Deceased August 1, 2007
Don Johnson died on August 1, 2007, of lung cancer. Don was born in Duluth, MN, on July 9, 1936, and prepared for Amherst at Denfield High School.
At Amherst, Don majored in English, was a member of the Glee Club, and worked on the Amherst Student. His fraternity was Phi Delta Sigma, and his participation there is memorialized by a picture in the Phi Delt section of the 1958 Olio showing Don being part of a delegation of Phi Delts, led by Bob Kleeb, who went to Valentine Hall for dinner dressed in black tie (see page 51). Classmates remember Don as one who was quiet, reserved, and private. Yet Don could also go along with the gag. Fraternity brother Win Smith recalls an incident in which a group led by Peter Strauss tried to hypnotize Don. The effort was apparently successful. Don was told not to remember the name of anything wet; when he came out of the hypnotism, the group pointed to the snow on the ground and said, “What’s that?” All Don could say was, “Minnesota.”
Don had a love for music. Later in life, he served on the board of the Lake Superior Chamber Orchestra. Fellow freshman resident of the fourth floor of Stearns Dormitory Jim Karet remembers that Don played the guitar and was very knowledgeable on the subject of noted guitar and cello players.
After graduating from Amherst, Don spent two years in the US Navy, then moved to New York City and began a career in public relations. Five years later, he moved to San Francisco, where he spent the next twenty years.
Don returned to his native Duluth in 1985 to handle the sale and disposition of family-held undeveloped real estate. Having accomplished this, he retired in 2002. In addition to his service with the chamber orchestra, Don was involved with the Duluth Playhouse.
Don had a great love for Amherst. I can remember from my service as Class agent (1991 to 1998) how appreciative Don always was of my efforts. Mike Spero and Joe McDonaldcan testify to Don’s generous financial support of Amherst in later years and his support of the Class’ fundraising efforts in general. He had been a member of the Class’ 50th Reunion Gift Committee but had to resign in the spring of 2007 due to his declining health. Amherst has lost a devoted friend.
Don was plagued by various health and medical problems in his later years but always seemed to bear them with good cheer. I had a long talk with him in June of 2007 and was impressed by his calm and philosophical acceptance of his coming end.
Don is predeceased by his natural parents, Jean Allen and Joyce Fitch, and by his adoptive parents Lloyd and Marion Johnson. A brother, Jean Thomas (Fitch) Johnson, survives as does his friend of the last ten years, Laurie Carlson. To these, the Class extends its condolences. A memorial service was held on August 9, 2007.
John E. G. Bischof ’58