Donald Johnson, 78

Donald N. Johnson, 78
Donald Newton Johnson, 78, of Lakewood, Colo., passed away on Friday, Oct. 16, 2020 at St. Anthony Hospital in Lakewood. 

Funeral services will begin at 2 p.m. Friday, June 18, 2021 at Beaver Valley Lutheran Church.
Don was born to Carl and Irma Johnson on Nov. 23, 1941 in Sioux Falls. He attended Valley Springs public school and graduated from high school in 1959. After a year at South Dakota State University, he joined the U.S. Army. From 1960-1963 he served as a radio operator in Nuremberg, Germany, during both the Cuban Missile Crisis and the assassination of President Kennedy.
At a party to welcome Don home from the service, he spotted Emilee Elofson. They had known each other since elementary school but hadn’t seen each other in years. Don asked her out on a date and the rest is history. On a frigid Dec. 18, 1964, Don and Emilee married at Beaver Valley Lutheran Church, rural Valley Springs. They had three sons: Darin, Matthew and Brett.
They raised their kids in Sioux Falls and Clive, Iowa.
Don briefly worked at a lumber yard and later drove a refrigerated fruit truck. Don’s next career move changed his life path as he took a position as a clerk with the U.S. Postal Service. Working his way into transportation and logistics management took them first to Des Moines, Iowa, for 18 years, and then to Denver, Colo. After 37 years of civil service, Don retired in 2001.
Don got his second chance at life when a failed angioplasty led to emergency quadruple cardiac bypass surgery in April 1999. Don was very grateful for his “new plumbing.” His family annually celebrated his successful surgery date and Don personally thanked his heart surgeon and cardiologist many times over the years.
Most importantly, his “bonus years” allowed him to meet and love his three grandchildren. When he was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer, he was quick to acknowledge that he was fortunate to have lived 21 years after his surgery.
Don and Emilee’s community at Holy Shepherd Lutheran Church has been their extended family in Colorado. Don found deep meaning in his faith, many friendships, and his stewardship of the columbarium. Don was a calm, caring, and compassionate presence for those who had recently lost loved ones.
Don’s attire frequently showed his love for the Colorado Rockies baseball team. He loved going to games with friends and especially introducing his grandkids to America’s pastime.
Don earned his B.A. in Liberal Studies from Iowa State University, just shy of his 50th birthday. He was a dedicated Democrat who often contacted his representatives. When asked if he was a liberal, Don would say, “Yes, I even have a degree in it!”
Don humbly lived out his value that “we are all in this together” and at times he also shared nuggets of wisdom with strangers. On his final trip to the hospital, he told the paramedics, “I quit smoking 35 years ago and it still got me. Don’t smoke, you guys.” When he got to the hospital he told the nurses, “Be sure to vote.”
Grateful for sharing his life are his wife, Emilee, of Lakewood, Colo.; son, Darin (Angie) Johnson, San Diego, Calif.; son, Matthew Johnson, Lakewood, Colo.; son, Brett (Jen0 Johnson, Weaverville, N.C.; three grandchildren, Ben, Katie, and Clare; brother, Larry (Ardell) Johnson, Valley Springs; sister, Marilyn Allen and late husband, Dean, of Stevens Point, Wis.; and brother, Rick (Christy) Johnson, Brandon.

Don was preceded in death by his parents, Carl and Irma (Nelson) Johnson.

The family thanks countless members of the congregation and neighborhood who provided support, meals, prayers, and accompaniment during Don’s cancer journey. In honor of Don, consider volunteering for/or making a contribution to Family Promise of Greater Denver.



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