John Louis Musick

John Louis Musick, 79, passed away on August 23, 2022. He was a beloved spouse, father, grandfather, brother, nephew, and friend. He was a mentor to many and a guiding compass to those around him. He led by example.

John was born in Milwaukee in 1943 to Mary and John Musick. His childhood was filled with love, laughter, paper routes, extended family, and baseball. He pursued higher education and earned a PhD in social work and sociology. He was impassioned for social justice, influenced by his work registering voters in the South in the 60’s.

John taught at UMD in the School of Social Development, before beginning his lifelong career as a community organizer. He married Denise Scheer in 1982.

He helped found United West End in Duluth, and two statewide citizen movements, Minnesota COACT and Michigan Organizing Project, working on issues of farm foreclosures, single payer health, taxing big oil profits, immigration, homelessness and more. He sought to organize those who traditionally had little voice.

John had the heart of a servant. He was gentle and kind in spirit, yet fierce about injustice. His mission was how to make the world a better place. A colleague says of him that whenever things got hard, when it seemed there were too many obstacles, John would help make a way forward. He inspired many to become organizers and leaders in their own communities and to create change. Though his work was often challenging, it gave him great joy and purpose. He served with humbleness and integrity.

For the past 15 years, John served as director of South Sudan Leadership and Community Development (SSLCD), which he helped create. He used his organizing skills at the international level, partnering with South Sudanese women and girls to train and empower them, and to set up cooperatives in soap making, goat and chicken raising, and agriculture, giving them income to support their families. They affectionately call him Baba John.

John was also inspired by his faith and was active at First Lutheran  Church. He leaves behind his spouse, Denise Scheer, two daughters, (Florida and Mary), a brother Tom and sister Sue, his aunt Donna, four grandchildren, and two great- grandchildren; his in-laws; many nieces and nephews; and many colleagues and lifelong friends. John enjoyed family, friends, books, music, gardening and the outdoors.

A memorial service for John will be held on Saturday, October 1, at 1:00 pm, at First Lutheran Church. In lieu of flowers, his family is requesting donations be made to South Sudan Leadership and Community Development in honor of John’s life and work, at SSLCD, PO Box 1589, Grand Rapids, MI 49501, or at