Jan 19,1978---Jun 13,2022

Dr. John Edward Ernst, 44, Olathe, KS, passed away June 13, of complications of Neuroendocrine Cancer.  John was born in Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin on January 19, 1978 to Jim & Kathy Ketelsen Ernst.  John grew up in Monona, IA and attended MFL MarMac through high school.  He spent his free time playing football, basketball, golf, track & field, hunting, and lifeguarding at the Monona Pool, which covers 95% of the activities available to one living in Monona.  John continued his football career at Coe College in Cedar Rapids, IA as he graduated with a BA in Elementary Education.  While in Cedar Rapids, his cousins there fondly remember his wonderment at living in the “big city” of 150,000 people.  The school is also the alma mater of his dad, uncle, and sister. 

While teaching 4th grade in Desoto, IA for ADM, John at an Iowa State football game met Heidi Ann Hilleman, the beautiful and energetic woman he would follow to Kansas City.  John & Heidi loved & supported each other for nearly two decades, marrying on July 31, 2004 in Kansas City.  John and Heidi made their home in Olathe, KS.  They welcomed a son Joseph Michael in 2007, and a daughter Carlie Elizabeth in 2009.  Family was of the utmost importance to John.  He generously considered coworkers and neighbors part of his family.  The mutual love and dedication between John and his family was present before and throughout his courageous fight with neuroendocrine cancer.

Education was his vocation and passion, earning a MA in Educational Administration (2005) and a Ph. D in Educational Leadership and Administration (2015) from Baker University.  John held multiple roles in education over 15 years, most recently the principal of Rolling Ridge Elementary School in the Olathe Public School District.  In 2016, John was awarded the National Distinguished Principal of the Year award by the Kansas Chapter of the National Association of Elementary School Principals.  John was recognized as a Wall of Honor Inductee by Baker University in 2017.  John was also honored to be in the Leadership Olathe Class of 2017.

John was known for his relationship building with students and staff.  He enjoyed greeting kids at the beginning and end of each day as they entered the school.  He insisted on learning the names of 400+ students in the first week of school.  He spent lunchtimes in the cafeteria and scraped icy windshields of staff in the winter.  John’s commitment to “service over self” was visible throughout all areas of John’s personal and professional life.  Even as he battled cancer and the exhausting treatments, he was motivated to be present for and serving those around him.

John’s enjoyment of being outdoors continued into his adult life, and he loved sharing this joy with others.  Boating and water skiing on the lake with family and friends was always something he cherished.  He looked forward to snow skiing trips in Copper Mountain with friends that became family as well, watching the skills of the kids progress as they got older.  He coached or assisted with countless youth sports teams, passing on his knowledge and love of the games.  He took his children hunting and fishing and loved telling stories of what they experienced.

John’s dedication to a positive attitude regardless of what life threw at him by “Never Saying Quit” and being “ErnstStrong” motivated him and everyone who encountered his story.  To say that he was an inspiration would be a vast understatement.  The world is a better place because John Ernst was a part of it for 44 short years.

John is survived by his wife Heidi, his son Joseph and daughter Carlie, all of Olathe, Kansas;  his parents Jim and Kathy Ernst of Gardner, KS;  his sister Amy Muessel (Dan) and their children Alexandra and Luke of Omaha, NE;  his Father and Mother-in-law Mike & Sharon Hilleman;  his Sister-in-law Christie Hilleman Hocamp (Paul) and their children Michael and Mya;  his Brother-in-law Scott Hilleman & Courtney Hilleman and their children Taylor & Hudson;  his adored aunts and uncles;  his beloved cousins;  and an entire neighborhood and community of families who loved him. 

John was preceded in death by his grandparents, Ardel & Marcella Ernst and John & Marjorie Ketelsen; his uncle Jack Ketelsen; his cousin Jill Davis. 

A Celebration of Life Program will be held from 6:30–7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, June 21st, at Olathe West High School, 2200 W. Santa Fe, Olathe, KS 66061.

A Funeral Mass will be held at 10:30 a.m. on Wednesday, June 22nd, at Holy Trinity Catholic Church, 13615 W. 92nd St. Lenexa, KS.

In lieu of flowers memorial contributions may be made to: Ernst Strong Scholarship Fund for Olathe Public Schools Foundation https://olathepublicschoolsfoundation.org/content/donate-now

Go Fund Me Page https://www.gofundme.com/f/unx89k-ernst-strong-neuroendocrine-cancer?fs=e&s=cl 

A College Fund for John’s children, Joe and Carlie Ernst has been established. Check's can be made to Learning Quest, in the check memo have them put “gift code 433-VOR


Linda Riggs Jun 14 ,2022

Friend ,Wellsville ,Kansas

Sending love, hugs and prayers for ease and grace as you move through this journey and know that Love never dies. Unity Prayer for Protection May the light of God surround you… May the love of God enfold you… May the power of God protect you… May the presence of God watch over you… Wherever you are….God Is.

Monica and Saul Vazquez Jun 14 ,2022

Friend ,Olathe ,Kansas

You all our in our thoughts and prayers. May God wrap his arms around you and give comfort to you. God bless John.

Julia-anne Jun 14 ,2022

A former student of Rolling Ridge ,Raymore ,Kansas

I am sorry for your lost! I remember #JohnErnst he was a great principal at Rolling Ridge! I even remember going to Disney world and sitting in the lobby waiting for my family. I also remember hugging him every single day and tallying when and what day I hugged him! I remember sitting in the hallways on costume day and every single class walking around. I remember a lot at that school! Especially the Christmas season it was a lot of fun. I hope he RIP up in Heaven! #battlingcancer We Will Miss You! Love you forever!!! #JohnErnst!!

Alison Almanza Jun 14 ,2022

principal ,Chandler ,Arizona

you were the best principal anyone could ask for . I remember going into your office to eat lunch ☹️, you had so much hope in me of being successful in life . I will forever miss you and you will forever be in my heart. Thank you for the best assembly’s and best time in school. 🤍 you are now with God and his angles . They were so excited to have you. Now you have left our hearts heavy . Gone but never forgotten. Rest In Peace .🤍

Eric Bridges Jun 14 ,2022

Parent of one of his kids at RR ,Olathe ,Kansas

I am so heartbroken to hear of his passing. He was a genuine angel among us and now hes watching over. All his kids at Rolling Ridge will miss him, to include my own that attends and my younger kids who have gotten to know him. He was such an amazing and selfless man. I feel honored to have been able to know him. He treated all the kids as if they were his. He loved each and every one. He will be so very missed. To his family, I am so sorry for your loss. He truely was a great man and a fighter. Sending love your way.

Ernie and Rhonda Honas Jun 14 ,2022

Friend ,Gardner ,Kansas

Eternal rest grant unto him O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon him. May he rest in peace. Amen.

Natalie DeWeese Jun 14 ,2022

Fellow Elementary Principal and friend ,Spring Hill ,Kansas

Ernst Family, Thank you for sharing John’s journey with all of us through the Ernst Strong FB group. Your courage and John’s strength were truly amazing and inspirational. I am so glad I met John and have been able to learn from the example he set in how he lived his life. I’m sending all my love and prayers to you and all that loved John. He was truly an amazing human and I’m so glad I can call him a friend. Love, hugs, and many prayers, Natalie DeWeese, Principal at WG

Bill & Jeri Vincent Jun 14 ,2022

Friends of Ernst family ,Cedar Rapids ,Iowa

We were sorry to hear of John’s passing. Our thoughts and prayers are with his entire family. I know John was so loved by everyone in his family and he touched so many lives that he will be missed by not only his family, but all of the students, their parents, faculty and staff of the schools he led. You can feel proud that he had such a positive influence on so many. He was everything you could want in a husband, father, brother, son, uncle and nephew. I know he loved all of you.

Kenny LaMulle Jun 14 ,2022

Friend ,Madisonville ,Louisiana

Rest east Dr. Earnst. Hope to have a tequila with you again someday.

Bailee Fox Jun 14 ,2022

Childs principal ,Olathe ,Kansas


Clare VanDusen Jun 14 ,2022

Former student ,DeSoto ,Kansas

Mr. Ernst was my 2nd grade teacher at Starside Elementary. My favorite memory of Mr. Ernst is when he would do Hank the Cow Dog read alouds. He always did such fun voices for the characters which made it engaging and fun! My heart breaks for your family as you grieve. Covering you all in prayer! May the Lord wrap His loving arms around your family during this time! “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted…” Psalm 34:18 Prayers to you all, Clare VanDusen

Doreen Doerring Jun 14 ,2022

Friend of family ,Monona ,Iowa

I am very sorry for your loss. The whole Ernst family is in my thoughts.

Pat Ridout Jun 14 ,2022

Jim, Kathy, and family. My heartfelt sympathy with the passing of John. I pray God surrounds you with His comfort at this difficult time and in days to come. Sincerely, Pat Ridout

Alexis Contreras Jun 14 ,2022

Student ,Olathe ,Kansas

Dr. Ernst was truly a huge impact on my life. The special bond we had when J was in elementary school over sports was incredibly amazing. I would do anything to go back to those days and live those memories again. Not only me but so many people are going to miss you. We will always and forever love you John. ❤️

Patty Parker-Burns Jun 14 ,2022

Colleague from Lexington Trails Middle School ,Strafford ,Missouri

I taught for LTMS for three years. John taught there too. Friendly, funny and always a gentleman. We always had Texas Hold ‘Em game night with the faculty. He was lots of fun. Hugs and prayers to his family. Gone too soon. I am so sorry for your deep loss.

Gus Trupiano Jun 14 ,2022

Friend ,Woodstock ,Georgia

My sincerest condolences on John’s passing. He’s free from the earthly pain he endured and is in a better place, gone way too soon. I’m sure he’ll be watching over you all from Heaven.

Ryan N. Jun 14 ,2022

Student at Rolling Ridge ,Olathe ,Kansas

Dr. Ernst was the best principal I’ve ever had and will ever have. During my time at rolling ridge I remember how he knew every student’s name and was always highly involved in the daily activities of the school. He is the most dedicated person I know. Rest In Peace.

Dr Barry Cook Jun 14 ,2022

Colleague of John’s in Admin in Olathe ,Leawood ,Kansas

The first time I met John—it was as if we had always been friends. He had such a winning smile! Your wonderful memories of him will help you through the tough times. Blessings for your family. Barry

Jeremy Hauser Jun 15 ,2022

jlhauser5@gmail.com ,Kansas City ,Missouri

My thoughts and prayers are with Heidi, Joe, Carlie, and the entire Ernst family. John set an example for us all to live by in every aspect of life. He accomplished so much during his way too-short time with us. John’s legacy will live on through all the lives his touched. May God provide peace and comfort to each of you.

Mark G Fohey Jun 15 ,2022

Friend/former neighbor ,Monoba ,Iowa

My thoughts and prayers are with all of your family at this most difficult time. John and his family were neighbors of ours in Monona. I used to run around town with John. We enjoyed watching him and Amy compete athletically in high school. John was my son’s favorite Bulldog growing up. Kathy taught my children in school. Tremendously sad today after hearing of John’s passing. I’m not surprised that John was so admired and loved in Kansas as that is the way I remember him being in iowa too. May he be at peace in God’s hands now. 🙏

Joyce M Flowers Jun 15 ,2022

Co-Worker ,Olathe ,Kansas

John was a wonderful man and a great example of positive thinking. I will miss him, as will all our elementary principal group. Joyce Flowers

Nedra Hanken Jun 15 ,2022

I am so sorry. I have good memories of the Ernst and the Ketelsen families at Springville. The school kids who had John in their lives were so lucky. My condolences to all

Diane Friedemann Jun 15 ,2022

Grandma of student Cole Friedemann ,Shawnee ,Kansas

John seemed to take a particular interest in my grandson, Cole, although I suspect many parents felt that way. John was compassionate and wise and helped Cole cope with his focus, energy and emotions, spending a few minutes with him regularly during the day. I had the pleasure of meeting him a couple of times And he could always tell me how Cole was doing on that particular day! We will all grieve his loss, but not without hope, as we know where he is, One of many saints in heaven. God bless you with his peace and assurance of his love, that your hearts may heal.

Jamie and Andie Toledo Jun 15 ,2022

Heidi, and to the entire Ernst Family... John was such an incredible light in this world, and our hearts grieve with you. We love you all and hold you in our prayers. Jamie and Andie

Tracy (Ness) Van Hyfte & Family Jun 15 ,2022

Friend of the Hilleman Family ,McKinney ,Texas

Heidi - So sorry for your loss. Know that you and your family are in our hearts and our prayers during this difficult time.

Esley Henkes Jun 15 ,2022

Family friend/student of Mr. &.Mrs. Ernst ,Lansing ,Iowa

I am so sorry to hear of John's passing. He was a couple years ahead of me in school. As a child, I remember what a good big brother he was looking after Amy in the summer. He was a good role model. A special hug sent to Amy losing an older sibling is very difficult and heartbreaking. God bless his wife and kids and all the family. May He provide you with strength and courage during this difficult time.

Jeremey Southall Jun 15 ,2022

This is so very sad. John met so much to so many people. My thoughts and prayers are with the Ernst family.

Leisa Vetter Jun 16 ,2022

Teacher while was principal at Bradley Elementary ,Katy ,Texas

Mr. Ernst was the principal at Bradley when I was hired to teach 2nd grade. He was and remained someone I highly respected. I have been following him on FB over the years and his fight! My heart goes out to his wife and kids. They are in my thoughts. But, one thing is for sure he had an amazing impact on so many people. Students, colleagues, parents and beyond!! May he Rest In Peace niw.

Kim and Carolyn Erickson Jun 16 ,2022

Although we have never met John in person, we were honored to have met him through the spirit and love of his parents, Jim and Kathy. We know this will be a difficult time for them and the family. We want to express our deep and heart felt condolences to every family member with our prayers that through the grace of God they will be comforted. With Love, Kim and Carolyn Erickson

Gene Lent Jun 16 ,2022

His mom's high school classmate ,Westerville ,Ohio

So sorry for your loss. Our prayers are with you and the whole family!

Mary Weidmaier Jun 16 ,2022

Heidi, my thoughts and prayers are with you and your family. John was an inspiration to everyone he met. Mary

Angie Peterson and family Jun 16 ,2022

Friend and neighbor ,Olathe ,Kansas

So sorry for your loss, truly heartbreaking. You are all in our thoughts and prayers. Sending lots of love and hugs.

Lisa Miyares Jun 16 ,2022

Friend ,Lenexa ,Kansas

Oh Heidi, I am so very sorry to hear the news of your husband passing. I know you and your family have been through a lot over the last years. Sending so much love and prayers to you, friend.

Chelsea Ruiz Jun 17 ,2022

Mom of students ,Olathe ,Kansas

Where to even start.... Was scrolling Facebook like any other day and saw the news my heart sank to my toes and i became so teary eyed and my 9 year old daughter Catalina sitting next to me saying mommy what's wrong and i just broke down.... Like 4 years ago my children decided to come live with me full time my ex husband wanted to make my world just collapse all around me.... But i walk into rolling ridge Soo confused and begging for help to get my babies back into school... Here comes Dr Ernst with the sweet puppy that walks the school and some tissues and water.... Said you don't worry Ms Ruiz my name is Dr. Ernst and the kids can start school Monday.... Here i am crying explaining I don't have much money for back packs and school supplies he said you don't worry i got everything they need .... With a firm hand shake and big smile felt everything was perfect!! Always there with open arms a high five or smile that would light up your day REST IN PARADISE JOHN... THIS IS NOT GOODBYE THIS IS UNTIL NEXT TIME

Shaunda Adams Jun 17 ,2022

Parent of Rolling Ridge Students ,Olathe ,Kansas

Our hearts are grieving with you Heidi, Joe & Carlie. I so appreciated how Dr Ernst would invest in the kids and staff of Rolling Ridge. It is an honor that are paths crossed. He was an amazing guy. We love him still. I have come to realize we live and we love. We lose, but we never stop loving. I had many opportunities to get updates from John and I would let him know I was praying for him. I would ask him how can I support you and your family? He would tell me how I could pray or what to pray for. Now, Ernst family we pray for you that the God of peace will comfort your hearts and minds and meet your every need.

Lynn Ness Jun 20 ,2022

Friend ,La Crosse ,Wisconsin

Heidie and family - I'm so sorry for your loss. I never knew John but from all the readings know he was a wonderful & amazing guy. Hope God will be with you and help you think about all the great memories with him. May he rest in peace.