Washington Evening Journal
https://washington-ia.villagesoup.com/p/1675080

Fairfield Ledger   Mt. Pleasant News
Neighbors Growing Together | Dec 18, 2017

Band mates remember Winga

By David Hotle | Aug 01, 2017
John Winga, 83, of Washington, died Sunday, July 30, 2017, in the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics in Iowa City. Funeral arrangements are pending at Jones & Eden Funeral Home in Washington.

 

 

It was on the same night shortly after the 1946 school year had begun that John Winga Jr. and Wayne Brock joined the Washington Municipal Band.

Since they were members of the Washington High School Band, former school band director Melvin Hill, also the municipal band director, asked both to be in the band. Brock played percussion, while Winga played the clarinet. Brock remembers his first night playing as being one of anxiety and concern as the two began playing alongside old hands in the band, which had formed eight years earlier. At the time Brock was in high school and Winga was in junior high. Both Brock and Winga went on to earn 70-year honors with the band.

“One of our big highlights of that period is Melvin Hill took four students to Chicago (Illinois) for a band conference,” Brock recalls. “John and I were the boys and there were two girls. When we got to Chicago we learned it had been canceled, so we just had a weekend of a lot of fun together.

“That is when I first got to know John,” Brock continued. “We spent all these years together in music. He was in the Guard band for a couple of years. He was just like a brother to me.”

Winga, 83, of Washington, died Sunday, July 30, 2017, in the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics in Iowa City.

Funeral arrangements are pending at Jones & Eden Funeral Home in Washington.

Brock said the municipal band concert that begins at 8 p.m. Thursday in Central Park would be dedicated to Winga.

From an early age, music was an important part of Winga’s life. He performed in two Rose Bowls as a clarinetist — in 1954 and 2015. He attended Michigan State University and performed in the marching band.

Former Washington Municipal Band conductor Bob McConnell recalls running into world-famous band director William Ravelli, who had tried to recruit Winga to the University of Michigan. He said Ravelli had said he always regretted Winga did not play in his band.

“He was just kind of a cornerstone of music in the community,” McConnell said. “(Winga’s) restaurant was also a famous spot for band directors who were out recruiting.”

Winga’s restaurant, which had been opened by John Sr., a Dutch immigrant, was a mainstay in the community. Winga had worked at the family restaurant since he was in high school and became the owner in 1967. Former Washington Evening Journal owner David R. Elder was one of the founders of the coffee club at the restaurant. When Winga closed his coffee shop on the Washington square in 2006, the Washington Municipal Band opened a special meeting of Winga’s coffee club, playing “When the Saints go Marching In” to honor Winga’s importance to Washington. Former Mayor Rick Cicalo also proclaimed the week of June 18-24 that year “Thank You, Winga’s Restaurant Week,” and honored the restaurant for its “excellence in the art of pie making,” for which Winga’s was famous.

McConnell said he joined the muni band in eighth grade and remembers being in awe of musicians like Winga in the band.

“John was just the best player I had ever heard,” McConnell said. “That kind of set a standard for a lot of us kids in the community.”

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