John Ruess

John Mark Ruess

1960 - 2023

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The celebration of life for John will be lived streamed via the Henderson-Barker Funeral Home Facebook page and can be accessed by clicking the following link:    This will begin shortly before the service.





John Mark Ruess left this world peacefully on Friday, June 23, 2023, after a brief illness, with his adoring family by his side.


Born September 8, 1960, to Bob and Geraldine Ruess, John grew up in West Liberty, Iowa. While a student at West Liberty High School, he was active in the music department’s show choir and an avid track and field star. Upon graduation, he attended St. Ambrose University in Davenport, Iowa. While there, he spent time in the seminary discerning his calling to the priesthood. He ultimately found his calling in music. He graduated with a degree in music, with a minor in computer science.


A charismatic tenor, John followed his passion to Milwaukee, Wisc., where he performed in many productions, including “Something’s Afoot,” “Two by Two,” “The 1940s Radio Hour,” “She Loves Me” and “Babes in Arms.” He made the leap to Broadway when he was cast in “Les Misérables.” The next 20 years saw John earn multiple Broadway credits, including “Falsettos” and “Show Boat.” He was cast in numerous national and international tours, including “Phantom of the Opera,” “The World Goes Round” and “The Music of Andrew Lloyd Webber.” He also frequently performed in Chicago, Ill. with productions of “Into the Woods,” “Evita,” “Oklahoma,” “The King and I,” “La Cage Aux Folles” and “Parade.” Some of his happiest memories were born of his years on the stage and the incredible friends with whom he shared these beautiful experiences.


After retiring from acting, John transitioned from performer to observer, often spending his time immersed in art, live theater and cinema. He had a rewarding second career with Starbucks, leading multiple teams as store manager and allowing him the flexibility to feed his true passions in the arts.


John was a gentle, kind man who loved quietly but fiercely. He was devoted to his family and enjoyed annual trips to his first love, New York City, where he walked for days on end, trying new restaurants and visiting his favorite museums. He enjoyed Thai food, critiquing restaurants, and compiling his list of top movies of the year. Towards the latter years of his life, he moved to Coralville, Iowa, to be closer to family. He was an avid card player, enjoying weekly games with his siblings. He will be remembered for his boisterous, melodic laugh and witty sense of humor.


He was preceded in death by his devoted parents, Bob and Geraldine Ruess, and his beloved sister-in-law, Paula Schaedlich Ruess. John is survived by his brothers and sisters, Terry (Teresa) Ruess, Dick Ruess, Julie (Bob) Ruess Penno, Bill (Vonda) Ruess, Larry (Bess) Ruess, and Kate Ruess Carter. His 18 nieces and nephews, Jaime (Tim) Parizek, Ryan (Gaby) Ruess, Julia (Matt) Wade-Ferrell, Tricia (Chris) Barger, Cathy (Nate) Burry, Jeff (Katie) Penno, Doug (Imelda) Penno, Joe (Brittany) Penno, Charissa (Ray) Popp, Casey (Kasey) Ruess, Charlie (Angela) Ruess, Kelsi (Russell) Sheldrake, Cody (Laura) Ruess, Elizabeth (Colin) Jacobs, Nathan (Charlotte) Ruess, Matt Carter, Holly (Matt) Funke, and Allison (Robert) Wicher have made him the proud great-uncle to 27 grandnieces and grandnephews.


A celebration of life service will be held at 10:30 a.m., Thursday, June 29, 2023, at St. Joseph Catholic Church in West Liberty, Iowa.


Memorials may be made to the West Liberty High School Show Choir, St. Ambrose Music Department or a charity of your choice.



Celebration of Life

10:30 am
Thursday, June 29, 2023
St. Joseph Catholic Church
109 West Sixth St.
West Liberty, Iowa, United States


Mt. Calvary Cemetery
Elder Avenue
West Liberty, Iowa, United States
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John Ruess

In Loving Memory

John Ruess

1960 - 2023

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