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Victim described as ‘caring landlord, family man’

BY REGINA ZILBERMINTS | OCTOBER 12, 2009 7:20 AM

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CORDOVA, Ill. — John Versypt spent most of last week winterizing his cream- and charcoal-colored motor home. He waxed the entire structure by hand — he thought he could do better than a machine — and treated the roof. He mowed the grass in his spacious yard.

Between 1 and 2 p.m. on Oct. 8, he climbed in his truck to drive from his Cordova, Ill., home to check on rental units he owned in Iowa City and install “No Smoking” and “No Loitering” signs. He was supposed to come home that night.

Versypt, 64, always called his wife of 34 years, Janet, at 9 p.m. when he traveled. She prepared to go to sleep that night having not heard from him.

At 11 p.m., police came to her door.

John Versypt was found dead from a gunshot wound in the entryway of a Broadway apartment building just after 4 p.m. on Oct. 8. Police have not said whether they have any suspects in the investigation.

“He was a wonderful guy, a caring landlord, and a family man,” his wife said.

On Sunday afternoon, 56-year-old Janet Versypt poured 46 magnets, one from each state she and John had visited in their motor home, from a plastic bag onto the wooden coffee table in a small sun room overlooking the Mississippi River.

Her adult children, Jennifer Wakefield and Joel Versypt, sat on either side of her. The three leaned forward and attempted to arrange the state magnets into a map of the United States. Only Wisconsin and North Dakota were missing.

“We could be camping 10 miles across a state line and he’d need to get a magnet from that state,” Janet Versypt said. “We’d planned to get the last two next summer or the one after.”

Even though he hated coffee, John Versypt kept a coffee pot in their motor home for other guests.

He also loved working with his hands and always had a project in progress, his family said. He designed and built the cozy yellow house the family still lives in, complete with a workroom crowded with tools in the basement, and he was continually helping friends with their homes.

And he was always working on his rental properties, often painting and making repairs to the units himself. He got to know his tenants and kept in touch with many even after they moved out.

“Sometimes, he’d pretend he was the maintenance man so they would tell him what the problems were,” his wife said, chuckling.

When he was helping his daughter paint as she and her husband moved out, he worked until dinner at 11 p.m. and then insisted on finishing just one more room after eating.

“Leave it better than you found it, that was what he thought,” said Wakefield, his 26-year-old daughter. “He was proud of his apartments. He liked working hard.”

John Versypt loved his car, a red 1967 Pontiac GTO convertible.

“He would go to the bank for no reason, just to drive,” Janet Versypt said. “It was his baby.”

The car was on the December page of the Dwyer and Michaels calendar, a feat he was very proud of, his family said.

The last time he drove the car before putting it in storage for the winter was the last weekend in September, when he met his wife and other family for a party at her sister’s house in Kalona. He and his wife went for a ride in the car, before he dropped her off and set off for a car show in Joliet, Ill.

He was a member of the Good Guys Car Club, and he sometimes got up at 4 a.m. to ensure a good spot at car shows.

He loved watching NASCAR, and he had purchased season tickets for next year — which arrived in his e-mail days after his death.

“He was meticulous,” Janet Versypt said, pointing to a page in a trip scrap book where he’d planned each day’s mileage. And it extended to everything. Sunday was laundry day, and he had a system for his laundry baskets.

After he and his wife met on a blind date over a homemade pizza at a friend’s house, he didn’t call her the next day because that was his grocery-shopping day. They married just five months later.

John Versypt was close to his two children. He retired from John Deere before they were in high school, so they were able to spend time together. Most recently, he was helping his daughter choose a house in Indianapolis and meeting his son, a graduate student at the University of Illinois-Urbana/Champaign, whenever he was in town.

“If someone needed him, he was always there,” his wife said. “He just enjoyed life.”


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