In Memory of Donald R. Johnson
Donald R. Johnson, 85 of Hayward, WI passed away peacefully at home with his family on August 21, 2023, after a long, hard-fought battle with Multiple Sclerosis. Known to his family and friends as stoic, determined, and canny, Don used those attributes to fiercely fight the downfalls of MS until his very last day.
Don was born on April 30, 1938, in Chicago, Illinois to Ralph C. and Edna V. Johnson. He was the youngest of six children. During his childhood years Don helped his father at the family businesses the Johnson’s Aquarium Tap in Chicago, Illinois and at the Wing & Fin Hunting Club of Volo, Illinois. He was a graduate of McHenry High School. Soon after, Don followed in his father’s entrepreneurial footsteps as the business owner of Main Paint in McHenry, Illinois for many years. After selling the paint store, he became a salesman for a paint company before accomplishing his dream of retirement in the North Woods of Wisconsin.
Don married Lois M. Schmitt in 1963 in Johnsburg, Illinois. They had two children and raised their family together in McHenry. He was an incredible provider for his family and always a supportive father. He willingly shared the knowledge he gained from pursuing a myriad of passions with others. Don’s passion for fishing began as a child and was instilled by his family fishing trips “Up North,” as well as oceanic fishing adventures with his brother John and son Eric. He shared this passion for fishing with his favorite fisherman and grandson Jake, by bringing him to Hayward each summer for fishing excursions, who then went on to become a Champion Walleye Angler giving Don an arsenal of bragging rights amongst his friends, very proudly.
Don was a proud member of the McHenry Choral Club alongside his brother John for many, many years. Even after he retired from singing with the Choral Club, he reminded his family of his talents by humming and singing tunes all throughout his days. He was once a pilot, taking his wife and children on small plane flights locally. For many winters the family would join other families for skiing and snowmobiling trips. Don was passionate about tending to a very impressive garden, recreating a smaller version in Hayward. In his retirement years, Don mastered woodworking having crafted his own furniture with expert precision that is prominently displayed throughout their North Woods home. He assisted both of his children with projects of designing, building, and remodeling their homes.
Don was also passionate about politics and enjoyed colorful conversations with his granddaughter Monica - oftentimes challenging one another about who is right and wrong. Also in retirement in the North Woods, he became a wildlife lover and taught himself about every species of bird that you could imagine. With great generosity for his furry friends, his home became an all-you-can-eat buffet for birds, squirrels, and deer providing him with endless entertainment.
For the last 30 years Don thoroughly enjoyed social connections with his neighbors and friends on Flicker Lane and Moose Lake.
Don was most proud of his family and its history. Arguably his most beloved hobby was simply long conversations sharing memories and passing along his family traditions like Aunt Edna’s famous Waffles recipe. Stern in nature, his tenderness showed through his love for his family and life-long friendships. He is already missed.
In addition to his parents, as the baby of the family, Don was preceded in death by all his siblings including his two brothers Ralph C. Johnson, John M. Johnson and three sisters, Leonora Bonin, Barbara Yung and Dolores Rosenblatt.
He is survived by his devoted caregiver and loving wife of 60 years, Lois M. Johnson, his children, Eric Johnson of Plantation, Florida, Annette Johnson (Jeff Van Epps) of Largo, Florida and his favorite grandchildren, Monica Becker and Jake Becker of Twin Lakes, Wisconsin along with several nieces and nephews.
A celebration of life will be held at a later date.
In lieu of flowers, the family suggests memorial contributions be made to Fishing Has No Boundaries, PO Box 175, Hayward, WI 54843 (https://fhnbinc.org/) and Regional Hospice Services & Palliative Care, 1913 Beaser Avenue, Ashland, WI 54806 (https://www.regionalhospice.org/).