John Givonetti was a remarkable man who lived an unremarkable, but meaningful life.
He left a legacy that now touches people around the world.
John was born in Hoboken, New Jersey, USA in 1916 to parents who recently emigrated from Italy. Their guidance and the lessons learned from growing up poor were a major influence on his life.
During World War II, John was a medical corpsman in the 1st Armored Division. His combat experience started with landing in North Africa in November 1942, followed by coming ashore at Anzio, Italy, the liberation of Rome and the final drive up towards the Italian Alps. John finished the war in Northern Italy, camped outside the town where both his parents were born and raised.
After the war John moved to Muskegon, Michigan, USA where he spent the rest of his life. He worked mainly as a machinist, and, occasionally, as a day laborer. No one enjoyed Michigan more than John. Lake Michigan and its sand dunes, hiking in autumn, even the cold winter snows were all his favorites. He claimed that no one cared for golf more than he did, despite admitting to be the “worst golfer in Michigan.”
John had little desire for material things. He never owned a home, or a new car. He preferred whenever possible to walk to his destination, occasionally more that 10 or 20 miles away. While he did not marry, he had many friends. They enjoyed his positive outlook on life and famous sense of humor.
In 2007, John began to implement his dream of sharing his lifetime savings with the needy of the world. However, the financial abuses found in many charities, especially large ones, were of great concern to him. Therefore, he preferred to create his own charity that could directly help the poor and “get the most bang for the buck,” as he would say. John Givonetti Giving (JGG) was created to achieve this goal.
John Givonetti died on December 13, 2009 in Muskegon. He was 93 years old. His room in the care center where he lived for his last 2 years was decorated with photographs of the children that had benefited from JGG. John told virtually no one about JGG’s work. When asked by visitors who the children in the photos were, John would politely reply, “they are all my nieces and nephews.”