• Fri November 19 2021
  • Posted Dec 3, 2021
John Spiros Karras passed away peacefully on November 10, 2021 in Des Moines, Iowa.

John was born on March 10, 1930 in Pasadena, California to Elsie and Spiros John Karras. He grew up in Cleveland surrounded by many loving aunts and uncles. Two of his uncles lived on farms, and John spent summers helping out in the fields and apple orchards. During his childhood John got involved in the Boy Scouts and eventually achieved Eagle Scout status. These experiences inspired a lifelong love of nature and the outdoors.

John graduated from Allegheny College in Pennsylvania in 1952, where he met the love of his life, Ann Williams. They married and lived in Meadville, Pennsylvania, where they started their family. After spending a few years working for a small newspaper in Meadville, John and his family moved to Des Moines where he began his career at the Des Moines Register as a writer, copy editor and columnist.

Many Iowans know John as the co-founder of RAGBRAI, and to the end of his life John took immense pride in the great bike ride. In addition to his well known love of cycling, he and Ann developed a passion for nature and the great outdoors and often spent weekends canoeing on Iowa's rivers, canoeing and camping in the Boundary Waters, backpacking in the West, river trips through the Grand Canyon and cross country skiing. John and Ann picked up new activities well into their 60's; they learned to downhill ski and ended up retiring to Dillon, Colorado. They were active members of Summit County Seniors and enjoyed biking, hiking, skiing, singing in choirs, supporting fundraising initiatives and volunteering in the Senior Center.

In addition to outdoor activities John loved classical music and jazz. From an early age, John would ride along with his mother and listen as she gave piano lessons. He played flute for much of his life and he and Ann played in recorder groups and sang in many choirs. For many years John was a music critic for the Register and he and Ann attended numerous symphony concerts in Des Moines and Ames, Iowa. They loved parties and socializing and were fortunate to have many close friends to enjoy dinners, music, movies, biking and all the other activities they loved.
John is survived by his son Paul (and daughter-in-law Martha Lewin) and daughter Edie (and daughter-in-law Peggy McKenna), granddaughter Emilia Lewin-Karras, and grandsons Max Lewin-Karras and Galen McKenna. He was preceded in death by his wife Ann and daughters Kathy and Susan.
In lieu of flowers, memorials may be given to the Des Moines Bicycle Collective.

A celebration of life will be planned for spring 2022, date to be determined. Online condolences will be welcomed at

To send flowers or a remembrance gift to the family of John S. Karras, please visit our Tribute Store.

Published by Iles Funeral Homes - Dunn's Chapel - Des Moines on Nov. 18, 2021.

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