John Dederich: Lives on in his buddies’ memories, student scholarship

To the Green Bay community, he was a decorated and dedicated war veteran (Vietnam), the face of the Brown County Veterans Memorial Arena (manager), and a big fan of UW-Green Bay (’73 alumnus).

To those who knew him best, he was Johnny D. And while his friends still mourn the sudden loss of John Dederich, who died of a heart attack in 2010, the stories — something Dederich loved — endure.

There were hunting trips to Africa and a journey to Vietnam, where Dederich had lost both legs in the war. There was the refusal to let that injury get in his way — ever — and an unparalleled sense of humor that cracks up his buddies to this day. There were the little things — Johnny D’s table at Stadium View Bar & Grille, the way he liked his coffee half regular, half decaf — his longtime friends will never forget.

And now, there’s another way he’s being remembered — as enduring as the tales of his 63 years, and just as impactful, if in a different way. The John M. Dederich “Johnny D” Veterans Endowed Scholarship is helping student veterans who attend UW-Green Bay, Dederich’s alma mater that remained close to his heart.

“John felt very special about UWGB — the athletics, and many other things,” says Paul Kolbach, member of the Green Bay chapter of Wings Over Wisconsin, which established the scholarship. “We felt this would be an appropriate way to recognize him.”

Dederich was the longtime treasurer for Green Bay’s Wings over Wisconsin, a nonprofit conservation organization dedicated to natural resource preservation and education through youth and community involvement. Some of Dederich’s best buddies — Stadium View owner Jerry Watson, John Moran, Kolbach, Watson’s son Bob and John Steeno — remain Wings members, dedicated to preserving and growing the scholarship in Dederich’s name. Because whether he was sharing a laugh, lending a hand or offering advice, Johnny D. was always there.

“It was just something that had to be done, because he should be remembered,” Jerry Watson says, trading stories about Johnny D. during a recent afternoon at Stadium View. “We just wanted to make sure people did remember him. Because he helped everybody.”