“I am what I am and that’s all that I am.”
-Big John, any given day, any location, in any number of long conversations
John was born in Haver Hill, Massachusetts on December 15, 1939, the only son to Bertha Lefebvre (nee Comeau) and John Lefebvre Sr. He had three sisters; Virginia Dossey, Eva Farrell, and Gloria Strickland. John was preceded in death by his parents, sisters Eva and Gloria, step-daughter Kyra Walston, and sister-in-law Jenny “Tootie” Bawyn.
John is survived by the love of his life and soulmate Josie Steeno; step-children Angela Denny and her children Felicia Lepp, Kelsi Lepp, and Brandon Lepp; Michelle Denny (Mike Wynos) and her children Grant Schmidt, Lolihway^tāti Denny, and Lahsakayutèthaˀ Hill; Mike Steeno (Michelle Steeno) and their children Kassandra Huth, Kaitlin Steeno, and Trenton Steeno; Sarah Steeno (Mike Van Dreel) and their children Briana Van Dreel, Amara Van Dreel, and Michael Van Dreel.
John is also survived by several great-grandchildren, his children from earlier in life, Michelle Risk, Lance Martin, and Delena Meyer, and many nieces, nephews, his beloved chosen family in Joliet and many friends.
Travel and Work
A free spirit, John left home early and began travelling the country several times, through a variety of transportation means. Throughout his 20s and 30s, he spent time in nearly every state in the continental US and discovered the freedom of being a little bit hippie and a lifelong outlaw - he used to say that while he wasn’t a criminal anymore, he would always be an Outlaw.
John loved sharing the stories of his adventures as an industrial painter, sandblaster, steeplejack, and ironworker. He had a deep pride in being unafraid of the heights and precision needed for those vocations and was respected by coworkers and employers for his strength and skill on the job.
John spent most of his life in Joliet and Green Bay, Wisconsin. He also lived and had connections in New Orleans, Chicago, Anaheim/Orange, Minnesota, and Washington State until 1986, when he met his match - the love of his life Josie Steeno. He spent the next 37 years building a life full of love, Packers games, and a community of friends and family.
John was industrious in work and life. He could survive off the land, make broken busses into mobile homes (before it was cool), and took pride in being a reliable and skilled employee no matter what the job. The same was true in his treasured relationships: he took pride in his ability to navigate adversity, build solid friendships, and in being someone who would accept people and meet them where they were at.
His children and grandchildren recall the innumerable times people mistook him for Hulk Hogan when out and about. John took it in stride (eventually). The kids also remember fun times playing at Bay Beach, going to local parks and swimming together. John was very active, and especially loved going on long walks, bicycle rides, and swimming. He loved connecting with friends and family, cheering on the Green Bay Packers, and hanging out with Josie at their favorite local hangouts. One of John's most recent treasured memories was his 80th Birthday party in 2019.
Big John took great pride in being productive and supporting his family. As his health required him to make major shifts, the transition was made easier by his “Little Partner” who he forever named “The Baby”, his granddaughter Briana. John was profoundly impacted by his role in caring for Briana in her early years, and their relationship was unique and impactful to both. As John’s health declined in 2018, he needed daily support and eventually full-time care. Briana was committed to making sure he had the help he needed. Grandpa John explained it best. “I took care of her, and then she took care of me.”
Impact and Legacy
No one is only one thing, and that statement applies to Big John in a big way. He was many things…
-A rambling man who put down deep roots;
-An ordained minister and an outlaw biker;
-A man with the gift of pissing people off and helping them out (sometimes in the same breath);
-An outgoing BIG talker who described himself as quiet;
-A man with little education and a lifelong student of spiritual texts;
-A badass mofo who didn’t give a damn and a generous, kind-hearted person who didn’t give up on the people he loved
Big John loved to talk. He never tired of sharing his thoughts and learning about faith, life, recovery, and human nature. He had a profound respect for Native traditions and spirituality, and an unshakeable commitment to recovery and helping people find peace in their struggles
He loved Kahlil Gibran’s book, The Prophet, and much of his ideology is rooted in that work. John wrote to sort through his philosophical musings and to share his learnings with others. He is remembered for a few in particular:
“I'll help you as long as you’re willing to help yourself.”
“If you can’t help somebody, don’t hurt them; just stay the hell away from them.”
“Used to be is just like never was.”
"Pretty is as pretty does."
"Familiarity breeds contempt."
“Love is no respector of persons.”
John enjoyed several important friendships in recent years. Charles Bishop was a special friend who spent countless hours talking, learning with, and offering comfort to Big John, including his final days.
Daniel Thomas was also important to John and they stayed connected over many years and miles. They shared life lessons, mutual support, and an enduring commitment to one another’s well-being.
The family would like to thank Dr. Hartig and the Staff at Bellin Health and the team at Unity Hospice for their compassionate care and support of John in his final days.
Those who knew and loved John will gather for a Celebration of Life on December 17, 2022
Courthouse Bar & Grill
1654 Cass Street
Green Bay, WI 54302
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