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4/15/2012 6:00:00 AM
Kingman mourns loss of philanthropist
John Lingenfelter leaves behind a trail of good deeds
CourtesyDr. John Lingenfelter

Dr. John Lingenfelter
AHRON SHERMAN/MinerDoctor John Lingenfelter, whose care groups consistently earn high marks from the state, inside of the Lingenfelter Center’s chapel.  This photo was taken August 2011.

Doctor John Lingenfelter, whose care groups consistently earn high marks from the state, inside of the Lingenfelter Center’s chapel. This photo was taken August 2011.

Suzanne Adams-Ockrassa
Miner Staff Reporter

KINGMAN - A large number of Kingman and Mohave County residents are mourning the loss of one of the community's most generous benefactors.

Dr. John Lingenfelter passed away Thursday at the Joan and Diana Hospice House, one of the many projects in the community he helped to finance. The viewing will be from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Thursday, April 19, at Sutton Memorial Funeral Home, 1701 Sycamore Ave. A memorial is planned for 1 p.m. on Friday, April 20, at St. John's United Methodist Church, 1730 Kino Ave.

Creative Care Marketing Director John Kirby said Lingenfelter fell ill about a week and a half ago. He was moved from Kingman Regional Medical Center to the hospice home on Monday.

"We're all (at the various nursing care facilities owned by Lingenfelter) missing him very much," Kirby said. "He was here every day. He would come in early for breakfast and spend the whole day at care facilities. He would wander in and out of all of our offices and sit and chat with us, checking up on the various projects we were working on."

"I was very fortunate to work with him and it was a great privilege to work with him," Kirby said.

Lingenfelter grew up on an Iowa farm, graduated from East High School in Des Moines and joined the U.S. Army with his classmates. After being discharged from the military, he attended and graduated with a degree in agronomy from Iowa State College. While in college he met Diana Johanssen. The two married after he graduated from college and moved onto the family farm.

Two years later and after their first child, Fred, Lingenfelter decided he wanted to become a doctor. He and his family worked to get him through pre-med school at Drake University and then medical school at the Iowa School of Medicine.

After graduating in 1960, he and the family, now with two children in tow, moved to Phoenix for his internship at Good Sam Hospital. Sandy, the couple's second child, was born while Lingenfelter was in med school.

Susan, the couple's third child, was born just before the family moved to Kingman in 1961.

"He was always a family man and I think it surprised his family and friends when he didn't return to Iowa," his daughter, Sandy Terry, said. He liked Arizona and wanted to take a chance at making a life here. During his time off, he and Diana would travel around the state looking for an area to settle in. They chose Kingman because they liked the climate, the Hualapai Mountains and the community, she said.

Life in Kingman kept Lingenfelter very busy. He was one of only three doctors in the county and delivered numerous babies, including his fourth child, Sara.

When the doctors at Mohave General Hospital realized they needed someone who could provide anesthesia, Lingenfelter traveled to Phoenix for training and added that skill to his medical resume. He also served at various times as the hospital's chief of staff, chief of anesthesia and ER chief.

Terry and her brother, Fred Lingenfelter, remember going on rounds with him at the hospital. Fred even remembers getting to watch some operations and procedures.

Lingenfelter's other two children, Susan Collins and Sara Overson, were not available Friday afternoon.

A number of his stories about his 35 years of work as a county doctor can be found in his book "Happenings," which was published last year and illustrated by his friend and artist, Fred Lucas. One short story tells about the time he was filling in for the local vet and almost treated a pet skunk. His book can be found at the Lingenfelter Center on Sunrise Avenue off of Western Avenue.

Terry said Virginia Long, who was Lingenfelter's secretary for a number of years, once told her that he would occasionally have her clear the account for his patients who couldn't pay.

He also served at various times as the county physician, the county health director and the county medical examiner for 16 years. During that time he reorganized the County Health Services Department, created a county pharmacy and started the Mohave Mental Health Clinic among other things.

Lingenfelter's medical building boom continued in 1982, when he and a number of local doctors founded a company, which offered services to patients who had signed up for the new Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System. He also founded and owned Arizona Health Concepts and was a part owner of Ventana Health Systems, which is now Evercare, part of Arizona's Medicaid system.

Lingenfelter also served more than 20 years on the Mohave County Hospital District Board.

"He was a very great man, very community oriented and supportive of the hospital," said Brian Turney, CEO of Kingman Regional Medical Center. "He wasn't afraid to share his opinion on something, but at the same time he was open to any ideas."

Turney remembers one time during the early years of the hospital's evolution from a county-run facility to a private non-profit facility, the board was trying to decide how to pay for landscaping around an area of the hospital it had just expanded.

The board decided to let Turney do the design and was having a hard time convincing Lingenfelter.

"He really wanted us to hire a professional," Turney said. "We finally convinced him and when it was finished, he looked around and told me, 'Not bad.' After that, every time we had a new project that required landscaping, Doc would say, 'Don't worry about it. We'll just have Brian do it.'"

"He was very generous to the hospital," Turney said. "He'll be missed."

Lingenfelter donated more than just his time and medical expertise to the hospital. The Lingenfelter and the Becker families donated more than $1 million and a plot of land to build the Joan and Diana Hospice Home, which opened in 2010, he said.

"He always had an idea of how to make the community or the hospital better," Turney said.

According to his friends and family, Lingenfelter was always coming up with ideas.

Cornerstone Mission President Lisa Beauchamp, said Lingenfelter would pop into her office when she was working for Crystal Burge, usually around the busiest time of day and say, "I've got an idea!" And off the two of them would go in his car to see his idea.

"He was a visionary. He would get so excited about all of his ideas," she said.

"My brother used to say he had 365 ideas a year and maybe only one of them was a good one," Terry said. "He would get an idea and just go with it."

He would write them down in a little notebook that he kept in his front shirt pocket or on a tongue depressor when he was on his rounds, she said. He was more worried about losing his notes than his wallet.

One of his ideas was figuring out a better way to care for the elderly residents of the community.

Terry said she remembered going on rounds with him in the original nursing home in Kingman and how much he disliked the institutional feeling of nursing homes, which is why he founded a series of care facilities starting in 1998, including the Gardens Rehab and Care Center, the Lingenfelter Center (2002), Helen's Place Assisted Living (2002), the Legacy Rehab and Care Center (2005) in Kingman and the River Gardens Care Center (2005) in Bullhead City. He also held shares in the Gardens Assisted Living and donated land for the Amy Neal Retirement Center.

"He always wanted to give people the best quality care, so they could spend their last days in a dignified manner," Terry said. "It was always something he wanted to do."

The Lingenfelter care groups are well known for their patient care. The group consistently earns high marks from the state.

Lingenfelter and his wife didn't let his long hours as a doctor stop them from being active in the community.

Both Lingenfelter and his wife were active members at the United Methodist Church for more than 40 years. He donated land for three different church organizations and for the expansion of Cornerstone Mission.

In the mid-1970s, Lingenfelter had another idea and helped create the Kingman High School Bulldog Boosters club. He was elected club president in 1977. Then he was elected to the Kingman High School Board in 1978 and served on it for eight years.

In 1981, Lingenfelter and a group of Kingman residents founded Stockman's Bank. He served on the bank's board of directors until it was sold in 2007 to National Bank of Arizona.

Terry and Fred said despite their dad's busy schedule both in and out of the hospital, he always made time for his family.

"He was always busy, but he always made time to make it to our games in high school," Fred said.

"We always ate dinner around the table," Terry said. "Any time he had with us was good, quality time."

"He never yelled at us, never complained about his work and never had a bad word about anyone. He might have a funny story about someone," Terry said.

"And he could always take a joke and dish one right back," Fred said. "He also always found a way to get out of doing the dishes. He always seemed to get a call from the hospital around that time."

The family later found out that Lingenfelter had an accomplice at the hospital who would call just when dinner was ending.

"He was one of the greatest men I've ever known in Kingman," said former Mohave County Supervisor Pete Byers. "He was always Johnny-on-the-spot with an idea. It's a very sad day for Kingman."

"When I left office, he decided that I didn't need to retire. He told me he would build me a real estate office anywhere I wanted with everything I would need to run it," Byers said. "I told him, 'I love you, but I'm not going to work like that.' He told me, 'Think about it for a few months and then come talk to me.' That's just the kind of guy he was."

Byers never did take Lingenfelter up on his offer.

Lingenfelter never really retired. He was too full of ideas. He always described himself as "semi-retired."

During his "retirement," he built a residential subdivision, The Ranch, at Long Mountain on Route 66.

He also donated land in 2009 to Mohave Community College for a nursing school, half a block from his care centers on Chicago Avenue.

In 2010, he teamed up with one of his old hospital buddies, Dr. Edwin Goertz, to create a high potency, easy-on-the-stomach, vitamin C tablet, known as Doctor C.

When Cornerstone Mission fell on hard times in 2010 and was in danger of closing its doors, Lingenfelter donated two parcels of land for a fundraising raffle. The fundraiser brought in around $30,000, according to Beauchamp.

"It got us back on track. He also gave us lots of fundraising ideas," she said.

Last year, Lingenfelter purchased and turned over the keys to a house to the mission for a women and children's shelter. The shelter, Diana's Faith House, opened recently and was named after his wife.

"He was a really wonderful man and very supportive of the community. He did so much for us," Beauchamp said. "He was so excited to hear about the first family that would be staying in Diana's Faith House. He was like a little boy."

Lingenfelter was recently working on getting a national recognition for a rock formation near Coyote Pass that he called "Abe at Rest" because it looked like the profile of Abraham Lincoln lying on his back. Fred Lucas even created a painting of the site. Prints of the painting hang in Lingenfelter's office at the Lingenfelter Center, at the Mohave Museum of History and Art and one has been donated to the state. The family is trying to get another copy donated to the federal government.

He also initiated and donated the painting "Wonders of Mohave County" to the museum.

At the same time, Lingenfelter was working on a plan to secure the U.S. border with Mexico. When Terry asked him if he thought the plan would work he told her it would be a shame if he didn't at least try.

One of his last acts of generosity was offering more than 200 acres to the county for a new fairgrounds.

"The community has always been good to us. It was like a part of our extended family," Terry said. "It was good to him too and he wanted to give back to it. He always loved Kingman."

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Related Stories:
• Kingman Column: A kneed to know basis
• Obituary: Dr. John Graham Lingenfelter
• Kingman's Lingenfelter offers land for new fairgrounds
• Dr. Lingenfelter gives up a lot for Mission

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Reader Comments

Posted: Thursday, April 19, 2012
Article comment by: barbie paris

i have worked for creative care for almost 10 years. Doc was the most giving man i have ever worked for and it was truely an honor. I remember one year around x-mas when doc paid all his employees a christmas bonus out of his own pocket to make sure we got something. not just anyone would do that. that takes a GREAT man. he will be missed greatly.

Posted: Thursday, April 19, 2012
Article comment by: Kevin Byram

Dr. John was one of my most favorite people. I knew him all my life and he was an outgoing, idea oriented, friendly man with a heart of Gold. I knew him well. As a child he was my doctor and in the church (St. John's UMC). His wife Diana was much the same. Many of his daughters attended school with my brothers and I. They were also great customers of my greeting card business (a business I had as a kid) AND always encouraged me to do my best. I attribute a lot of my success to their words of wisdom. He will be greatly missed.

Posted: Tuesday, April 17, 2012
Article comment by: Sharon Nalley

What a man! We miss you and your beautiful smile already. Dr. John donated a place of his in Golden Valley for our group of ladies, called Sew Inclined. Of course, he was always thinking who we should meet so we could add them to our list of lap quilts, shawls, hospice blankets and so on. It was a pleasure knowing him and seeing his mind always working. I truely believe Diana and Dr. John are dancing on the clouds together. In our hearts forever two wonderful people, we will surely miss you.

Posted: Tuesday, April 17, 2012
Article comment by: William Dooley, Jr., M.D.

John Lingenfelter arrived in Mohave County about 15 years before I did but when he learned about my medical practice he was one of the first to refer patients for specialized care. He and I did not always agree but we shared a mutual respect for each other. Mohave County has lost a special person. My belief is that if we all try to learn from a man like John the world will be a better place. He recognized that God put us here to do good for others and he put that into action everyday. My prayers for John and his family.

Posted: Tuesday, April 17, 2012
Article comment by: k s

To all of us that knew you as Doc, we are heartbroken to know you will no longer be walking the halls of the nursing homes, stopping in to see everyone, ask how everyone is doing, tell your always funny stories and swipe a candy or two from the candy dishes. Our loss is Heaven's gain.

Posted: Monday, April 16, 2012
Article comment by: Jena P

Dr Lingenfelter and all his family are wonderful people. My condolences to all the family, he will surely be missed.

Posted: Monday, April 16, 2012
Article comment by: Julia Ratliff

IT is a honor and pleasure to have known the Lingenfelter family. They are all such wonderful people and we are so greatful for our Hospice House. My thoughts and prayers are with you all and im so glad to know you all.

Posted: Sunday, April 15, 2012
Article comment by: Judy L

Look at that face... that is the face of a jolly, loving man!
You'll be missed by more than just the people that know you sir.
God Bless... you are in our Savior's arms now.

Posted: Sunday, April 15, 2012
Article comment by: Patz Silva-Van Wormer

Doc you did so much for Kingman. Growing up with your kids and your care....Your legacy will go on, and You will definitely be missed by many ...for you were loved by all that knew you. Rest with your Angel in Heaven...and in Peace. God Bless Your Family.

Posted: Sunday, April 15, 2012
Article comment by: Linda Athens

Rest in peace, Dr. L. You will surely be missed.

When Dr. Lingenfelter and Diana first moved here, Dr. Arnold was no longer delivering babies and I was ready to have another one.. Horrified at leaving Dr. Arnold and having prior complications, I trepidatiously went to the new Dr. L. I needn't have worried. I did have complications again - even worse. The baby and I both nearly died. Dr. L stayed by my side for 18 hours until he was sure we were both going to make it. And when the baby had to go to Phoenix for further treatment, he personally made all the arrangements with a Phoenix specialist - the best of the best. That baby is an extremely healthy science teacher today.

At the same time, my oldest child was ready for Sunday School and Diana Lingenfelter was her first SS teacher and a wonderful one at that.

Not too much later, a patient shared her hepatitis with Dr. Lingenfelter and he in turn shared it with seven patients. Haha! I was one of them. He absolutely insisted I take care of myself, something he had not done by not resting enough. So he insisted I must rest and when he felt I was not, he simply plunked me in isolation in the hospital until I started following orders.

Later I realized what a loving act that actually was. And thru the years we laughed at how sharing Kingman was and he revealed the lady who actually knew she had given him the hepatitis and didn't want to die without apologizing to him. And he laughed.

As with others, he was always there for me for my remaining years here. Kingman owes a great debt to the Lingenfelters. They are together with God now.

Posted: Sunday, April 15, 2012
Article comment by: melody king

I cannot express the feeling i have inside at this moment only that he will be deeply miss but many many people including me.I have only known Mr. lingenfelter a few years but he has touch my heart very deeply. and this saddens me and im sure many others .Please know my prayers are with his family at this time of need .God truely blessed us when he put this man in this world and into our community ..

Posted: Sunday, April 15, 2012
Article comment by: Karla and Tony Calumet

Both Dr. John and Diana were a blessing to both my husband, Tony and myself when I came to Kingman, AZ to open the Joan & Diana Hospice Home. Being from Iowa where I had just arrived from, they gave a gracious welcome. They had us in to Thanksgiving Dinner which reminded us of home since we both had come from large families and were unable to get home that year. Their kindness just abounded! Doc always had ideas and he came to my office regularly to share these. He took my brother and husband to the Arizona border to see first hand what the situation was there and what may be able to be done. His faith and energy were inspiring! Though my time was short in Kingman, the impact will be remembered always. I am left with thinking of the gift they leave now which are the wonderful children,grandchildren and great grandchildren of John and Diana and how each of them is a glimmer of their love and kindness they shared with all they met. I remember Diana sharing one day that when John had asked her out on a date early in their courtship that she couldn't remember if he was tall and that she chose her high heels that day to wear and was delighted to find that he was indeed a tall man!
Fred, Sandy, Susan and Sara and family, you are all in Tony and my thoughts and prayers. May God shine His Grace on all of you at this time of your loss.
Tony and Karla Calumet

Posted: Sunday, April 15, 2012
Article comment by: Gena Durrett

I worked at the Lingenfelter Center while I was nursing school, and always felt that Dr. Lingenfelter was a genuine person, always with a smile that never seemed contrived. I know that he deeply mourned the loss of his Diana last year. They are now resting together, runited. Thank you Doc, for all that you have given to our community.

Posted: Sunday, April 15, 2012
Article comment by: Kathryn Formerly M.E.A.I.

Fred, my heartfelt prayers to you and yours during this sad time. It was always a pleasure to work with you and your Dad on various projects while at Mohave Engineering Associates Inc and with other local developers. Dr. Lingenfelter is already greatly missed and it is our hope that this community will keep his vision alive. May the God of all comfort surround you with supernatural peace continually!

Posted: Sunday, April 15, 2012
Article comment by: l b

I used to work at the lingenfelter center and every morning you would see john going around saying hi to everyone and all the residents he was always so nice. If he noticed something was wrong he would go out of his way to make you feel better. He will be missed. My prayers go out to his family.

Posted: Sunday, April 15, 2012
Article comment by: Lisa Lannan

Sorry to hear this. I continue to pray for Sandy, Danny and all the family members.
2 Corinthians 1:3-5

Posted: Sunday, April 15, 2012
Article comment by: Gabby B

I never met this man but I know he was a dedicated man who believed in giving back to his community.
Although I grieve for the family, know that his legacy lives on!
He has earned his Angel's wings and hopefully he will continue to look over Kingman as the Guardian he was in his lifetime.
God Bless you and your family sir! R.I.P.!

Posted: Sunday, April 15, 2012
Article comment by: Kurt Manley

When I was a kid, Doc took me under his wing and cultivated my interest in Medicine. I remember him telling my mother, "this young man has the compassion that medicine needs, he will go far. Whatever it takes, he needs to go to medical school." Those words inspired me and motivated me. I was blessed 30 years later to share with Dr Lingenfelter and his wife the impact that he had on my professional life. Thank you sir, for believing me and motivating me the way that you did. You will be missed.

Posted: Sunday, April 15, 2012
Article comment by: Julia Kearin-Burrows-Lovins

I was one of those patients that had their account cleared. I was a young single mom and my infant daughter was so ill. He met us at his office on a Sunday afternoon in order to treat her. He was a very caring and genuine man. My prayers go out to his family.

Posted: Sunday, April 15, 2012
Article comment by: jamie schall

he truely was a great man with a very caring and generous heart

Posted: Sunday, April 15, 2012
Article comment by: Mark Feeley

I was a target of Dr. Johns kindness and generosity. Hoping you can understand what i'm unable to put into words. You have my deepest sympathy.

Posted: Sunday, April 15, 2012
Article comment by: jonnie rothermel

I worked at Dr. Lingenfelter's nursing centers for several years after coming to Kingman. His wife and himself were always outgoing and kind to residents and staff. He will be sadly missed and he was always smiling. I don't think I can recall a time when he didn't have a smile. He helped this community so much in the 10 years I have been here. God Bless his family in this time of sorrow.

Posted: Sunday, April 15, 2012
Article comment by: Jon Longoria

I've known Dr Lingenfelter all of my life. My condolences to all the family, he will surely be missed.

Posted: Sunday, April 15, 2012
Article comment by: B R

Rest in peace sir. The community will remember you for the generosity you have shown over the years.
I hope that your legacy of community support has been passed on to those you left behind. We need more people like you.
My sympathy to your family for your loss but you did lead a good life.
God Bless!

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