George Herbert Johnson
November 15, 1952 – September 5, 2014
George Herbert Johnson, 61, passed away peacefully on Friday, September 5th, at Good Samaritan Hospital in San Jose, surrounded by his three children, April Johnson Stearns, Dale Johnson, and Kyle Johnson, and his two brothers, Milo Johnson and Craig Johnson.
It is a tremendous sadness and honor that I, April, now write his obituary. When my father was diagnosed with Stage IV Pancreatic Cancer this last spring, I was with him in the doctor's office. It was the worst day our family has ever faced, and yet even then my father acted with his customary grace and strength. After we left the doctor's office, we stood in the parking lot. I was stunned, struggling to keep it together. He pulled me to him in a big bear hug, comforting me when I should have been comforting him.
There is so much to say about my dad's last months, weeks, minutes, but I don't want his life to be summarized by the cancer. The truth is, his life was absolutely full. Bursting! This was a man who squeezed as many minutes as he could out of each day. When most of us barely roll of out bed with enough time to get to work, he was up doing work around the house before putting on his work clothes. When most of us were turning on the TV and relaxing at the end of the day, he was pulling his jeans on and heading outside to work on his farm until sunset, or even after. It was the land that he loved: being out in it, on it.
But I digress.
My father, George, was born on November 15th, 1952 in Binghamton, New York, and was the second of four sons of Milo and Evelyn Johnson, known locally as the couple behind the Peacock Tree Farm. Raised and educated first in New York and then in the Bay Area, George graduated from Los Gatos High School in 1970. It was here that he met his wife, Grete Hafstad. They married on a rainy afternoon, February 1st, 1976, in Los Gatos, and honeymooned in Lake Tahoe. Soon after they moved to what would become their life-long home on Skyline Blvd – a place they named with their matching initials: GHJ Tree Farm. I was their first child, and I was born in March 1977. In 1980 and 1983, respectively, their sons were born: Dale and Kyle.
It may come as a surprise to know he proudly obtained his Private Pilot's License in 1972!
George followed in his father's footsteps, working at IBM by day, and in the Christmas Trees on Skyline by evening and weekends. At Christmas, he took some of his trees to the Peacock Tree Farm to sell, and later opened his own choose-and-cut Christmas Tree Farm (GHJ Tree Farm), which he operated as late as last year. He also cultivated an orchard of apple trees, primarily (with some pears, nectarines, peaches, cherries, and persimmons thrown in, too). He was extremely proud of these apples, and sold and shared them generously over the years. Many knew him for his annual apple cider-making parties.
Soon after moving to Skyline, George joined the volunteer fire department, which he ultimately captained for 32 years. In 2007 he retired from his long career at IBM (first in the machine shop, then in procurement), and in 2010 he retired from the South Skyline Volunteer Fire Department, Company 21.
When I was growing up, if he wasn't at IBM, on a fire call, or in the orchard on a tractor or up a ladder, he was often found cycling with my mother, or doing any of the numerous activities of parenthood. He was the best dad to us kids that we could ever hope for. He was a true friend and mentor to us.
George is survived by his daughter April Stearns and her husband Joseph and George's granddaughter Nia of Santa Cruz, CA; his son Dale Johnson and his partner Amy Mecchi and George's granddaughter Ella of Coarsegold, CA; his son Kyle Johnson and his wife Whitney, and George's grandchild on the way of Coos Bay, OR. He is also survived by his brother Milo Johnson and his wife Jill of Palo Cedro, CA; and his brother Craig Johnson and his wife Ramona of Colorado Springs, CO. He is also survived by numerous nieces and nephews, aunts and cousins.
George was preceded in death by his wife Grete; his father Milo A. Johnson; his mother Evelyn Herbert Johnson; and his younger brother Jerome Johnson.
This Saturday we will gather to honor and remember the life of our father, brother, uncle, friend, mentor, neighbor, and grandfather, George. We'll come together to remember the life and times of this extraordinary man who touched so many with his kind, gentle spirit.
September 13, 2014; 12pm
Lima Family Mortuary
466 N. Winchester Blvd. (cross street Newhall)
Santa Clara, CA
In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation to the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network (www.pancan.org).
Picture credit: Long-time friend, companion firefighter, and hiking buddy, Arnie Wernick, took the portrait of George.