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John P. Califf

ROCK ISLAND – John P. Califf, 73, of Rock Island, died Wednesday, May 1, 2013, at Silver Cross Nursing Center in Rock Island.

John Paul Califf was born June 2, 1939, in Moline, the son of Junius and Katharine (Steele) Califf. He attended Rock Island schools, Lawrence University in Appleton, Wis., and graduated from Augustana College in 1962. Upon completion of a Master of Arts degree in social work, administration, he was hired at Bethany Home in Moline as a caseworker and supervisor of the residential program for 24 emotionally disturbed children.

John and Nancy Telleen Califf were married June 21, 1964, at St. John Lutheran Church in Rock Island.

In 1968, they moved to Littleton, Colo., where John worked for Lutheran Family and Children’s Services of Colorado and New Mexico for 17 years. He supervised child welfare programs, the Hispanic Community Center in Denver, and the refugee resettlement program. He served as chairman of the Rocky Mountain Adoption Exchange from 1978 to 1982.

In 1985, they moved to Dixon, where John served as executive director for the Northern Illinois Region of Lutheran Social Services of Illinois. John directed a $2 million capital campaign, and supervised child welfare, senior services, Nachusa Lutheran Home, and school-based services.

In 1995, they moved to Peoria, where John served as leader of the management team in Central Illinois for Lutheran Social Services.

In 2001, they moved to Rock Island. John served as the interim director at the Lutheran Outdoor Ministries Center in Oregon. He then served as assistant to the bishop of the Northern Illinois Synod, and was responsible for describing outreach ministries and charitable giving opportunities. John returned to the Lutheran Outdoor Ministries Center as director of development.

At the time of his death, John was a member of St. John Lutheran Church in Rock Island; a board member of the Quad City Stamp Club; vice president of Transitions Mental Health Board; and a member of ILLOWA Lutheran Coalition Clergy and Lay Professionals. He was an active member of the Rock Island Kiwanis Club, where he served as first vice president, board member, program chairman, grants committee chairman, and was named a George F. Hixson Fellow of Kiwanis International. John also served as secretary of the Kiwanis Quad City Coordinating Council. He was a member of the Northern Illinois Synod Tanzania Task Force, Danish Mission Hospital (India) Task Force, and Northern Illinois Synod Global Mission Committee 2000-2005 trustee and the Lutheran Social Services of Illinois Cornerstone Foundation.

John received several awards and recognition in addition to the Hixson honor. They include the Colorado Adoption Professional of the Year in Dixon, United Way Volunteer of the Year, Lutheran Outdoor Ministries National Distinguished Service Award, Thrivent Financial Focus on Faith National Award, and the Thrivent Financial Greater Iowa Region Volunteer of the Year Award.

He enjoyed reading, travel, and stamp collecting. John was a diehard Chicago Cubs fan, amateur photographer, and coached and refereed soccer. He also enjoyed gardening, swimming, public speaking, playing golf, and attending Augustana College sporting events.

Survivors include his wife, Nancy; sons and daughter-in-law, Bill and Jenny Califf of River Falls, Wis., and Steven Califf of Milan.; grandsons, Marcus and Jackson Califf of River Falls; sister and brother-in-law, Betsy and John Wheelan of Glenview; brother-in-law and sister-in-law, Bill and Pam Telleen of Minneapolis; and five nephews and a niece.

He was preceded in death by his parents; and an uncle, J. William Califf, who was killed in France during World War II.

Visitation will be from 4 to 7 p.m. Monday at Wheelan-Pressly Funeral Home in Rock Island. A memorial service celebrating John’s life will be at 10:30 a.m. Tuesday at St. John Lutheran Church in Rock Island. Private inurnment will be at Chippiannock Cemetery in Rock Island.

Memorials may be made to St. John Lutheran Church and Augustana College, both in Rock Island, or Lutheran Outdoor Ministries Center in Oregon.

Online condolences may be left at

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