• Last modified 612 days ago (Nov. 16, 2022)



Anita Westerhaus

Services were Tuesday for Anita Johnson Westerhaus, 74, who passed away Nov. 10, 2022, at home, surrounded by the love of her family.

The cause was leukemia. Fortified throughout by her Christian faith, she also lived with dignity and courage for many years with multiple sclerosis (MS).

Anita was born Aug. 25, 1948, in Rock Rapids, Iowa, to Kermit and Evelyn Moen Johnson, and grew up in Des Moines.

Anita took up her mother’s passion for the cello at an early age. After graduation from Roosevelt High School in 1966, she attended Drake University in Des Moines, where she majored in cello performance and won honors as a young artist.

During the summer of 1967, she traveled to Lawrence to study cello with Professor Raymond Stuhl and to work as a counselor at the Midwestern Music and Art Camp at the University of Kansas.

There she met the love of her life, a fellow counselor, Donald Westerhaus of Marion, in June 1967. She and Donald, a member of the Marion High School class of 1965, were married two years later. They celebrated 50 years together in December 2019.

Along the way, Anita discovered an even greater love for teaching music to children and held positions over 15 years teaching elementary school music in Rhode Island, Kansas, and West Des Moines, Iowa.

During that time, she taught piano lessons to pay for her master’s and education specialist degrees at Drake and for 17 years was principal of Sacred Heart Elementary School in West Des Moines.

She brought the light of learning and a love of music to many thousands of students during her career.

Under her leadership, Sacred Heart was named a National Blue Ribbon School, and Anita was recognized as a National Distinguished Principal both by the National Catholic Education Association and the U.S. Department of Education.

She was appointed to a term on the Iowa Board of Educational Examiners by Governor Tom Vilsack.

Anita is survived by her husband of 53 years, Donald, of Bloomington, Indiana; children Andrew (and wife Barbara) of Philadelphia and Jennifer Adams (and husband Michael) of Bloomington; grandchildren Oliver and Amelia Adams and Charles, Louis, and August Westerhaus; brother Dixon Johnson and sister-in-law Carolyn Johnson of Palm Desert, California; and countless friends.

She was preceded in death by her parents and by her in-laws, Judge Edwin (Pat) and Bernadine Westerhaus of Marion.

After cremation, a celebration of her life with a Mass of Christian Burial was scheduled for 10 a.m. Tuesday, Nov. 15, 2022, at St. Paul Catholic Center in Bloomington, with a reception to follow. Live streaming of the Mass tentatively was planned on the parish website,

In lieu of flowers, the family requests that memorial donations be made to the American Red Cross and that anyone who is able consider donating blood.

Last modified Nov. 16, 2022