NO. 17628 • 30 November 1924 – 17 August 1992
Plane disappeared in Alaska. Body never recovered.
BORN THE YOUNGEST son of Laura and Leslie Johnson in Omaha, NE, Richard Lee Johnson believed that nothing was worthwhile unless it was worth working and sacrificing for. School didn't come easy for Dick but, with his determination and perseverence, he got good grades. In high school, Dick excelled in every activity he entered. When he graduated, he had achieved every goal he had set for himself. He was an Eagle Scout, in the National Honor Society, was JROTC Cadet Captain, was named paper boy of the year for the Omaha World Herald, and had a senatorial appointment to the Naval Academy. He checked into the academy and all went well until the medical exam. The doctor declared he had a mild case of myopia.
He applied to Iowa State University to pursue a degree in engineering. Always hoping for a career in the service, he joined the Naval V‑12 program. He transferred to the University of Minnesota and joined the Delta Upsilon fraternity. He graduated in February 1946 with a bachelor of science in naval technology. While aboard ship, Dick received word that he had been offered an alternate appointment to the Military Academy from Congressman Howard Bufiet. Dick was given only three days to report to West Point. The captain diverted to Bermuda to let Dick make his reporting date. He resigned his Naval commission two days before graduation.
Dick met Phyllis Holst while en route to Omaha on leave in 1948. Their relationship grew into a lifelong partnership. They were married in her hometown, Boone, IA, on 29 Dec 1950.
Life as an army wife is never dull and life with Dick was always an adventure. The years flew by with all the moves and assignments from Ft. Benning to Korea, to the Army Engineer School, to Iowa State University, to Michigan, to Germany, to Purdue University, to Vietnam, to Ft. Belvoir again, to Thailand, and, last, to San Francisco, where he retired as a colonel. Along the way, we had three children: Laura Elaine, Craig Steven, and Jennifer Lee.
After retirement in 1974, we moved to West Lafayette, IN. There, Dick enjoyed 20 years of a very active life. His dream was to build his own home which he did ‑ almost single handedIy.
He loved to travel and took many trips ‑ to South Korea and Western Europe where we traveled by motorcycle for three weeks, seeing the Alps of Germany, Austria, France and Italy. We went to Eastern Europe on two other motorcycle trips ‑ to Russia and Poland. Czechoslovakia, Finland, and Yugoslavia followed. His final dream trip – Alaska ‑ to see the magnificent scenery. It was on this trip, while flying in a Beachcraft Bonanza with his brother- in‑law, Frank Roth USN Ret., that their plane was lost somewhere between Anchorage and White Horse.
Dick was an excellent husband and father, dependable, loving, and caring. When not serving in far off places, he was always available for family activities. We reminisce in the memories of all the good times and the bad, especially the ordinary, everyday things that comprise a successful life with no regrets.
Dick is survived by his wife Phyllis, daughter Laura Riecken, son Craig Johnson, daughter Jennifer Carpenter, five grandchildren, and two brothers, 1LT (Ret.) Lesly H. Johnson and LTC Grove C. Johnson.
Why, Brother, Why
Why have I been dreaming for some time. That I must jot down a bit of rhyme. To help cleanse a haunting memory of, to me, a recent catastrophe?
My mind flashes back to when I was five in ’24. When I heard a sharp cry behind the bedroom door. Surprised, I opened the door and what I saw was my baby brother, who could really bawl.
They gave him the name of Richard Lee. But to us all it was just "Dixie. "I bad mixed feelings, you might say, For I lost my status that very day.
I got the job of giving him fresh air. By pushing his buggy (it wasn’t fair). Around the block most every day. I resented it because I wanted to play.
I didn’t like him tbose first few years. At times I had it up to my ears. But when be started to talk and make good sense, My love for him became more intense.
While in the service, he aquired a wonderful wife. They had two girls, a brilliant son, an adventurous life. He was an engineer, a paratrooper, and more. He retired a colonel and hated war.
It was in our retirement years, That we became great pals; We would go skiing and fishing and loved to be with our gab. It was this past August in 92, that they radioed they were in an icy stew. They needed altitude – that was a clue. And that’s the last anyone knew!
Nothing was found on such desolate ground. Mountains, valleys, forests, deep snow all around. One could survive only a short time, I fear even with a soft landing and survival gear.
Dixie, to me, will always be my baby brother you see. Even though he was six‑feet‑four and had me towered by an inch or more.
While I no prophet be, This I know is truth; There will always be life eternity. To me, it's memories here on earth.
It’s love, genes, and cells that linger on. And a God who’s never gone. This stirs my thoughts and visions of
Our future fate. And those awaiting at life’s Golden Gate.
Why did it happen to such a wonderful guy? That’s a question of many, many whys.
He went as be came‑‑a great surprise! Why? I guess ‑ just because ‑ tbe strife of life. Cry! Why? God bless!
By brother, Les