The longtime public servant always had a good joke to tell.
Edinburgh Town Council members remember council meetings when John Drybread would have everyone laughing after just a few minutes of discussing town business.
Employees would storm into his office angry about an issue. Ten minutes later they would leave laughing, forgetting what they were angry about.
“He always had something funny to say,” said Kami Ervin, who was on the town council with Drybread.
That is how residents in his hometown will remember him. Drybread, a longtime town council member and town manager, died of brain cancer Tuesday. He was 65.
He spent 25 years on the town council and ran the town as town manager for more than 10 years. He worked for Cummins for three decades and retired to become town manager.
Two new water towers were built in town due to his work. He helped root out an issue at the town’s golf course and hired new management to turn it around. The town has a new wastewater plant due to his work. In the 1980s, he worked with his mother to recruit Edinburgh Premium Outlets.
He loved the community and worked hours upon hours improving the town on top of managing a Cummins plant, wastewater superintendent Glenn Giles said.
“He looked out for the best interest of the town,” he said.
Edinburgh was his home.
He graduated from Edinburgh High School but left the state to go to college and then joined the Navy.
He came back to raise his two children, Jason and SaraBeth, and to help make the town he loved better, friends said.
He worshiped at Edinburgh United Methodist Church and was a member of the Edinburgh American Legion.
His mother taught him that the community in Edinburgh helped raise him and it was his responsibility to give back to the town, SaraBeth Drybread said.
“He always said that the simple life is rewarding,” she said. “A community like Edinburgh, a small, Midwest town, he wanted to make sure people felt safe.”
When he got sick, he never wanted to be far from home, said Ron Hoffman, who served on the town council with Drybread.
“He liked to stay close to home in his later years,” he said.
Improving Edinburgh was his first priority, friends and town council members said.
He was a master at managing employees, commanding respect and results from town workers, Hoffman said.
Most of the employees wanted to work on his ideas and his easy laugh and gentle management made others want to do their best for him, Hoffman said.
“Employees would go out of their way to do what he wanted them to do,” he said.
Workers would go into his office with an issue that they needed resolved.
Within minutes, whatever the employee was worried about would vanish and Drybread would have them laughing, Giles said.
“Usually before I left, I forgot what I went up there for,” he said. “He had a way of taking the urgency out of things.”
He was funny, but he was serious about helping the town, too.
When he found issues with the operation of the town’s golf course, he took them to the council and made the decision to hire new management to make sure that the golf course could continue without using as many taxpayer dollars, said Hoffman.
He got a grant to improve stormwater drainage in three neighborhoods, Giles said.
Drybread helped create a stormwater master plan and initiated a grant that would help pay for the plans. And he played a huge role in getting two new water towers built, he said.
Drybread also was looking for new businesses that could come to an industrial complex on the south side of the town and was looking for ways to help grown the town’s economy, Giles said.
“He was always trying to prepare us for the future,” he said.
He wanted Edinburgh to be a town where people would want to live and move, Giles said.
And he was fair with employees. He never yelled. He got his point across in other ways. He knew how to handle issues with tact, Giles said.
“What you saw was what you got; he was fair and honest,” he said.
Drybread played in adult baseball and basketball leagues until he was in his 40s, Hoffman said. Weekends were spent with family and doing what he could to help them, SaraBeth Drybread said.
His humor could make the simplest errands fun, such as trips to Rural King to pick up birdseed, she said.
He lived just a few houses from his office in Edinburgh and would ride his bike to work. On his lunch break, he would swim a few laps in the pool.
“He was just such a spaz; he always had to be moving,” SaraBeth Drybread said.
When he was diagnosed with brain cancer last August, doctors were stunned, she said.
He ate healthy and exercised. His last doctor’s visit for anything more than a physical was when he had the flu in 1973, she said.
“He was the epitome of health,” she said.