Today marks the occasion of my dad’s birthday. He would have been 50 today. Coincidentally, my grandma is celebrating her 75th today. Two milestone numbers they’d planned to commemorate together. It’s hard to believe it’s been two months since Dad died. It seems like just yesterday when we were driving back to Arizona to be with our family during such a shocking period. It seems like just yesterday when he and I worked on the van together. Well, I did work on the van … but without him.
There’s a lot I could have written today, but I don’t think I have the energy to collect my thoughts. So I just want to share the obituary I wrote to honor Dad at his funeral. This one never made the newspaper. We never submitted this version, knowing it’d be chopped up. Too many words (as usual for me). It also contains a couple sentences we omitted in the public reading. But I left them in this time.
Robert C. “Bob” Johnson (1949-2009)
Robert Carl Johnson, or simply “Bob,” aged 59, passed away peacefully in his sleep on Sunday, September 6, 2009.
Nearly sixty years prior in Stamford, Connecticut, Richard and Hope Johnson welcomed little Bobby’s arrival on November 7, 1949. Memories of schooldays, at least as relayed to his kids, involved hiking to school in two feet of snow, uphill both ways—probably a reason he enjoyed Calvin and Hobbes’ adventures far from the Arizona desert. After many a snowy trek, Bob eventually graduated from Norwalk High School in Stamford, although he contended he’d never completed his course work, in part due to a serious motorcycle accident his senior year, but that the administration wanted to move him on to whomever else he could distress.
Over the years, he frequently enrolled in college courses wherever his job took him, just a couple of credits short of receiving his bachelor’s degree.
Since 1991, Bob worked at MCAS in flight simulation, a sort of glorified video game most guys would envy but where real pilots trained. His expertise in his field had taken him previously to Kuwait, where he worked from 1987 to 1990 until the tiny state was invaded by Iraq. Though initially encouraged to stay put, he, with a caravan of friends, made it across the desert to safety and U.S. protection, securing a safe journey with bribes of bottled water, watches, and other desirable possessions, the winters at the Imperial sand dunes having prepared him for such an escape. After the war, he returned to Kuwait in 1991 to help with the rebuilding of the Kuwaiti base.
A former member of the Yuma Jaycees, Bob was also a PADI-certified scuba diver, a skill he honed in Persian waters, before warships arrived.
Like any man, Bob was not without faults and likely no stranger to remorse. Regrettably, beyond some childhood memories, his sons never really knew their father; evidence that days can quickly turn to years and then … a lifetime. Perhaps because his own wasn’t an admirable example, he wrestled with the difficulty of being a dad, but he found being a grandfather much to his liking. His grandchildren called him “Grumpy” and knew him as playfully childlike and adventurous, yet unlike them actually had money to indulge at the candy store. His stepchildren knew him as generous and able to fix most anything, if even with duct tape and tie wraps. But his wife Linda knew his devotion and enjoyed the best of his years, when it seemed after a long struggle he eventually reconciled with his Creator, the fruit of the peace he’d made with God still under soil, waiting to sprout before he was suddenly called home.
Bob is survived by his wife Linda of the home; stepsons Brian Owens and wife Nina of Yuma; Stephen Owens and wife Tabatha of Yuma; Matthew Owens and wife Cindy of Toledo, Ohio; stepdaughter Becky Spencer of Yuma; brother Ronald and sister Diana Lee of Connecticut; sons Robert and wife Laurie, and Michael of Utah; 15 grandchildren and 1 great-grandchild.
Bob was preceded in death by his father Richard, mother Hope, and brother Richard.
Honorary pallbearers are Brian Owens, Stephen Owens, Matthew Owens, and brothers-in-law Brad Messer, Bob Hutcheson, and Bob Owens.
We miss you, Dad.