Note: This is #3 in the 10-part series about the Most Unforgettable People in my life. Please check my website, www.stevemarshallassociates.com, for the complete listing.
Steamboat Springs lost a quiet star on February 4, 2005 when Larry Johnson died. Larry Johnson was born in 1944 in Los Angeles, California and grew up in Oak Park, Illinois and Lake Delavan, Wisconsin. He received his Bachelor’s of Science in engineering from Northwestern University in 1968 He worked at the National Security Agency in D.C. breaking radio code in the Vietnam War era. In 1972 he received his Masters Degree in Computer Science from the University of Maryland. In essence, he was a computer geek before anyone knew what it was to be a computer geek!
He was an avid Snipe Class sailboat racer in the 1970s and became the Director of the U.S. Sailing Center on Association Island near Watertown, New York in 1976. While at Association Island, Larry developed the Standard Sailing Instructions with U.S Olympic Gold Medalist Bill Benson and those racing rules are still used by the International Sailing Federation. In 1980 Larry was the lead official at the U.S. Olympic Sailing Trials in Newport, Rhode Island and was selected to officiate at the Olympics that year.
In 1974, Larry moved to Aspen, Colorado and worked in condominium management where he met his wife Kristine. Larry moved to Gunnison in 1980 where he directed computer operations for Gunnison County. His association with American Fundware, from Gunnison, led to his move to Steamboat Springs in 1985 with his wife and infant son Ethan. Larry worked with American Fundware until he joined SportStalker in the late 1980’s as the IT manager. In 1994, he started his own computer consulting and software development business and operated the business until his death.
Larry Johnson was an avid biker and cross-country skier, commuting to work on his bicycle on a daily basis despite the weather. He was a founding member and supporter of the Noon Bike Ride Club and the inspiration for the oft-repeated phrase, “Johnson Stop!” (Not stopping.)
Larry Johnson was a privately spiritual person who found peace and joy just from being outdoors. Weekly, he could be found in front of his radio, as an avid listener of the Prairie Home Companion and Larry enjoyed the sublime pleasure of reading a good book and was known to hop on his bike, bearing a book to friends across town.
He adored and treasured his son, Ethan, and in fun, created a family philosophy borrowed from a crusty Norwegian he met in Aspen; “Don’t let the fear of being lost interfere with the joy of not knowing where you are.”
Larry’s last year on this earth was one of the best for him, his family, and friends, all of whom enjoyed his sense of humor and almost childlike delight in everything he did; organizing an all Johnson Family Reunion in Steamboat in September 2004, some “first” mountain bike rides on the Monarch Crest Trail and others; his enthusiasm for Ethan’s Semester in Outdoor Education with NOLS in the Southwest and Mexico; his garden and beloved garlic patch, cooking up a storm in his kitchen, his work, meeting new friends, and always, his daily repeated query to almost anyone who would listen; “Wanna go for a (bike) ride?”
Larry was the 2001 John Fetcher Honorary Sustaining Member Award winner for his untiring and inventive work with the Winter Sports Club, including developing the necessary computer software to record and publish the Nordic Combined results quickly; his software is now used throughout the U.S to record Nordic Event results. He also received the Friend of Education Award from the Steamboat Springs School District in 1992, 1993, and 1995 for his work in promoting the ½ cent sales tax and serving on the Technology Commission for the Routt School District for five years. Larry was the quintessential volunteer and did it effortlessly, quietly, and enthusiastically for the Steamboat community. He also contributed time to the formation and development of the Routt County Riders, a local bicycle advocacy group and to the development of opportunities for a youth mountain bike racing team.
I learned a lot from Larry; including humility, doing great things without any expectation of being rewarded or even recognized. He was without deception, malice and liked his friends unconditionally. All in all, a great model for living and, obviously, Larry was what I call a successful human being
Happy Riding, my friend; may the trails always be smooth and the wind always be at your back.