OBITUARY: Bill Munsell
Everett William “Bill” Munsell, 96, formerly of Cedar Rapids, passed away peacefully on Jan. 20, 2022, in Englewood, following a fall and hip fracture on Dec. 21.
Services are planned for a later date to be announced by family members.
A native of Boone, Iowa, Bill served in the Army during World War II before graduating in 1949 with a degree in advertising from the University of Iowa. What followed was a 60-plus year career in the communications and marketing industry that was notable for its unconventional path and record of success.
Bill was a lead figure in the development and growth of the world’s largest advertising agency and public relations firm in the agricultural service sector. The agency ultimately known as Creswell, Munsell, Fultz and Zirbel (CMF&Z) took root in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. in the 1960s. As it grew, CMF&Z was often referred to as “Madison Avenue in a Cornfield.”
Bill felt a deep commitment to his community, and led a successful campaign in the late 1960s to designate Cedar Rapids, “The City of Five Seasons.” He challenged his creative team to sum up what makes Cedar Rapids special and encouraged a vision that the slower pace of life in a small city equals more “Time to Enjoy Life” The Fifth Season. This vision is embodied by the iconic 61-foot steel sculpture, “Tree of Five Seasons” in downtown Cedar Rapids, dedicated in 1996.
Despite his numerous business and civic achievements, Bill was most proud of his family and his commitment to family exemplified the spirit of The Fifth Season.
After separating from his first wife Mary, he wed Nancy Nordstrom in 1968 and the two set about blending families. Nancy brought four children to the marriage while Bill had two, and the couple added a seventh child in 1969.
After Nancy’s passing in 1993, Bill married Cathy Kohl in 1996, and Cathy’s two adult children joined the extended family.
Throughout his life, Bill’s influence helped forge a tight-knit family that values and loves one another.
In addition to his lengthy and successful career path, Bill was a dedicated philanthropist. He was a patron of the arts. He raised significant capital for the Episcopal Church in Boca Grande and Cedar Rapids. Bill was a valued member and leader of many community and national boards. He focused his personal mentorship energy on bright young professionals starting their careers in the advertising field.
Golf being a favorite pastime, Bill found a way to support youth in the Junior Golf programs at the Lemon Bay Golf Club and Cedar Rapids Country Club. His commitment to service will continue even after his death, as Bill arranged for his body to be donated to the University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine in order to support the education of the next generation of physicians.
The hallmark of Bill Munsell’s career and life were a commitment to family and community, a drive for excellence and a belief that great things can be accomplished in unlikely places.
Bill is survived by his wife, Cathy; sister, Dora Chamberlin; daughter, Amy O’Brien; sons, Steve and Scott Munsell; stepsons, David, Doug and Steve Nordstrom; and stepdaughters, Kris Hayes, Caroline (Kohl) Gannon and Julia (Kohl) Vietor. Amongst the extended family are 15 adult grandchildren and one great-grandchild.
In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to the University of Iowa Deeded Body Program Fund or the Alzheimer’s Association.