John was born to Nelson and Helene Greller on October 28, 1945, in Washington, D.C. where he lived until attending Kenyon College, graduating in 1968. During the summers of his college years, he hiked and fished in the wilderness and worked in Alaska as a logger and firefighter. After graduating from Kenyon, he served for one year as a VISTA volunteer in Anaktuvuk Pass, Alaska, a Nunamiut Eskimo village in the Arctic Circle.
Bear married Jane Kasmersky on August 16, 1969, and for nearly 50 years he and Jane were known as “Janeo and Bear.” Bear always said he liked being in Janeo’s space! Janeo and Bear lived in Oberlin, Ohio, where Bear earned his Master’s Degree in Teaching from Oberlin College. He taught elementary school in Haines, Alaska; Columbus, Wisconsin; and Grand Haven, Michigan. Bear then transitioned to direct the Christian Education and Youth Programs at Christ Community Church in Spring Lake, Michigan, for four years. One of his “kids” said, “Bear, I can’t see you doing this when you’re 60!” While in West Michigan, he continued his love of the outdoors and being on the water, frequently taking Janeo and their four kids on salmon fishing excursions on their boat, aptly named “The Family Circus.”
In 1979, Bear began his career in development work and fundraising, which he always referred to as “friend-raising.” He began this career at Hope College, continued at Aquinas College, followed by Words of Hope in Grand Rapids, Michigan. He then spent the last 17 years of his career at Northwestern College in Orange City, Iowa, where he retired in 2009 due to the effects of Parkinson’s Disease.
Janeo and Bear moved in 2010 to Newberg, Oregon, because all of their children and grandchildren lived in the Pacific NW. This move was a challenging one for him, as his heart had long been rooted in rural, Midwestern America. But as he liked to say, “None of them are coming back to Iowa!”
He is survived by his cherished wife of 49-plus years, Janeo; Tom (Tabitha) Greller, and their sons, Ray and Luke; Brian Greller; Michael (Ellie) Greller and Barrett “Lil Bear”; Katie (Ben) Lacey and “The Lovelies”— Eva, Vivian, Daphne, and Bianca. “Johnny” is also survived by his sisters, Jane (Tom Zilly) Noland and Mary (Dennis) DuRoss Cole, and nieces and nephews. Bear is also survived by the only brother he ever had, Janeo’s brother, “Jake E. Babes” John (Heather) Kasmersky.
We, who were blessed to know Bear, will remember his love and commitment to Jesus Christ, his Lord and Savior; his big smile, belly laugh, self-effacing humor, and engaging spirit; his unwavering integrity, discipline, and work ethic. Anyone who met Bear knew how much he cherished Janeo and deeply loved each of his children and grandchildren.
Recently, when moving into the hospice program, one of his last great gifts for all of us was to laboriously preserve in words what so clearly had been his Life’s Great Mission Statement:
Our mission statement is to love and cherish one another, for better or worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, til death do us part.
Amongst all the changes in the world in the last nearly 50 years, our greatest accomplishment is the strengthening of our love and commitment to one another. Our model, and Lord and Savior of love and grace, is Jesus Christ. How can we ever say thank you enough for this divine gift?
And to my last breath, I will continue to pledge myself to you, my dearest Janeo. Thank you for being my wife over all these years. It has been such a blessing and privilege to be your husband.
We all say, “Well done, good and faithful servant, a good and upright man.”
Memorial Celebrations will be held at:
• Newberg Friends Church, Newberg Oregon — March 2, 2019 at 1 p.m.
• Northwestern College, Bultman Center — Memorial Gathering on March 23, 2019 at 1 p.m.
Close to Bear’s and Janeo’s hearts are the following:
• PRO (Parkinson’s Resources of Oregon): www.parkinsonsresources.org
• John and Jane Greller Scholarship: www.nwciowa.edu/giving/scholarships