“I was crushed.”

North Mankato State Senator Nick Frentz is among those mourning the death of former Greater Mankato Growth CEO Jonathan Zierdt and said, “Jonathan has been such an inspiration to Greater Mankato Growth. He’s been a good friend of mine. Everyone had the exact same feeling which is just heartbroken.”

Zierdt died on Wednesday after a more than five-year battle against prostate and kidney cancer, surrounded by family and friends.

Frentz said Zierdt’s economic development leadership in the region was unmatched and added, “What an incredible legacy. The history of our business community has benefitted in so many ways.”

Also mourning his death is the founder of the Business on Belgrade Association Jim Whitlock, who said, “He was a real charismatic leader and he had the ability to make everyone he met feel welcome.”

Whitlock underwent treatment for throat cancer at the same time Zierdt was making his journey through disease, and Whitlock said their shared business background and health issues drew them together closer than ever before, “And we both used to talk quite a bit about the chemo and radiation that we were receiving and how it had different effects on each one of us and how it had similar effects on us.”

Zierdt and his wife Ginger began the Jonathan Zierdt Cancer Fund of the Mankato Area Foundation, meant to support local cancer awareness and support, in 2017. Director Tami Paulsen said, “He was just an amazing role model and example of someone who passionately cares about our community.”

“He was willing to live his life, his personal journey with cancer, so publicly in an effort to help others'” Paulson added, “Which is really an amazing gift that he has given to our community.”

Arrangements are pending, and the family is asking that memorial gifts made in Jonathan’s honor go to the JZ Cancer Fund.

Those donations will support programs that include the JZ Caring Box program, which passes out care packages for distribution to local patients diagnosed with cancer. The Jonathan Zierdt Cancer Fund also partners and collaborates with multiple organizations that provide important information, resources, and services to area cancer patients, their families and caregivers.