Gary Wayne Johnson, 64, longtime resident of Foxboro, Wisconsin, passed away Thursday, May 20, 2021, at Essentia Health St Mary’s Hospital in Duluth, surrounded by his family.
He was born Aug. 4, 1956, in Shell Lake and grew up in Hayward, the first child of Leonard and Darlene (Schmock) Johnson. Gary graduated from Hayward High School in 1974 and went on to receive his bachelor’s degree from University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. He continued his studies, earning his master’s degree from the UW-Superior and post-graduate courses from the University of Minnesota-Minneapolis.
He was a high school athlete, playing football, running track and was well known for his speed. Gary became a runner as an adult, running many Grandma’s Marathons and inspiring family members to run also. Gary was an avid hunter, and he enjoyed camping, canoeing, wild ricing, art, music, bowling and golfing with his great group of friends in Superior. He played guitar and sang and wore many record player needles down listening to great music such as the Beatles and Crosby Stills Nash and Young.
Gary was a gifted speaker and a passionate educator. He taught at the Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwe School in Hayward and became the school’s principal. Gary moved to higher education and made many friendships at Lac Courte Oreilles Community College. He taught at LCO College and the University of Wisconsin-Superior, and moved to Superior in 1992. It was at UWS where he truly flourished. Gary taught, advised and mentored hundreds of students through his classes and as the First Nations Center Director.
He loved to tell stories of his culture and heritage, helping people find their own path. Gary also loved to laugh. He knew millions of stories and jokes (not always appropriate) and wasn’t afraid to laugh at his own jokes. His laugh was infectious.
Gary is survived by his son, Jeremiah (Ciara) Johnson of Superior; his mother, Darlene Johnson of Hayward; siblings, Rick (Carol) Johnson of Shakopee, Minnesota, Renee Wilson of Fort Collins, Colorado, Scott (Michelle) Johnson of Hayward, Dennis Johnson of Hayward and Lisa (Jonny) Sheehan of Stanberry; many nieces, nephews and cousins; and step-grandson, Graham Shelafoe. He held his niece, Terra (Ryan) Roberts, close to his heart.
Gary was preceded in death by his son, Zackary Johnson, and his father, Leonard Johnson.
A Celebration of Life and potluck will be held at 10 a.m. Saturday, June 12, at Pattison State Park, 6294 S. State Rd. 35, Superior, by the Little Manitou Falls. Vehicle state passes are required, and are purchased at the main park entrance. Please share a dish and stories with his family. Gary’s family would like everyone to please wear bright colors to celebrate Gary’s life.
Online condolences may be shared at pineviewfuneralservice.com.