Johnna McDonald Kleisner

Ocotber 4, 1945–February 9, 2024

Philanthropist, Wife, Mother, Grandmother, in-law, Godmother, BFF, art advocate, educator, activist:


February 9, 1964, Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan

Two young university students, Johnna Lynn McDonald and Frederick John Kleisner, having met in November of 1963, planned a date to watch the Beatles American Television debut on the Ed Sullivan show. The Beatles debut was legendary as the love that burgeoned forth between Johnna and Fred. They married on the last day of 1966; over the following six decades, they welcomed four children and seven grandchildren along the way, and they enjoyed, and absorbed together the extraordinary events that illuminated, enlightened, and sometimes shocked our time.

Johnna was born in Pontiac, Michigan, to two lovely parents, affectionately known as Cuppie and Golda. Having attended Michigan State University and The University of the State of New York, Johnna earned a BS in Education; as a life-long learner, she continued with advanced studies in special education.

Johnna was not one for labels or formalities; instead, she leaned into and respected authenticity, deeply. She traveled the world, she read with ferocity, she listened intently, she thought, and she felt. She was always curious! Most importantly, she cared.

Johnna was a fierce supporter and cheerleader of her children and husband as well as an advocate for those in need, the marginalized, the ignored, the oppressed. Johnna’s open mind and generous heart sprung forward into action, always working to help others.

She found a particularly strong calling in advocating as a Board Member, advisory Board Member and Trustee for artists, museums, and education for all. (The Speed Museum, Louisville, KY; Bainbridge Island Museum of Art/BIMA; The Bloedel Reserve, Bainbridge Island, WA; The IslandWood School, Bainbridge Island, WA). Johnna recognized the power of art to help educate, heal, inform perception, and create dialogue.

BIMA’s president, Sheila Hughes described the 3-term board member succinctly:

“Johnna was the most energetic education and arts champion, generous supporter, extraordinary art angel. She was one of the most exceptional advocates for art, artists, culture, and community imaginable.”

On February 9, 2024, 60 years to the date of the debut of both Johnna and Fred’s love story and the Beatles American takeover ; Johnna McDonald Kleisner died peacefully in her Bainbridge Island home surrounded by the beauty, water and wildlife of The Puget Sound, her books and art collection, cradled in the love and care of her children and , most importantly and most distinctly, that of her husband of 57 years, the love of her life, Fred.

Johnna, an irreplaceable, brilliant, hilarious, witty firecracker; we will miss her forever!

In lieu of flowers, Johnna would love if you picked up a book, wrote a story, started a painting, visited a museum, helped someone in need, said thank you, or reached out to someone you miss. If gift giving is what speaks to you: BIMA, Bloedel Reserve, IslandWood School and the work of Hospice agencies all meant a great deal to Johnna.