At Steve Jobman's going-away party as music minister of First Presbyterian Church in Davenport this summer, choir member K.C. Griesenbeck made a farewell video impersonating singer Debby Boone.
Boone was the featured artist for the 2013 Holiday Pops concert, where Jobman was the artistic director and the First Presbyterian choir always was featured.
Griesenbeck playfully parodied Boone, launching into lengthy stories about Boone's father, Pat; mother-in-law, Rosemary Clooney; and cousin-in-law, George Clooney, before launching into her "chart-topping, earth-shattering, life-changing, really," she said in character, song "You Light Up My Life."
"It spent more weeks at No. 1 than even the Beatles," Griesenbeck-as-Boone said. "So suck it, Paul McCartney."
Friends from First Presbyterian, fellow cast members from Quad-City Music Guild and students and alumni from Moline High School — where she taught English, speech and drama since 1999 — are laughing through tears at the loss of Griesenbeck, 44, who died Tuesday morning at University Hospitals, Iowa City.
Her father, Tom Ervin, said his daughter became ill early Sunday morning and apparently suffered a brain aneurysm. Ervin said his daughter was declared dead at 6:25 p.m. Sunday, but was kept alive until Tuesday so her organs could be removed to be donated. According to her obituary, 10 patients were given organs because of her decision to be a donor.
"Her heart is still beating," said Tiffany Horvath, the church's education director and a friend and co-conspirator with Griesenbeck. "It's in somebody else right now, but it's still beating."
Ervin said his daughter liked to act and pretend since she was a preschooler.
"We had dress-up clothes in the basement," he said. "She had a wedding veil and all that kind of stuff down there."
Since her birth, Ervin said, he and her mother, Jeanne Bonde, called their daughter "Casey," despite her given name of Kathleen Celia. By high school, he said, she wrote her name out as K.C.
"People wouldn't have to remember whether her name was Kate or Katherine," he said.
Griesenbeck also began playing the upright string bass when she was in grade school, her father said, and continued to play it the rest of her life, including several stints in the pit orchestra for Quad-City Music Guild.
Active in speech and theater at Pleasant Valley High School, she entered Iowa State University as a graphic designer, but switched her major halfway through college, her father said.
Theater was an integral part of her life, whether directing Moline High plays or performing in Music Guild or First Presbyterian musicals. She was in the midst of directing the romantic comedy "Almost, Maine," at the school, scheduled for Oct. 29-31.
"It is going to be in her honor. It's a story of love," said Kathy Graham, a friend of Griesenbeck's, whose two adult children were her students.
Olivia Lyman, a Moline senior and vice president of the school's drama club, said the students decided unanimously to go ahead with the show. Although they did not rehearse Monday, they gathered to share memories of their teacher and director.
"We hugged for a while, individual hugs and a lot of group hugs," Lyman said. "We cried for a while, but when we kind of sat back and sat down and talked about our favorite memories and laughed and cried some more."
Griesenbeck also was a performer, most recently playing Madame Thenardier in Music Guild's "Les Miserables" in 2014. She was a frequent performer in First Presbyterian musicals, including the title role in "Annie Get Your Gun," as well as parts in "Annie," "Fiddler on the Roof" and "Music Man."
This year, she played the Witch in the church's "Into the Woods," and was getting ready for auditions for Music Guild's version of the musical next summer, Horvath said.
Horvath said she and Griesenbeck shared a sense of humor and — after her friend lost more than 100 pounds over the past two years — were often mistaken for each other at church.
"She became healthy and changed her eating habits and just got a new lease on life," Horvath said.
They used their similar looks to their benefit, Horvath said, coordinating identical outfits and hairstyles the night before church when Horvath was preaching and Griesenbeck was her liturgist.
"She lit up a room when she walked into it," Horvath said. "She was always smiling, and she wanted to make sure every person in there was comfortable. She did that with humor and with laughter. And she was very, very positive — K.C. was the spark that ignited a lot of people."
Lyman remembers that Griesenbeck "just always had a smile.
"Her laugh would make you laugh," she said. "She would always tell these jokes that were so corny and cheesy, but she would think they were the funniest jokes in the world."
Graham said it sounded cliche, but Griesenbeck was "everything."
"K.C. had a zest for life and a love for everyone and everything. Rarely was she down," Graham said. "She was always smiling and laughing and dancing and she was always welcoming and encouraging."
The mood at First Presbyterian has been somber, Horvath said, "but at the same time we've all got K.C. stories.
"Somebody will just remember or reflect on something and we will all start cracking up," she said. "Because that's who she was. K.C. would want us to be smiling and to be sharing right now."
Facebook tributes to Griesenbeck, who is survived by her parents and stepparents, a daughter and four stepchildren, continued to flow since Sunday.
"I had no idea of the magnitude of it, but it certainly is evident in the last couple of days," her father said.