Vernon G. Johnson, age 71 of Waco, Texas, and formerly of Sunburg, MN, died Wednesday, January 31, 2018, at the Baylor Scott and White Medical Center - Hillcrest, Waco, Texas. Funeral services will be held at 11:00 a.m. on Thursday, February 8, 2018 at Chippewa Falls Lutheran Church in Terrace, Minnesota. Visitation will be one hour prior to the service at the church. Interment will be in Chippewa Falls Lutheran Cemetery. Arrangements are with the Hoplin-Hitchcock Funeral Home in Glenwood.
Vernon Garry Johnson, the only child of Gerhard and Elverna (Medalen) Johnson, was born January 25, 1947 in Glenwood, Minnesota. The first ten years of his life were spent on the family farm near Terrace. In 1957, his father took a job with “Johnson Farm Service” and moved the family to Sunburg. While living near Terrace, he attended country school District #69, where his mother was his teacher for 4 years. After moving to Sunburg, he attended Kerkhoven High School, where played baseball and graduated with the class of 1965. That same year he got his pilot’s license and flew small airplanes around the alfalfa fields near Sunburg. In the fall, Vernon started school at Stout State University in Menomonie, Wisconsin, where he studied industrial technology.
After obtaining his degree from Stout, he moved to Milwaukee to work as an electrical field service engineer. He ended up hating the job so he decided to see a military recruiter about enlisting. During this time the Vietnam War was ongoing and Vern qualified for Air Force and Navy flight training. On April 2, 1970, Vernon entered the United States Air Force, eventually earning the rank of Major. He completed flight training at Panama City, FL, before being stationed in Seattle for four and a half years, then to Michigan where he was stationed at the Selfridge Air National Guard Base. While there he completed 20 years of single jet engine fighter time and was in charge of the maintenance area, civil service staff, and flew the Governor of Michigan on weekends. While in Michigan he also obtained his master’s degree from Wayne State University.
In addition to his military career, Vern worked in the private sector, flying for Eastern Airlines for 11 years, the last six as a test pilot. He also worked part-time with the Guards, and then worked as a Navy instructor while doing some flying for corporations in Waco, TX. He was honored to have flown Air Force One and Presidents Jimmy Carter, H.W. and Barbara Bush, as well as George W. and Laura Bush. He flew Donald J. Trump back when he was just a well-known businessman, as well as numerous celebrities, musical entertainers, professional sports teams, and for Baylor University.
After Vern’s retirement from flying, he returned to Minnesota to live near his aging parents. During this time he settled in Kerkhoven and taught school at the prison in Appleton, where he prepared inmates for the GED exam. He received training from well-known local auctioneer, Abner Jacobson, and in his spare time he worked as an auctioneer under the business name Daft Auctioneering.
Vernon enjoyed playing Texas Hold’em, family get-togethers, football, deer hunting, fishing, flea markets, and auctions.
After Vern’s father died in 2005, he and his wife, Janice, returned to Waco, TX, where they have since resided. He died there on January 31, 2018, from complications associated with diabetes.
Vernon is survived by his mother, Elverna Johnson of Sunburg; his wife, Janice Dobbs Johnson of Waco, TX; his son, Roy (Huong) Johnson of Bloomington, IN; and dear friends, Michael Robinson and Gene Gilstrap.
He was preceded in death by his father, Gerhard Johnson.