Club Members John and Joanne Bluford from Missouri

Club Members John and Joanne Bluford from Missouri


Written by

Hailey Wist

Photographs by

Hailey Wist

January 31, 2023

Categories: Legends Magazine, Lifestyle

“Kiawah is removed from the routine hustle and bustle. Life is peaceful here, a lot slower paced.”

From Missouri to Kiawah Island…

Q: Tell me how you found Kiawah.

John: I actually grew up in Columbia, South Carolina, in the fifties and sixties. My grandfather and I used to crab around Johns Island and the Beaufort area as well as Jekyll and St. Simons Islands off the coast of Georgia.

Q: How did you two meet?

John: We first met in undergraduate school. It was love at first sight.
Joanne: But we went our separate ways—John to Chicago and I to Dayton, Ohio. We reunited twenty years later.
John: Joanne is leaving out an awful lot of detail! We met while I was attending Fisk University and she was at Tennessee State University in Nashville. The two campuses were separated by a one- or two-mile walk. She was a majorette for the famed Tennessee State marching band, and I saw her performing during a halftime show at one of the football games. Later I was conveniently introduced to her at a fraternity social event. We dated for a while, then went our separate ways.
Joanne: About twenty years later, I recognized his name and picture in Parade magazine—nationally distributed in many Sunday morning newspapers. He was profiled along with others who had different careers from banking, transportation, education, health, etc. I saw his picture and called him. The rest is history! I was in Dayton at the time, and he was in Minneapolis. We got married in Minneapolis and soon moved to Kansas City for new job opportunities.

Q: What a story! Do you have kids?

Joanne: We are a blended family with three adult children. Our children live in Atlanta and Chicago. Our nine-year-old grandson loves to visit Kiawah and go to the beach and play tennis.

Q: Is Kiawah your primary residence?

John: Yes, but we still frequent Kansas City. I’m retired from day-to-day management of an academic medical center there, but I founded a 501(c)(3) nonprofit called the Bluford Healthcare Leadership Institute. We work with undergraduate scholars from HBCUs who are interested in healthcare careers. We host a didactic and experiential program during the summer that orients students to all aspects of healthcare, mental health, public health IT, public policy, etc. Then the following summer we place them in internships around the country.

Q: What made you buy a home here?

Joanne: Family vacations and, then later, recurring visits to the Lowcountry Jazz Festival. John’s former childhood neighbor, Dr. Thaddeus Bell, is the producer of the festival, which supports the battle against healthcare disparities among vulnerable patient populations.
John: Joanne and I are jazz fanatics. We’ve traveled all around the world and the country attending world-class jazz festivals. It’s a hobby of ours. Our favorite stop is Montreux, Switzerland, at the Montreux Jazz Festival. Jazz is a universal language. It brings people together. We started coming here about ten years ago with friends. We stayed in the cottages at Cassique and rented houses from time to time. Eight years ago, one friend suggested we buy a lot and we did! We moved into our home in 2016.

Q: Aside from jazz, what do you think drew you to Kiawah?

Joanne: I love the peaceful relaxation the Island offers. Now that we are spending more time here, I plan to get involved with some nonprofit organizations that can use my thirty years of experience in human resources.
John: Kiawah is removed from the routine hustle and bustle. Life is peaceful here, a lot slower paced. When we’re in Missouri, there is always some work to be done or a problem to be solved—stress kills! Here, there is much less pressure, more relaxation and life enjoyment.

Q: What are your favorite things to do here?

Joanne: The beach, workout facility, aerobics classes, and various activities around the island. We entertain a lot, so there is no shortage of friends and family who want to visit and enjoy everything Kiawah has to offer.
John: I enjoy playing tennis and using the bicycle trails. I spend a considerable amount of time upstairs in our music listening room. Many of our friends and guests are also music lovers, so it can be a popular place. Our neighborhood is great, really tight knit. And I really like the tennis community. The beauty of the island is second to none. We love that it is not commercial, and if we want some urban life, Charleston is only thirty minutes away.