One of God’s greatest heads homeHis obituary starts out, “Rev. Walton Johnson went Home to his Lord on Saturday, Sept. 29, 2012. He lived a full and generous life. He always wore a welcoming smile and had no guile.”
By: By Don Leighton, Superior Telegram
His obituary starts out, “Rev. Walton Johnson went Home to his Lord on Saturday, Sept. 29, 2012. He lived a full and generous life. He always wore a welcoming smile and had no guile.”
So few words say so much about this great human being who graced our world since his birth in Wells, Mich., on Sept. 2, 1919. It is impossible to estimate with any accuracy the number of people he touched and influenced during those glorious 93 years.
During that time, he served his country in World War II, received his Master of Divinity from Bethel Seminary in 1949, and provided his ministry to thousands. He “retired” in 1983 after serving his Lord in churches in Wisconsin, Minnesota and Iowa. He relocated to Superior and continued to serve as interim pastor of 14 different churches until 2003, including two years as Visitation Pastor in his home church, Bayside Baptist, formerly Ogden Avenue Baptist.
It was 1983 when I met Walton and his first wife Eunice. They brightened up our neighborhood by moving across the street from us. The only complaint I ever had about them was the attention and care they gave to their lovely yard. They set the bar high, and I was reminded constantly by Mrs. Boyle that my standards could and should be higher. He and Eunice were always working the “estate” and making sure things were just right. They were incredible neighbors and friends to everyone.
Beyond the confines of Hayes Court, Walton spread his cheer wherever he went, especially Perkins and Culver’s.
Perkins was one of his favorite dining places where, until his health began to fail, he and my father-in-law, Alex Wizbicki, would be regular dining partners. I can only imagine the conversation as it turned to the Green Bay Packers.
Walton was a huge fan of the Green and Gold, and Alex played for them in 1950. A tape recorder should have served as another companion.
“Walton was my best friend, and I will miss him tremendously,” Wizbicki says of this lost legend. “He was a great man who will be missed by many people.”
One of Perkin’s waitresses, Sherrie Burke, was a favorite of Walton’s. Sherrie remembers and smiles with fondness. “Walt was a favorite regular customer of mine. He always had such a positive attitude and would especially lighten up talking about his family and his love for the Lord,” she said. “He loved to share stories about past experiences, Packer games, hunting and always joking about getting a free meal that day. He will be truly missed and it’s sad to see him go, but they’re celebrating in heaven because he is finally at home.”
Another of his haunts, Culver’s, was graced by Walton’s presence on many occasions and he even considered them an answer to his prayers. Owner, Kyle Mehlum, had the utmost respect for this great man.
“When we first met Walt, we had just opened the restaurant. We were doing our best to just get the food out and take care of our customers that week. I remember the day when Walt motioned me to come over to his table, and he said we were an answer to his prayers,” Mehlum said. “He had been hoping for a Culver’s to open up in Superior for a long time and was so excited for us to be here. Having that kind of support from someone in this new community made our jobs much easier and fulfilling. That carried on for the next several years as Walt made daily visits and was the one customer all of our staff had come to know.
“He organized live Christmas music with an organ that he provided and organized singers and other musicians to provide entertainment to our guests over the Christmas holiday. Walt always came in full of energy and with a great outlook on life every day. Never was there a day when he was not running in the door and passing out doses of his contagious enthusiasm to our team members and other guests in our restaurant,” he said.
“Everyone wanted to be the one to wait on him when he came in. He brought out the best in our team. As the years have passed, we have talked to our staff about trying to give everyone the ‘Walt Treatment.’ Walt was loved by our entire Culver’s staff and will really be missed. He meant a lot to each of us” Mehlum said.
Walton loved to hunt deer with his family and in-laws. His son Vern remembers those excursions to the hallowed hunting ground in the Brule area.
“Dad hunted with us right up through 2010 at age 91,” his son said. “He shot a nice big doe in 2008 at age 89. These were very special times because we hunted in a family group that included sons Kent, Scott and myself, a brother-in-law, his brother, dad and uncles. There were about 20 in our party but now we’re down to 15 or so, Vern said.
“At age 80, dad got his trophy; a ten point buck. After two hours of tracking, the buck was officially his. As the sun was setting, and the group surrounded Dad and his best buck, we celebrated the joy of the hunt, the beauty of God’s creation, and the almost holy camaraderie of our gang.
“He never missed church to hunt. Sunday’s were holy to him. Those of us who still hunt will miss him in his blaze orange. He was really a great man who will never be out of my thoughts,” his son said.
Walton and his first wife Eunice celebrated almost 43 years of marriage before her death in 2003.
His second wife, Marit, was sent by God to make sure he kept his yard tidy and to provide friendship and love to the man who lived by those very tenants. They were married in December 2005 and enjoyed life together in the name of the Lord.
Marit, his wife of six years summed up in a few words what I have tried to say in so many.
“He was the best. He was the kindest person I ever met, and we had six very special years together. He was so knowledgeable about the Lord, and his middle name should have been Love because of his love for the Lord and everyone he met. I will miss him every day for the rest of my life.”
It is hard to earn the moniker of “legend” while still alive.
Walton qualifies more than anyone I have ever met.
How fortunate that he was with us for 93 years, and provided life, love, friendship, faith, teaching, mentoring and influence to the thousands of people he encountered.
He was, and will always be, a great man. Our loss is heaven’s gain. One of Walton’s favorite Bible verses was Nehemiah 8:10, which says, “the joy of the Lord is my strength.” Well, Walton has his strength back because the Lord is joyous. We will all miss the Reverend, but he is busy helping the Lord keep things in order.
It has been said “God is a Green Bay Packer fan.” Now there is no doubt.