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A Tribute to a Dedicated Man: John Johnson. 1943-2012


A Tribute to a Dedicated Man: John Johnson. 1943-2012


What is the measure of a man?

Is it the degree of devotion by his loving wife? Is it the respect and admiration of his grateful children? Is it the way his grandchild giggles when he kisses her plump cheek?

Is it the way he, despite great personal discomfort, soldiers on, driven by an unbreakable commitment to his family? Or is it the way he stands his ground - nay, moves forward -- into the killing zone of the beast, appropriately afraid, but resolved to fight to the last breath for what's right, what's fair, and what's good?

Of course, it's all these things. It's a rare thing when a man measures up on all counts. But, call it luck, call it destiny, call it whatever, I have been honored and blessed to meet such a man, and call him my friend. His name is John Johnson, an ordinary guy who did extraordinary things in his 69 years on this orb.

My friend John died today. And I am sad. I am sad for his family -- Sue, who stood by him, bathed him, fed him, cared for him, made him laugh, held him the way a mother holds a child, and, in the end, against every fiber in her body, had to let him go, had to say goodbye to the only man she's ever loved, the man who had become a part of her like an arm, a leg or a beating heart.

masters national championship

I am sad for his sons Mike and Ronald. Mike, like his father, is an embodiment of both tenacity and tenderness. When his Dad was diagnosed with mesothelioma back in the summer of 2011, Mike, a bicycle racer, vowed to win the national championships in his Dad's honor. With a lap to go, bad luck struck. Mike crashed, along with his quest to bestow upon his father the coveted Stars and Bars jersey.

On Sunday, Mike and I went for a ride, a hilly ride in North San Diego County. John, after a massive surgery and 28 rounds of radiation, despite his grit to persevere, was getting weaker as the pain ratcheted upward. Mike is not a dramatic guy. He sort of whispered that this ride was for his Dad, sensing, I think, that the end was near, and he needed to appeal to something bigger than himself, to rise above limits, just like his Dad had done the past six months.

Mike felt the spirit, and had the ride of his life, and it was both wonderful and daunting to keep up with such a motivated man on a spiritual mission.

john johnson mountain bikingI am sad, but honored. It's not very often that you come across a man like John Johnson. His obit will say he was a US Marine who loved mountain bikes. It will say he married the love of his life, Sue, 46 years ago, and they fathered two fit and robust boys. It will say he was plumber and an auto mechanic who was exposed to asbestos. It will say he was diagnosed with mesothelioma in August of 2011, had two surgeries, was blasted with radiation, and never gave up hope.

I will remember him for these things, yes, but more than that: his capacity to endure pain for the love of his family. We like to say that the recently departed died with dignity and honor, we say these things because we don't know what else to say and it sounds right and reverential. But I am saying John Johnson died with dignity: I know it.

On behalf of my partner John Caron, and everyone in my office who were privileged to work with John, we extend our deepest sympathies to Sue, Michael, Nicole, Ronald, Alexa and Noah. We lost a great man, but his legacy of grit with grace will live on, forever.

John Johnson, rest in peace.

Your Friend,

Roger Worthington