He was born in Erie, Pa., and graduated in 1938 from Strong Vincent High School, where he was a varsity letterman on the state champion swim team, state champion football team, and a member of the varsity water polo and track teams. He was a member of the National Athletic Honor Society, a Lake Erie lifeguard, and a devoted member of the Erie Boys’ Club.
An avid reader and lifelong learner, he earned a bachelor of science in forestry from the University of Washington and a master of science from Pennsylvania State University. He worked for the U.S. Forest Service in Idaho, and served in the U.S. Marine Corps during World War II, receiving radar training at Harvard University. He retired in 1980 as a major in the USMC Reserves.
One of the original hires at the Bowater Paper Corp. in 1954, he retired as buildings and grounds superintendent in 1987 after 33 years of service in the wood yard and buildings and grounds departments, and enjoyed regular reunions with his beloved “crew” until recently when he was physically unable to participate.
He loved the outdoors and was a champion of fitness and health. Rarely satisfied unless he was pushing the limits of his physical performance and endurance, he was committed to the balance of a healthy lifestyle and regular exercise. For him, this included daily walks to work followed by an exercise schedule in his home, swims in his beloved Hiwassee River, and running rugged trails in the nearby woods. He competed regionally in 10K runs, half marathons, full marathons and triathlons for three decades, and the Bike Ride Across Georgia, or BRAG, in 2000 at the age of 80. He enjoyed exercising and swimming at the YMCA until his late 80s. He competed in local, regional, and national Senior Olympics for many years and greatly enjoyed the camaraderie and friendship of his teammates and fellow athletes.
Combining his love of fitness with a passion for the outdoors, he hiked sections of the Appalachian Trail from Cosby to Harpers Ferry, W.Va., and biked the Natchez Trace in Mississippi.
He served as a volunteer leader for many years with the Boys Scouts of America, leading canoe trips to the boundary waters of Minnesota and Matagamon Lake in Maine and hiking the rocky trails of Philmont, N.M. He completed the North Carolina Outward Bound Outdoor Leadership Program in 1979.
Maintaining landscapes was not only a profession but a lifelong hobby, and he became a certified master gardener through the Bradley County Agricultural Extension office in 1998. He also served as Calhoun’s city manager.
He was preceded in death by a son, Michael Dwight Johnson; and his parents, Jacob and Lillian Strick Johnson.
He is survived by his wife of 63 years, Alliene Johnson; two sons: Jeffrey, of Asheville, N.C., and David of Athens, Ga.; three daughters: Kristine of Sevierville, Linnea McClellan (James) of Hartford, Ala., and Barbara Kennedy (Jim) of Chattanooga; seven grandchildren: Candice Sexton of Goodlettsville, Jordan, Hayley, and Savannah of Athens, Ga., Danny, Jake, and Kristopher of Chattanooga; two great-grandchildren: Cody Moser of Chattanooga and Kayce Sexton of Goodlettsville. The family is deeply grateful for the loving and attentive professional care of Angie Robinson.
The family suggests memorials be made to the Boys Scouts of America-Great Smoky Mountain Council; the Humane Society of the United States; or the YMCA (Athens or Cleveland branches).
A memorial service and celebration of his life, including military honors, will be held at 2 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 17, 2011, at First Lutheran Church in Cleveland.
The visitation will be held following the service.
Fike Funeral Home is charge of arrangements.