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THE Horsham community is mourning the loss of one of the city’s most prominent figures.
Don Johns died on Monday at St John of God Hospital, Ballarat, aged 83.
Mr Johns was a valued member of the Horsham community, involved in a variety of groups and organisations.
Former Horsham Rural City chief executive Kerryn Shade believes Don Johns was Mr Horsham.
He said Mr Johns had a tremendous love for the region.
“He always put Horsham before anything else and he fought hard for the entire Wimmera,” he said.
“His popularity is reflected in the fact that he was mayor three times.”
Mr Shade worked with Mr Johns when he served on council.
“Whenever he stood for council, he always came out on top of the pile,” he said.
Mr Shade said Mr Johns was instrumental in converting the city’s town hall into an art gallery in the 1980s.
Mr Johns was a retired pharmacist and a three-time mayor of Horsham.
In the past, he was recognised with an Order of Australia Medal and a Centenary Medal.
One of Mr Johns’ many community roles was Wimmera Health Care Foundation chairman.
He was the foundations only chairman and one of the driving forces behind the development of the Wimmera Cancer Centre.
The Wimmera Health Care Group hopes the new centre will be built next year.
Wimmera Health Care Group board member Richard Goudie said Mr Johns’s had an amazing commitment the health service.
“He was incredibly passionate about everything he was involved with,” he said.
Mr Johns formed the Wimmera Health Care Group foundation more than 20 years ago.
The group committed $420,000 to the Wimmera Cancer Centre to ensure it became a reality.
”His effect on this community will never be forgotten – he has left such a strong legacy,” Mr Goudie said.
Mr Johns was also the Wimmera Information Network chairman, Wimmera Regional Art Gallery chairman, and GWMWater advisory committee chairman.
He was involved in various sporting clubs, include Horsham Football and Netball Club and Horsham Little Athletics.
He was the chairman of the Horsham Tidy Towns Committee for more than 30 years.
During this time, Horsham was voted Australia’s tidiest town in 2001 and Victoria’s tidiest town seven times.
Mr Johns was a Horsham Uniting Church elder, a Horsham City Lions Club charter member and a Masonic Lodge 60-year member.
He was a life member of Keep Australia Beautiful, Wimmera Base Hospital and the Pharmaceutical Society of Australia.
He was a Justice of the Peace for more than 25 years and in 2014 he received a Federation University honorary doctorate.
Mr Johns is survived by his wife Jo and six children – Ian, Andrew, Tim, Stuart and twins David and Josephine.
Mr and Mrs Johns married in 1962.
Mr Johns did a pharmacy apprenticeship in Horsham, before going to college and working in Melbourne.
He then worked as a locum pharmacist throughout Victoria and Tasmania and travelled to England, where he met Mrs Johns.
A year after they met Mr and Mrs Johns got married in England, and returned to Horsham after six years.
Mr Johns eventually bought the pharmacy where he completed his apprenticeship.
Mr and Mrs Johns had a long and happy life together.
They were very proud of all their children, who have all achieved great things in life.
Horsham Rural City chief executive Peter Brown said Mr Johns was not afraid to get his hands dirty.
“He worked hard and did whatever needed to be done,” he said.
“He made a immeasurable contribution to Horsham and his breadth of his involvement was extraordinary.”
Mr Brown said Mr Johns was involved in many different groups, across many different interests.
“His involvement included cultural activities such as the art gallery, along with community pursuits through Tidy Towns, the health care group and service clubs,” he said.
There will be a public service to celebrate Mr Johns’ life next week.