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John Martyn Magnuson

John Magnuson poured passion and love into motorcycles, mechanics, music, reading, ham radios and nature. After a long battle with cancer, Mr. Magnuson, of Boonville and formerly of Columbia, died at his home on Friday, Dec. 17, 2010. He was 68.

Mr. Magnuson was born July 6, 1942, in Moline, Ill., to Leonard and Phyllis (Park) Magnuson.

He married Merry Matters on Jul. 10, 1972.

“He had to know and understand how something worked,” Matters said. “You know, anything, no matter what it is, from the universe to mechanics.”

He attended Iowa State University but left college midway through his final semester to play folk music in Montana.

Mr. Magnuson's love for music started in his childhood. He sang in a boys choir in Moline until his voice changed. Before he left college for Montana, he sang on a radio program in Ames, his sister Marcia Magnuson said. He played guitar for 40 years. He also played violin and banjo.

Soon after going to Montana, he was drafted into the Army and served in the artillery in Vietnam for about one year. After that, Mr. Magnuson completed his bachelor’s degree in English at Iowa State.

After graduating, he worked as a computer programmer for the state of Iowa for a short period, “until he decided he didn’t want to work in an office every day any more — then he got into motorcycle mechanics and auto mechanics,” Marcia Magnuson said.

Mr. Magnuson’s interest in automobiles had started earlier in life. In high school he and a group of friends rented a garage and built a dragster for racing. Later, he took several cross-country motorcycle trips and continued to ride until the last few years of his life.

“He had many motorcycles over the years,” Marcia Magnuson said. “And he used them for transportation and recreation a great deal of the time.”

Early in their marriage, Mr. Magnuson and his wife spent a year in Colombia teaching English as a second language.

When they returned to the U.S., the couple moved to a farm along the Des Moines River in central Iowa. They were inspired by Scott and Helen Nearing, proponents of the back-to-the-land movement. Mr. Magnuson opened his own auto repair shop in nearby Stratford.

Mr. Magnuson moved with his family to Columbia in 1984 and worked at several shops before opening his own business, Magnuson Garage.

They lived in town until 2004, when he and Matters moved to land near Boonville.

Throughout his life, Mr. Magnuson was a ham radio operator. He started with a crystal set, and a friend's father nurtured his love for ham radio. He was a member of local and national ham radio organizations.

Mr. Magnuson also loved books and reading. Like his interests in life, his interests in reading were varied.

“They used to have bookshelves in every room in their house, their old house,” Marcia Magnuson said. “His basement is full of stacks, like library stacks. There are row after row of shelving with books, plus books all over the house.”

Mr. Magnuson also enjoyed nature, astronomy, animals, playing online chess and learning foreign languages, Matters said.

“He was very, very interested in many, many things,” Marcia Magnuson said.

John Magnuson is survived by his wife; one son, Jake Magnuson of Jacksonville, Ill.; one daughter, Emily Magnuson of Liberty, Texas; one sister, Marcia Magnuson of Iowa City, Iowa, and one granddaughter, Sophia Magnuson.

His mother, father and stepfather died earlier.

Visitation will start at 10 a.m. Saturday at Parker Funeral Service and Crematory, 22 N. 10th St. in Columbia. A memorial service with follow at 11 a.m.

Memorial contributions may be made to the Friends of Arrow Rock, P.O. Box 124, Arrow Rock, MO 65320; the American Cancer Society, P.O. Box 22718, Oklahoma City, OK 73123; or the Central Missouri Humane Society, 616 Big Bear Blvd., Columbia, MO 65202.

Online condolences may be left at parkerfuneralservice.com.

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