John Andrew Johnson, 81, of North Port, Florida, went to meet his Savior, Jesus Christ on Tuesday, Oct. 5, 2021. He left thank-you gratitudes for the nurses at Davida Dialysis of North Port for all their caring and kindness during the past four years. Also, he was most grateful for the staff at Tidewell Hospice in Port Charlotte for the same during his last few days on this earth.
John was born on Jan. 3, 1940, the youngest son of Edler and Letha Tipsword Johnson on a farm near Trowbridge, Illinois.
John graduated from Charleston, Illinois high school in 1958. He received a BS in education and a MS in education from Eastern Illinois University in 1962 and 1964.
He taught instrumental music for 42 years: two years at Abl High School in Broadlands, Illinois, and four years at Villa Grove, Illinois. He was a charter member of the faculty at Kishwaukee College at Malta, Illinois, teaching for five years. He moved on and taught two years in Stockton, Illinois. Then he spent one year teaching at Wheaton Warrenville High School in Wheaton, Illinois. Then taught five years at East Dubuque, Illinois. Next, he moved to Iowa, teaching at Atlantic for six years. The following 12 years he taught at Webster Groves High School in St. Louis, Missouri. His last five years of teaching was in California at San Dieguito High School in Encinitas where he built a music program “from scratch” and it grew to win superior ratings in competitions.
John took his bands from Webster Groves and San Dieguito as exchange bands all the way to England.
John loved his job, was excited to go to work every day and his students loved him. When he retired from California, they threw a huge party with the theme “How can we keep the music playing?” and there wasn’t a dry eye in the school. To this day former students often called John to thank him for being their mentor in music and the reason they were successful. One in particular is the head of music at a well-known university and a few even visited him in Florida where John retired in 2004.
He and his wife, Joyce, built a new home in North Port and soon he became the director of the Charlotte County Concert band at the Culture Center of Port Charlotte for five years.
In 2006 John founded the Charlotte County Big Band which he directed until 2017. It was a great group of very talented musicians who built a large following and all seemed to love their music. Then John’s health began to falter with kidney failure and heart disease. It was a sad time when the band broke up but many of the guys and wives have remained close friends.
In addition to teaching, John personally performed with many professional bands including for Holiday on Ice, George Burns, Bill Cosby, and once played for President Bill Clinton. He had many small bands of his own including the Johnny Johnson Trio. He was choir director of many churches, locally at Hope Lutheran in Gulf Cove, where he was one of the founders of Hope Academy of Music teaching children free of cost. He directed many holiday pageants including Handel’s Messiah at the Cultural Center.
When John was diagnosed with cancer the last of September, he made the decision to quit dialysis rather than suffer with cancer. He was of very strong Lutheran faith and was never sad or in fear of death. He painlessly went to sleep after receiving many phone calls and visits from friends and family.
John’s children were born from his first wife, Judy Michel. His second wife was Pam Hendricks and his third wife of 29 years, was Joyce Merritt (who passed away in 2009).
Survivors include two sons: Cory of Jacksonville, Florida, and Eric of Austin, Texas; a daughter, Kristy of Maryland; a stepdaughter, Lisa Dorsey of Pebbly, Missouri; and stepsons, Mike Merritt and Scott Merritt of Iowa; and four grandchildren along with a longtime companion, Linda Herendeen. John was preceded in death by his parents and seven siblings, Dale, Keith, Verlin, Wayne, Evelyn, Rosalie and Virginia.
Final arrangements are with National Cremation and ashes will be buried in Sunset Memorial Cemetery in St. Louis Missouri next to wife, Joyce.