Ralph Donald “Don” Johnson passed away, peacefully at home, on Sept. 1, at the age of 88.
He was born, the second child of Raymond and Helen Johnson, on January 19, 1928 in Denver and raised in the West Washington Park neighborhood. Don graduated from Denver’s South High School in 1946 and served in the United States Army from 1946 to 1948, serving primarily in Korea and also briefly in Shanghai, China in 1948. Don rose quickly to the rank of sergeant and served as a military policeman.
Upon return to the U.S. and honorable discharge from the Army, he utilized his GI Bill and attended the University of Northern Colorado and the University of Colorado and was a member of Tau Kappa Epsilon fraternity. Don received his law degree from the University of Denver in 1953, and was admitted to the Colorado Bar. His law practice consisted largely of water rights and insurance defense. He subsequently joined the family business, Johnson Storage and Moving Co where he served as president and CEO for many years until his retirement in 1995. As the third generation to lead this family enterprise, he was very proud to have been an “over the road furniture moving” van driver. Don was known to his staff as a boss who knew how to do every job in the operation and who asked no one to do what he would not do himself.
He married Margaret “Marney” Hammond in 1950 and they had two sons, Mark and James “Jim”, both still Denver residents. The couple divorced in 1972.
Don was subsequently married to Katherine “Kathy” Piper who preceded him in death in 2001.
In 2005, Don married Arlene Mohler. The couple had a joyous life of travel, social engagement and charitable activities. Their love was an inspiration to all who were fortunate to share time with them. He took great pleasure in spending time with his expanded family which in addition to his two sons, included Scott (Becky), Seth (Annie) and Stan (Katie) Mohler and grandchildren.
Don was an active entrepreneur throughout his life. His ventures included the High Country Inn at Winter Park, cardboard distribution, home building, and commercial real estate development.
He served as a director of Union Bank and Trust, United Van Lines, the Colorado State Engineering Board and the Cherry Hills Zoning Appeals Board. He also served on the Boards of the American Moving and Storage Association and the Colorado Motor Carriers Association.
He was a member of Sertoma, Executive Club of Denver and Garden of the Gods Club. Don gave abundantly to many nonprofits including the Colorado Neurological Institute, Tau Kappa Epsilon Educational Foundation, Cancer League of Colorado, Central City Opera Association, Colorado Cattlemen’s Agricultural Land Trust, The Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation, Denver Center for the Performing Arts, Children’s Diabetes Foundation, Denver Ballet, Inside the Orchestra, Bessie’s Hope, Marion Downs Foundation, TAPS and The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society
Because of Don and Arlene’s total commitment to community, they were honored as “Pillars of the Community” by Arapahoe House, “Citizens of the Arts” by Fine Arts Foundation, “Community Champions” by Colorado Neurological Institute, “King and Queen of Hearts” by American Heart Association and “Lord and Lady” by Hospice of St. John.
Don was a skilled downhill skier and outdoorsman. In addition, he loved to spend time at the family ranch west of Colorado Springs.
He is survived by the love of his life, Arlene Mohler Johnson, five sons, 12 grandchildren, four nephews, numerous cousins, his former wife Marney and legions of dear friends. He was especially proud of his Cherry Hills Village home named “The Cedars” where Don and Arlene graciously entertained friends and opened their doors for countless charity events. Don served on the board of Sunset Country Homes.
He will be remembered for his devotion to family and friends, brilliant mind, varied and colorful history, generosity and wit.
A Celebration of Life is planned at Bethany Lutheran Church, 4500 E. Hampden Ave. in Cherry Hills Village on Sunday, October 9 at 2 p.m.
In lieu of flowers, any tributes or memorials should be contributed to the charity of one’s choice in Don’s name.
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