Donald O. Johnson, 77, of Moorhead, MN passed away peacefully in his home on Thursday, October 3, 2019, after a brief battle with leukemia.
Don (DJ) was born in Barnesville, MN on October 20, 1941. He lived in Downer, MN until the age of 4 and then his family moved to Moorhead. He attended St. Joseph’s and St. Francis Catholic grade schools in Moorhead and graduated from Shanley High School in 1959. He was a member of the Shanley state championship football team in 1958.
Don worked for Kost Brothers, Inc. in Moorhead throughout high school, learning how to load trucks and operate heavy equipment. After high school, he continued to work for Kost Brothers and also worked for Midwest Excavating as a machine operator from 1959 to 1963.
In July 1963, Don married the love of his life, Carolyn Schons, at St. Francis de Sales Catholic Church in Moorhead and they celebrated 56 years of marriage in 2019. In 1964, he began his 36 year career with the Moorhead Fire Department. He moved up the ranks within the department and became Assistant Fire Chief until retirement in 1999. Don had a true passion for his job as a public servant, especially his role as an EMT. His co-workers held him in high regard because of his calm demeanor and willingness to take charge of situations. In addition to his career as a firefighter, Don worked part-time in his early years at Simons Furniture as a salesman. In 1976, he was introduced to the world of promotional advertising specialties and in 1977, he started his own business, DJ’s Advertising and Sports. Don’s ability to talk to anyone and everyone served him well in his new endeavor. He and Carolyn worked together to grow the business over the last 42 years.
Don loved the game the golf! He began his coaching career at Shanley High School as the boys golf coach in 1988, and then in 1993, he became the girls golf coach as well. He continued coaching both teams through the spring of 2019 when he retired. During his coaching career, his teams won 8 state championship titles and he received the Coach of the Year honor six times. Don was beloved by all of his players and many stories have surfaced about his antics and coaching tactics throughout the years. In his later years as a coach, his players lovingly referred to him as “Grandpa.” He truly loved the kids and was especially proud to coach his son, Chuck, and two of his grandchildren. He was instrumental in starting the FM Junior Tour around 1989. He also coordinated the FM Junior All-City tournament for over 30 years. From 2011 through 2015, he managed the Ponderosa Golf Course near Glyndon, MN, where he enjoyed his days working with his brothers, Al and Maynard, at the course.
Don enjoyed his retirement years by spending winters in Lake Havasu City and Mesa, AZ. He loved playing golf, flying model airplanes and working on his classic cars with his family and friends. Don was strong in his faith and had a zest for life. He had a very big heart and was always there to help his friends and family when needed. Don was known as a wonderful storyteller and could capture the attention of an entire room.
Don is survived by his wife, Carolyn, Moorhead; children: Becky (Jamie) Gunderson, West Fargo, ND; Mark (Pam) Johnson, Moorhead, MN; Chuck (Heidi) Johnson, Moorhead, MN; grandchildren: Zach (Lindsey) Gunderson, Angie (Alex) Johnson, Lucas Johnson, Cassandra Johnson, Nick Johnson and Zach Johnson; great grandchild, Tucker Johnson; brothers: Maynard (Eileen) Johnson, Martin (Janice) Johnson and Curtis (Gail) Johnson; sister-in-law, Myrna Johnson and numerous nieces and nephews.
Don was preceded in death by his daughter, Gwendolyn Ann; his parents, Conrad and Kathryn Johnson; brother, Alan Johnson; 3 brother-in-laws and 2 sister-in-laws.
Mass of Christian Burial will be Wednesday, October 9, 2019 at 11:00 a.m. at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Moorhead. Visitation will be at St. Joseph’s on Tuesday, October 8th, from 5:00 – 7:00 p.m. with Prayer Vigil at 7:00 p.m. Interment will be at St. Joseph’s Cemetery in Moorhead immediately following the Mass of Christian Burial. In lieu of flowers, memorials can be given to the Don and Carolyn Johnson Scholarship Fund, c/o Catholic Development Foundation, 5201 Bishops Blvd. A., Fargo, ND 58104. The Don and Carolyn Johnson Scholarship Fund was established to provide an annual college/university scholarship to both one male and one female student athlete from their respective Shanley High School golf team.
Video tribute and online guestbook at www.wrightfuneral.com.