Troy L. Johnson


Troy LaMar Johnson, 92, embarked on his newest venture, heaven, on December 29th, 2020 at St. Luke’s Hospital in Duluth, MN. Troy went to be with God and his beloved wife, Mary, who preceded him in death.

Troy was born in Superior, WI on February 14, 1928, Valentine’s Day, to Reuben and Edythe Carlson Johnson. He graduated from Superior Central High School in 1947 and attended Superior State College in Superior for one year.

Troy Johnson was an ordinary man who did extraordinary things. As he liked to say, he was an undertaker - he undertook many ventures based on a broad and deep curiosity. Troy’s mind was always working, pondering how things could be done or improved. He was a man of great vision and saw opportunity where others did not, this helped him build his many businesses. Troy felt his greatest achievement was providing work for hundreds of people.

In 1956, Troy started his construction company on his parent’s front porch and named it Reuben Johnson & Son, Inc. after his father. Troy and his father started with a shovel, a sledgehammer, a new wheelbarrow, and a used 1949 truck. They began doing small jobs like sidewalks. With the St. Lawrence Seaway just opening and the housing market ripe, Troy and Reuben built many houses and duplexes. Later, Troy shifted to general contracting, and began building churches, banks, grain elevators, commercial buildings, and roads. Under Troy’s leadership for over 50 years, Reuben Johnson & Son became one of the top construction firms in the Twin Ports and completed nearly 5,000 construction projects.

In 1972, Troy took over management of Mary’s family farm in Ohio. He increased its acreage and turned it into a thriving business. Troy loved farming and could talk cows for hours. The farm was one of his greatest joys.

In 1977, Troy bought Fraser Shipyards and Northern Engineering in Superior, WI. He ushered in a new era of productivity for those old businesses, especially doing several conversions of ships to self-unloaders and lengthening several ships.

In 1980, Troy was a founder of Charter Bank in Eau Claire, WI and served on its Board for many years. Charter Bank remains in the Johnson family and has grown to be the premier community bank in the Chippewa Valley, with 4 locations in Wisconsin and Minnesota.

In 1985, Troy bought Energy Systems Company, a district energy utility in Omaha, NE. Under his leadership, ESC was revitalized and became an award-winning district energy system.

In 1998, Troy was a founder of Charter Films, a blown extrusion film producer in Superior, WI, and served as Chairman of the Board. Through Troy’s vision, the company expanded far beyond the initial plan of one extrusion machine to 12 machines.

More recently, Troy was instrumental, with son Murray, in the development of Exodus Global, a manufacturer and distributor for machinery in the scrap, recycling, demolition, and construction industries, located in Superior, WI. Until last year, Troy continued managing his 34 apartment units.

Troy’s work ethic and entrepreneurial spirit developed early. In his early teens, he bought an old 1918 Ford Model T for $10, rebuilt it and drove it for several years before selling it for $15. With his father gone on construction jobs in Alaska and Greenland, Troy was the “man of the house”. He had to help his mother maintain things and often had to learn on his own how to make repairs. Once he had to dig a long, deep trench for a new sewer line. About 8th grade, he worked evenings in a bakery mixing frosting or cracking eggs for the bakers to use in the morning, taking the last bus home at 11 pm. When he was 16, he worked at the local Ford dealership washing cars and at night drove their wrecker out to accidents even though he did not yet have a driver’s license (this was during World War II when most men were away at war).

In high school he started his own flagpole painting business where, as he climbed the flagpole, he was also testing the wood for rot. He worked on construction projects and often recruited his high school friends to work at night with him in the lead. In the winters, he ski-jumped and participated in tournaments. About age 16, he hitchhiked to Niagara Falls and back with a friend. When Troy was 17, he spent the summer sailing the Great Lakes on the Rufus P. Raney as a fireman. After high school graduation in 1947, Troy flew to Anchorage, Alaska. His father and uncle were there working on building a new air base. Troy got a job as a rigger and lived in a tent camp.

In 1948, the family moved to Richland, WA where Troy worked as an ironworker building the top-secret Hanford Project, the nuclear facility that produced the plutonium used in the first nuclear bomb. In 1950, during the Korean Conflict, Troy was drafted into Company A, 114th Army Battalion of Combat Engineers. By the second week of basic training at Camp McCoy in Wisconsin Troy was told to lead a class on engineering. The Army put him in charge, at age 23, of building a bridge across a flooded river in Kansas.

After his Army discharge, Troy joined his parents in Ohio where his father was working on the atomic energy plant being built in Waverly, OH. It was in Ohio, that Troy met Mary Coultrap on a blind date. In 1955 Troy moved back to Superior, WI and started Reuben Johnson & Son. In 1956, Troy and Mary were married in Chillicothe, OH and they settled in Superior.

Family was important to Troy. He loved to travel to visit his sisters and their families in Washington State as well as travel the globe with Mary, their children and grandchildren. Troy remained active – last waterskiing at age 85. He was a lifelong member of Pilgrim Lutheran Church in Superior.

Troy and Mary were married for 53 years until Mary’s passing in 2009. He was preceded in death by his parents, Reuben and Edythe Johnson, his sisters Lois Hayles and Maxine Thompson. He is survived by son Murray R. Johnson (Diana) of LaGrange, IL, and their children Troy, Megan, Maren and Trent; daughter Brenda L. Johnson of Woodbury, MN; son Todd L. Johnson (Susan), of Duluth, MN, and their children, Matthew and Hilary; sister and brother-in-law Lally Stivers (Harold) of Richland, WA; and many nieces and nephews.

Visitation will be held at Downs Funeral Home, 1617 N 19th St., from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. on Sunday, Jan. 3rd. The funeral will be held there on Monday, Jan. 4th at 3 p.m. COVID precautions will be in place – masks required, social distancing practiced. Burial will be in Greenwood Cemetery.

Memorials preferred to Wisconsin Indianhead Technical Institute (WITC) to support their welding education program. To send an online condolence, please visit

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