Lifelong Wausa resident Gene Johnson and his wife Beverly shared a passion for their community, and a trust they established will benefit the missions of multiple area organizations for years to come while continuing their long tradition of generosity and dedication.
The Gene and Beverly Johnson Trust is expected to generate $50,000 to $60,000 annually to be distributed among the Wausa Public School Foundation, Thabor Lutheran Church, the Lincoln Township Library and WCFF, an affiliated fund of Nebraska Community Foundation.
Gene, a former WCFF member, allowed for the fund advisory committee (FAC) to use the money as it sees fit for the betterment of the community. The gift will serve as a perpetual reminder of the couple’s commitment to Wausa and could double the amount available for annual grants, said FAC Member Darren Vanness. One of the first projects WCFF plans for the gift is the creation of a community website to share Wausa’s updates and good news. Spreading the word about Wausa is something Gene did each day.
“He was the most positive man you would ever meet,” Vanness said. “Every day was a sunny day to Gene.”
Gene’s dedication touched almost every aspect of the community. In addition to his time with WCFF, he served on the Lincoln Township Library and Woodlawn Cemetery boards. He was also the Sunday school superintendent at Thabor Lutheran Church, where he and Beverly played active roles.
“He had the time and he took the time,” said Mary Lou Erickson, Gene and Beverly’s neighbor and a member of the Thabor Lutheran Church Council. “Whatever he did, he gave it his full attention.”
Gene worked at Commercial State Bank for 42 years, beginning his career as a teller. He retired in 1997 as vice president, but he remained a member of the board of directors until his passing. When helping customers, Gene had an eye for details and a personal touch.
“He was one of those kinds of guys that enjoyed noticing things that guys like me don’t pay attention to,” said Commercial State Bank President Doug Johnson, who worked with Gene for 27 years. “He was always that kind of person. The day was always good, no matter what.”
Like Gene, Beverly was also a stabilizing force in the community.
“She was a rock, just like Gene,” Johnson said. “She was very good to people and her church.”
Gene’s passion for his hometown was a lifelong endeavor, and he knew Wausa had a bright future ahead. The trust will help make that future a reality.
“He was optimistic that Wausa’s going to be around for a long time,” Johnson said. “He donated to the community to keep that going. That’s pretty impressive.”