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John Wherry

John Taggart Wherry, known variously as John, JT, or Tag, died on October 22, 2023. He was born on November 30, 1953, in Des Moines. Iowa, to John D. Wherry and Ruth M (Bates) Wherry. JT was a mischievous, laughing child who never outgrew those early traits. As with his father, the cause of death was a failing heart; like his father, he outlived his prognosis. In these last few years and months, he proudly acknowledged that he was “cheating death.”

Tag graduated from Carlisle High School, studied art at Columbia College in Missouri and explored business administration at Drake University. The arts were always important to him. He loved music and had wide-ranging tastes, including classical, jazz, and especially the broad category called Americana. He took to the stage, too, playing the anvil salesman in a high school production of “The Music Man” and Lenny in a college production of “Of Mice and Men.”


John made things. He was proud of helping to build the Tornado rollercoaster at Adventureland in Altoona and pointed to a highway overpass near Grimes that he’d worked on. He also developed a pretty good barbeque sauce and loved providing flavorful pork loins for family gatherings. Food was a through-line: he delivered for Paul Revere Pizza and stocked Wonder bread and Old Dutch potato chips in area supermarkets. Other jobs were at UPS, where he helped usher in the computer age, and Amoco Motor Club, which provided a supply of entertaining stories.


John was kind, smart, crafty, loved to debate just about anything, and was provokingly non-compliant at times. He kept friends from his school years at Hartford and Carlisle and made many new friends over the years. He was consistently, sometimes inexplicably, optimistic. He expected every venture –Amway, barbecue sauce, dispersing thousands of books—to turn out well. A frequent phone sign-off in recent years was “don’t be good—be better!”


JT leaves behind his “too many” sisters Margaret “Peg” Wherry of Bozeman, MT; Martha “Marta” Mathatas of Wooster, OH; and Mary Wherry of Urbandale. He also had stepbrothers Ron Dickerson of Waukee and John Ogilvie of Des Moines and a stepsister Susan Ogilvie Bailey of Monument, CO. He loved to tease his nephews John Mathatas of Antioch, IL; James Mathatas of Ashland, OH; Robert Mathatas of Cleveland, OH; and Ben Wherry of Des Moines. He was preceded in death by his father John Wherry in 1958, and his mother Ruth Bates Wherry in 2019.


John had a strong faith in Jesus Christ and was looking forward to a life beyond this one. He specifically asked that there not be a bunch of people looking at his dead body or singing a bunch of hymns. We are pulling a fast one on him by planning a gathering in the spring to remember his life. Memorial gifts may be given to the Iowa Heart Association on behalf of ProMedica Hospice.



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