James R. Johnson, age 78, died recently at his home in Dodge City Kansas. He is the oldest of eight siblings and is predeceased by his parents, Albert and Harriet, and wife of 36 years, Carolyn Fenton. Born in Roanoke, Illinois, Jim went to school in Owego, New York, graduating in 1962. He was active in Boy Scouts, achieving the rank of Eagle Scout. Jim attended college and served in the US Air Force in Great Britain and later at Offutt AFB, Omaha, NE where he began his life-long career in meteorology.
Following his service in the USAF he gained employment as an aviation meteorologist, eventually taking a job as a forecaster with the National Weather Service where he remained for the rest of his career. He remained professionally active and played a key role in starting the highly respected High Plains Chapter of the American Meteorological Society and National Weather Association. He was Chair of the Board and a reviewer of professional publications for the E-Journal of Severe Storms Meteorology.
Jim’s friends and family knew him as a big-hearted, compassionate man who was always willing to help others. He was an exceptional musician who could play and master most any instrument with minimal or no training and was particularly fond of the folk, bluegrass, and county genres. Jim was a founder, avid supporter, and coach with High Plains Youth Hockey Association and a life-long fan of the NY Rangers and NY Giants. He loved motorcycles and restored both a vintage BMW and a vintage MG sportscar.
Jim loved history and was a supporter of the historical community celebration, Dodge City Days. He was instrumental in efforts to erect a statue of actor James Arnes of Gunsmoke fame and served as director/president and Board Chair of the Dodge City Trail of Fame. Jim regularly appeared in various roles at the Depot Theater in Dodge City and once appeared in a one-man show as Mark Twain. He was a self-proclaimed expert and connoisseur of craft beers and a regular at Dodge City Brewing offering critical reviews of brews and dispensing opinions on a wide range of topics.
He is survived by his “fur kid” Molly, stepchildren Craig (Jackie) Ray; Toni (David) Strawn; grandchildren Allison (Josha) Cauthen, Garrett (Carrie) Strawn, Dillon (Kelsey) Strawn, and Stephanie (Taylor) Fehl; great grandchildren Hank and Jace Cauthen, and Emelia and Clara Strawn. He is also survived by siblingsJoEllen Streit, Indianapolis, IN; Anne Joseph, San Diego, CA; Janice Allton, Las Cruces, NM; Helen Harrington, Central Sq, NY; Thomas Johnson, Glenville, NY; Jean Johnson, Ballston Spa, NY; and Donald Johnson, Gardnerville, NV.
A memorial service will be at a later date at the convenience of the family. Tax-deductible donations in Jim’s memory may be made to the High Plains Youth Hockey Association by mail (PO Box 905, Dodge City, KS 67801) or using the donation link:
Thoughts and memories may be shared in the online guest book at www.swaimfuneralhome.com.