was brought low but did not give up on life. In time, he met Jane. They celebrated their wedding with a crowd of friends and family on board a ferry that picked them up from their dock, cruised the Intracoastal in Fort Lauderdale, and at the end of the evening started to catch on fire a little bit. But all was well; he and Jane had many happy years together and moved permanently to Fort Lauderdale. He embraced her family, and she embraced his wide circle of friends in Fort Lauderdale and Columbus as well as his siblings and families. Together they created art, exhibiting with art societies in Columbus and Fort Lauderdale. Jane did a fine painting of John’s beloved cat Cristal, a beautiful white cat, smart enough to learn to ride on John’s bike to the delight of onlookers as John rode daily around Fort Lauderdale.
John found himself bereft when Jane passed away suddenly. His ability to move forward and reclaim life was never more striking than in these years. With time, he went out and about. He served as president of his co-op organization, worked at his insurance business innovating a way to do health insurance economically for the buyer. He joined Single Sailors and met Anne Ekstrom, who served as Vice Commodore of the sailing association. She was an inspiration to him. John and she found new happiness together. They traveled to Italy; they went on a cruise to Colombia. John bought a sailboat and daringly sailed it up from Miami running aground along the way. After that he worked on it till both he (the captain) and the boat’s auxiliary electric motor were shaped up and ready to go out through the Intracoastal and into the ocean, and, of course, guests could come aboard.
As John grew older, he found a way to connect with his much older brother Bud: He called him every day to talk. Bud said at lunch with a cousin a few years ago that he found John’s loyalty remarkable and moving. For John there were no tests to meet when it came to love. There was only love. As his sister Barbara said of him, John made the world a better place because he lived in it.