Kipp Kohler Willnauer, 74, passed away October 6, 2023, at Olathe Medical Center. Funeral Services were held on Wednesday, October 11, 2023, at King of Kings Lutheran Church, 306 E. Madison St., Gardner, KS. Condolences may be left at www.brucefuneralhome.com. In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to the Kipp Willnauer Music Scholarship Fund.
Kipp was born September 30, 1949, in Hartford, CT to Thelma Elenore Adolphi and Peter Kohler Willnauer. He graduated from Pulaski High School in New Britain, CT where he was the Drum Major for Marching Band. He earned his bachelor’s in music education from Baker University in Baldwin City, KS and his Masters of Education Administration from UMKC. Kipp was Baker’s Drum Major for the Marching Wildcats. Marching to the beat and right behind him was his soon to be wife, Debra Igoe. They moved to Gardner in 1979 and their daughter Sabrina was born in 1980. Kipp and Sabrina had a yearly tradition of attending Martin Luther King celebrations. Kipp and Deb recently celebrated their 50th Wedding Anniversary this past September 1st.
Mr. W started his teaching career at Nike Junior High School in Gardner. He taught vocal music and was an assistant band director for the GEHS Trailblazer Marching Band. During the summers he owned and operated Midwest Perma Coating Roofing Co. Kipp also taught music at Santa Fe Trail Junior High School in Olathe, where he started a handbell choir. He returned to Gardner Edgerton School District, teaching vocal music at Wheatridge Middle School and GEHS. Kipp brought handbells to these classes and established The Blue Blazers, a select vocal ensemble. Blue Blazers played at many Renaissance and Dickens Festivals.
Always dedicated to Church Worship music, he started at age 14 playing the piano at a church in New Britain. Over the years, he has served as organist, choir director, handbell director and music director for Indian Heights UMC, St. Mark’s UMC, Grace Covenant Presbyterian Church, and retired from King of Kings Lutheran Church. For 25 years he served as a director and board member of Heartland Presbyterian Intergenerational Handbell Camp near Weston, MO. He participated in many national musical events as well as serving as clinician and director.
In serving his Gardner community, Kipp also held the position of President of the Zoning Board of Appeals for the city of Gardner, KS, and served as a member of the USD 231 School Board.
Kipp was preceded in death by his parents. He is survived by his wife Deb, of the home; daughter Sabrina and husband Tim Williams, grandchildren Kaleb and Kendal all of Marietta, GA; brothers Korey and wife Beccie Willnauer and Kent and wife Kathy Willnauer; nephews Kody and wife Brittani Willnauer and children Kohl and Karaline and Kasey and Cassie Willnauer and children Ellie and Ezra.
Commissioned Work – As many of you are aware, Area 8 lost a very special friend. Kipp Willnauer, a past Area 8 board member died this past October. Everyone who knew him likely had their own Kipp story. He was a friend to everyone, an advocate of our handbell art, and an extreme Area 8 volunteer, having helped with countless workshops and festivals. The Area 8 board has decided to commission a work in Kipp’s honor, but we need your help. Please consider donating to this effort at the link provided. Our Area 8 Treasurer, Tami Kofran, will also accept any checks sent or given to her. Donations can be mailed to Tami, at PO Box 15, Janesville, IA 50647. It is a hope that we will have the music in time to incorporate into our Festival.