Jere Johnson finds motivation at home to serve Janesville
Occupation: Director of radiology for Mercy Regional Imaging Center
Family: Wife, Peggy, and daughter, Laura.
Hobbies: Avid kayak fisherman and bicycler, reading, sports, enjoying time with friends and family.
JANESVILLE Jere Johnson and his family have been on the receiving end for nearly two decades.
Triggered by a diagnosis of multiple sclerosis, the support arrived in many ways and helped the family deal with the crippling disease that would slowly debilitate Peggy Johnson.
It also sparked a motivation to help others, and that's something Johnson has fanned into a firestorm of community service in the 11 years his family has been in Janesville.
Johnson's been a longtime "Lunch Buddy" mentor at Van Buren Elementary School. He's president-elect of Janesville Morning Rotary Club, where the avid cycler has taken on responsibilities for the organization's annual "Pie Ride" fundraiser.
Active in his church, he's led St. William Knights of Columbus chapter, and last year's inaugural Walk MS in Riverside Park, which Johnson spearheaded, raised more than $50,000 despite a difficult economy.
And he's become active with the Westgate Business Corridor, a business and neighborhood coalition.
Above all, he's a cherished caregiver for Peggy and father to Laura, a junior at UW-Madison.
"Not only does he give 110 percent to his work and community, he gives 200 percent to his family," said Kim Hesgard, a co-worker at Mercy Health System, where Johnson is director of radiology for Mercy's Regional Imaging Center.
"Peg is my hero," Johnson said. "She was diagnosed 18 years ago, not too long after Laura was born.
"I'm not sure Laura remembers her mom as a physically vital person, but she has certainly watched her mother succeed. Peg and Laura are two very important reminders for me about the importance of giving back."
Each month, Jere and Peg facilitate a meeting of an MS support group in Janesville.
"MS has presented us an opportunity to help people," Johnson said. "The group helps Peg meet people and discuss things that are going on in their lives, and it's very important for me as a caregiver.
"We've gotten back far more than we've given."
Jenny Bouska helped Johnson launch last year's Walk MS in the city's Riverside Park. They have a mutual friend with MS.
"MS is near and dear to his heart," Bouska said. "He lives it every day, and he has a passion to find a cure. That passion spreads to everyone around him."
Matt Stried soon will turn over leadership of the Janesville Morning Rotary Club to Johnson, and Stried said he couldn't pass the president's gavel to a more dedicated person.
"He's really the model member," Stried said. "He's the kind of guy that even before you think of asking him to do something, he's already doing it."
Johnson said he's fortunate to have an employer that encourages employees to be ambassadors in their communities. He looks upon his leadership role as a way to serve as well as a way to set examples for others.
Lest he forget, he keeps a saying in his office that serves as a reminder: "Our achievements in life are measured by the people who need us."
"I like that."