GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — As Kentwood police continue to investigate Thursday’s deadly crash on Kalamazoo Avenue, loved ones are trying to come to grips with the news that John “The Canuck” Wiechenthal died in the crash.
Wiechenthal spent 19 years at B-93 and eight with Ionia County Dispatch. Both employers said he put his family first, was a trusted colleague and will be deeply missed.
“Devastating would be an understatement,” Ionia County Dispatch Director Jim Valentine said. “The grief and the crying is then replaced by, ‘We just can’t believe it’. That’s kind of where we’re operating right now. We’re just in a state of disbelief.”
During his time at Ionia County Dispatch, Wiechenthal received two awards for his service.
He was known for his faith, jokes and ability to help anyone on the other end of the line with a sense of calm many couldn’t maintain during an emergency.
Wiechenthal’s work life during the week shifted when it came to weekends. That is when he turned on his John “The Canuck” voice and brought country music to West Michigan listeners on B-93.
“He was one of those guys that always liked to push the envelope, try to come up with something a little edgy. He was hilarious to sit and listen to,” B-93’s Dave Taft said. “You just never knew what he was gonna do. He had a lot of fun with it. This wasn’t a job, this was a passion for him.”
Taft added Wiechenthal was the laugh when you entered a room. Long-time host Neil Dionne said his sincerity extended to everyone Wiechenthal worked with and met.
“He was always there if help was needed. Whether it was to hang banners or put jumper cables on one of the vehicles that wouldn’t start, or walking our female employees to the parking lot after dark. I mean, he was always thinking of others. Always,” Dionne said.
A woman who witnessed Thursday’s crash said she and several others attempted CPR on Wiechenthal. Others gathered around him, held his hands and prayed for him while police responded to the crash.
She did not want her name or face in the news, but wants to make sure his loved ones know he was not alone in his final moments.
Kentwood police said they are following up on reports that the driver who hit Wiechenthal was driving erratically before the crash. It’s not clear why yet, an investigator said.
A GoFundMe has been set up to help Wiechenthal’s wife and three kids.
Funeral and visitation information
The visitation will be held from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 4 at the Christ Lutheran Church, located at 2350 44th Street SW in Wyoming. A memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. Friday, Jan. 5 at the Christ Lutheran Church.
His family is asking memorial contributions be made to the John Wiechenthal Memorial Fund at any Macatawa Bank.