Community Foundation of Jackson County reflects on advocate, leader and role model Leighton Hepker

A dedicated servant, an advocate for his community, a leader and a role model: When Maquoketa’s Leighton Hepker died in January, the city lost much more than the familiar voice of radio station KMAQ-FM.

Hepker served the Community Foundation of Jackson County from 1997 to 2003 and joined other emeritus board members for a breakfast last fall. There, he reminisced about the Hughes farm, a gift to the foundation during his tenure that is still making an impact today.

“Everyone’s friend, Leighton Hepker made us a better community,” says Bob Osterhaus, Community Foundation emeritus board member. “He was a good man; a kind, caring and thoughtful leader who was generous with his personal and public time. Perhaps his unique ability to really connect with young people as well as their parents and grandparents made him the force he was.”

Hepker embodied the spirit of the Community Foundation, which is committed to supporting the needs of the communities throughout Jackson County. The Jackson County foundation is the largest affiliate of the Community Foundation of Greater Dubuque, holding over $9 million in assets. In 2018, the Jackson County foundation paid out $134,000 in scholarships and granted $98,000 to 36 nonprofits in the region. 

“While soft-spoken, he was firm in his beliefs as he provided forward-thinking leadership that impacted many lives in our community,” Bob says. “We, as a community, benefitted significantly both from Leighton’s on-the-air presence as well as his behind-the-scenes collaboration and influence.”

Even in his passing, Hepker has continued to make an impact on the region he loved. Since his death in January, over a dozen donations in his memory have been given to endowment funds held by the Community Foundation of Jackson County. These endowments will pay out annually, forever, helping strengthen nonprofits and address emerging needs throughout the county.

“Memorial giving has become very popular around Jackson County and through the Community Foundation,” said Mary Jo Gothard, executive director of the Community Foundation of Jackson County. “Making a memorial gift to endowments can honor someone’s memory while making an impact on a cause in the community forever.”

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Interested in making a memorial gift to a Jackson County endowment? Checks can be made out to the Community Foundation of Jackson County and earmarked for a nonprofit you care about. For more information, contact Mary Jo Gothard at or visit

The Community Foundation of Jackson County was established in 1982 as the Maquoketa Area Foundation to help individuals throughout Jackson County make a positive impact on the communities they care about. In 2012, it joined the Community Foundation of Greater Dubuque as an affiliate foundation. To learn more, visit

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The Community Foundation of Greater Dubuque envisions a vibrant and inclusive Dubuque region where everyone can thrive. Since 2002, we have inspired people to give back to their community, and we turn this generosity into lasting change across our region, increasing access to resources and opportunities that help all people succeed. 

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