Father. Grandfather. Faithful. Friend. Steadfast. Loyal. Strong. Pure. Love.
Those are some of the words that come to mind as Kathy and I celebrate the life of Grant Johnson. Grant and his wife Shirley came to live with Kathy and me in early October 2014, when Shirley’s health became too fragile for them to continue being on their own. Shirley passed away on November 28, 2016. Grant died on November 27, three years later, after a brief illness. He told Kathy he was ready to be with Jesus in the final hours of his life at Cleveland Clinic Akron General Medical Center on Wednesday.
Grant was 62 when we met in 1989, and in 30 years since then we cherished many wonderful family times together. We attended more than a dozen Kerr Bash family gatherings. Kathy and I traveled together with Grant, his wife Shirley (and sometimes our son Tyler) to Florida, and to Texas, and to Alaska. We saw glaciers, touched the trans-Alaska Pipeline, and played dominoes in an RV home along the Chena River in Fairbanks one summer. We attended Cleveland baseball games with Grant and his mother, Edna Johnson, an avid Indians fan, until she passed away, and we took Grant to a few games after then as well.
Grant worshiped with his wife and family for many decades at First United Methodist Church in Ashtabula. When he and Shirley moved in with us in 2014, they regularly attended Cuyahoga Valley Church (CVC), and Grant was at CVC every Sunday until his final illness. He also loved our new home in Cuyahoga Falls. He’d solve the sudoku and word puzzles in the Akron Beacon Journal every day, and enjoyed walking to the postal boxes and getting the mail in our development. Eddy’s Deli became a favorite restaurant for him.
“I’m an electrical man,” he would say when talking about his career, as if those who worked with him or under him at Reliance Electric from 1956 until his retirement in 1982 wouldn’t know! His research and designs on electrical motors are used to this day to help power golf carts and other electrical transport devices. He also helped develop gigantic electrical motors used for industrial applications. He was the first person in Ashtabula to build and operate his own personal computer in the 1970’s.
Grant served as an adjunct faculty member at Kent State University, Ashtabula Campus, teaching electrical and computer technology for six years. He was a long-time Mason, advancing to the commandry degrees. He was quite active as well at First United Methodist Church, serving on Finance and Trustees Committees.
As they grew up, grandchildren loved visiting their Grandpa Grant. He kept a small plastic can packed with toys in his den, and they knew then they visited they could pick out a toy or two to take home with them. He would introduce them to computer games, and he would also set up a “street fair” with outdoor games for them in his driveway.
More than a few grand children spent a week with Grant and Shirley in Ashtabula during the summer months. Some of them would assist in hosting Venture, the summer Vacation Bible School at First United Methodist Church.
He was also a veteran of World War II, entering the Army in Spring 1945 from Titusville High School, where he served in the Civil Air Patrol. He was honorably discharged one year after the war ended. In the final year of his life, Grant talked much more about his military service. He attended a D-Day commemoration in June, and also went to D-Day Conneaut in August 2019 to be part of the 75th anniversary of D-Day and remembrance and reenactment events there. It was a highlight he talked about for the rest of his days.
Tom Brokaw described those who came of age in World War II as “the greatest generation” in terms of their contributions to our society and to the world. Grant Johnson personified those contributions in the way he lived, the way he raised his family, and in the many positive ways he supported faith, family and friends in Ashtabula over six decades.Husband. Father of three. Grandfather of nine. Great-grandfather of three. And still, these words are inadequate to describe Grant’s life. His reach. His impact.
He’s be missed, but never forgotten.
VISITATION: Those wishing to pay last respects to Grant Johnson can do so at Ashtabula First United Methodist Church, 4506 Elm Street, beginning at 10 a.m. on Saturday, December 14. A memorial service for Grant will be held at the same location beginning at 11 a.m., followed by a luncheon. Grant and his late wife Shirley helped serve countless luncheons at this church from the 1950’s into the 2000’s. Fleming & Billman Funeral Home is handling final arrangements, and Grant’s death notice will appear on their website soon. The link is: https://www.fleming-billman.com/listings
Memorial contributions should be made to Ashtabula First United Methodist Church, 4506 Elm Street, Ashtabula, OH 44004.