Washington Evening Journal

Fairfield Ledger   Mt. Pleasant News
Neighbors Growing Together | Jul 15, 2018
‘It takes everyone to make a community’

Band honors clarinetist Winga

By David Hotle | Aug 04, 2017
In addition to honoring John Winga, a 61-year member, the Washington Municipal Band also honored members (right) Nick Todd, Ron Brock, Ed Raber, Erika Raber, Beth Brooks and Norman Brooks for their years performing with the band. Winga, 83, a band member, community leader, businessman and “all around great man,” died Sunday at the University of Iowa Hospital.


When the Washington Municipal Band honored 61-year member John Winga Thursday evening, the point was not sorrow because he was dead, but joy because he was alive.

Among the things that weren’t featured at the concert was an empty chair - the lead seat in the clarinet section - to honor Winga. Band director Tom McNamar said the band had discussed how to honor Winga and had determined he had never wanted any personal recognition and had always put the band first. The decision was made to honor Winga in a different manner. The band paid tribute, and played tribute, by playing several of Winga’s favorite musical pieces during the concert and spoke about Winga’s contributions to the band.

“He is with us in spirit; he is with us in our hearts,” McNamar said. “He started the season with us, and unfortunately he isn’t going to be able to end the season with us.”

Winga, 83, band member, community leader, businessman and “all around great man,” died Sunday at the Medical Intensive Care Unit of the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics in Iowa City. Funeral services will be at 10:30 a.m. Monday in the United Presbyterian Church. Visitation will be from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday in the Jones & Eden Funeral Home, where the family will be present from 3 to 5 p.m. Burial will be in Elm Grove Cemetery.

McNamar remembered arriving in Washington in 1993 and going to Winga’s Cafe where he was greeted with the “best darn rhubarb pie I ever had eaten.” The two became friends, both through the band and a ritual — McNamar had to have a piece of pie before concerts.

Tamara McNamar, Tom McNamar’s daughter, said growing up she was somewhat star-struck with Winga, seeing him fill the first chair of the clarinet section of the band and thinking he was a great musician. Attending rehearsals with her father, she met Winga and thought he was a nice man. It was only after joining the band in the clarinet section she got to know Winga and learn how much he cared about the band and the members.

‘It still hasn’t really sunk in that he is gone,” she said. “It’s going to be hard to continue playing without John being there. He was a gigantic part of the band.”

She was recognized for five years with the band Thursday evening.

“It takes everybody to make a community,” was one of Winga’s sayings that were used during the concert. His love of the band and of Washington was apparent both during and after the concert, as band members spoke of several of their favorite memories of Winga.

“John has been the backbone of the band for over 70 years,” Tom McNamar said. “The kind of man he is and the kind of musician he is was tremendous. What a figure for the community of Washington.”

Band president Dr. Paul Towner said he thought of Winga as a “great person” and said Winga had played first seat clarinet for decades.

“He is going to be missed by all of us,” Towner said.

Gary McCurdy said he was pleased with the tribute the band played. He referred to Winga as a role model for all the band members.

“I think he would have been quite pleased, himself,” McCurdy said. “He was a rock as far as continuity of the band was concerned. He was always there and always prepared and always played his part.”

The Washington Chamber of Commerce asks its ambassadors to wear their jackets to the funeral. Winga had served as a chamber ambassador and had started the Rotary Ambassadors Club. In memory of Winga, a memorial fund has been established to purchase new benches for Central Park in front of the bandshell where the band performs.


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