In Memory of

Richard

Allan

Johnson

Obituary for Richard Allan Johnson

Richard Allan Johnson
1932-2023

After 91+ years of a life well lived, our Dad and Grandpa passed away on November 30. He was predeceased by his beloved wife of over 60 years, Elaine, in 2017, and is survived by their children Kristin, Skuli, and Karen, grandchildren Maryka (Andrew), Andrew (Karl), Colin (Kristen), and Alan, as well as grand critters Ginger, Nutmeg, Bo, Rosie and Maisy.

Dad was born in 1932 to Skuli and Evelyn (Truesdale) Johnson. He was predeceased by them and his brother Harold. He attended Laura Secord and Gordon Bell HS (the old one!) and was the first graduate in Engineering Physics at the University of Manitoba. He was an outstanding scholar, winning five undergraduate scholarships, the University Gold Medal in Electrical Engineering in 1954, and a National Research Council Postgraduate Scholarship.

He was appointed Assistant Professor in the Department of Electrical Engineering in 1955, Professor in 1966, and served as Head of EE from 1973-76. He was instrumental in establishing Graduate Studies and Research in Engineering, mentoring 25 post-graduate students, authoring 21 technical papers, and teaching the first computer programming courses. During those years, he was active on many committees including the Board of Governors, and the University Senate of whose Planning and Priorities Committee he was first Chair. He was Acting Director of Planning in 1969-70, and, subsequently, authored several internal and published papers on university planning and related matters.

In 1977 he was appointed Provost and held positions at that level for the next 21 years, retiring in 1998 as Vice-Provost. For 15 years he served as Secretary to the Committee of Presidents of Universities in Manitoba, having particular responsibility for Inter Universities North for which he received the Willard J. Condo Distinguished Service Award in 1996. That same year, he was recognised as “an individual who made a difference” by the Winnipeg School Board.

As an Association of Commonwealth Universities Senior Travelling Fellow, he wrote a 1985 report on the restructuring of British Universities, which influenced the early retirement scheme, and in 1993, a paper on transition from high school that led to what is now University One. He retired in 1998, but until 2009 as Senior Scholar, produced major studies on Credit for Fieldwork, the “Trimester” system and graduate fees. All in all, Dad had served 54 years at the University of Manitoba.

Dad was very active professionally, joining the Association of Professional Engineers in 1955, serving on many of the committees, and as its President in 1979. He received its Outstanding Service Award in 1976, and was made an Honorary Life Member in 1998. In 1960-62, he chaired the Committee on Acceptable Canadian Engineering Curricula of the Canadian Council of Professional Engineers, which led to the creation of what became its Canadian Accreditation Board of which he was a founding member. He was a Director of CCPE from 1980-82. He also served from 1980-96 as Warden of Camp 8 of the Ritual of The Calling of an Engineer, the last four years as Chief Warden. He became a Fellow of Engineers Canada in 2010.

Dad maintained a strong interest in the Icelandic Chair at the university, chairing a committee in 1996 that led to the last fund-raising campaign on the cabinet of which he served, and chaired the ensuing Valuing Icelandic Presence fund Committee for 9 years. He published several articles on the Chair including a definitive history of it from 1900-2000.

In volunteering, Dad was a Member of CancerCare Manitoba, its Foundation and for some 20 years its Planning Committee, the Winnipeg Hospital Authority and the Winnipeg Community and Long Term Care Authority.

One of Dad’s hobbies was philately, in which he developed major collections of India, Canada Postage Dues, and Iceland. He researched perforation methods used in Canada and elsewhere, publishing over 20 papers and one book on the subject. He was a member of the Winnipeg and British North America philatelic societies, and the Canadian Philatelic Society of Great Britain. He was also a member of the Stamp Sale committee for the Winnipeg Art Gallery of which he was President for 8 years. He enjoyed regular lunches with his fellow stamp enthusiasts.

Dad was also passionate about the works of Gilbert and Sullivan. He first performed in G&S in high school and later in 1990 was a founding member of the Winnipeg G&S Society which produced 27 major productions during its lifetime. He claimed that there was a line from Gilbert to suit every situation.

He was a voracious reader and life-long learner, delighting in mysteries with historical settings, history, biographies, physics and mathematics, and particularly works of Thomas Hardy (his extensive collection now with the Libraries at UofMb). He also wrote poetry, winning first prize in the Open Poetry competition of Islendingadagurinn in 1988 and 1994 on poems about Gimli and the cottage.

While it is evident that Dad accomplished much in his career and fields of interest, our parents had a very active social calendar as well. He and Mom enjoyed annual excursions to the UK, and later spent many winter months in Victoria, BC. They enjoyed curling, bowling, and played bridge for over 50 years with family and close friends. After retiring, they moved into The Wellington, where they made new friends, and participated in all the social activities, with Dad helping out with bingo, kings cribbage, and bridge as well as serving on committees. They both loved watching the Bombers, Jets, and the St. Louis Cardinals. Dad also enjoyed his annual fishing trips to Linklater Lake with the bridge club boys.

Dad was a wonderful father and GPa. He took a genuine interest in what all the kids were up to academically, personally and professionally. He always made time with us a priority, helping with homework, and attending graduations, concerts, science fairs, figure skating, baseball, football, soccer, curling, and enthusiastically manned the ship’s bell at hockey games. He loved good dad jokes, puns (the louder the groan, the better) and riddles, and while he did not play golf, he walked the course with Mom and us teenagers as a regular family activity at Southwood, locating most of our errant shots.

His favourite place on the planet was certainly the beloved family cottage in Gimli which 5 generations have now enjoyed. In early days croquet and a nine-hole golf chipping course were the favoured yard activities, where local knowledge trumped skill. He was very proud of keeping the as-built 1918 configuration, and could be found taking on all comers at cribbage, rummoli, and many other games that were always going on. Building sandcastles at the beach, searching for lucky stones, and fishing off the pier as a child and later with his kids and grandkids, was the best way to spend a day. Lately he could be found relaxing in his rocking chair on the veranda, working on a puzzle, watching the birds, discussing current events, Winnipeg and Gimli history, and sharing stories about our family.

He was our number one fan, and we benefited greatly from his wisdom and guidance. His love and support throughout our lives was unwavering. He was kind and generous, and no matter what, maintained an optimistic attitude. Above all, Dad led everything in his life with honour and integrity, and was a true gentleman. To say he will be missed is an understatement.

Cremation has taken place, and a private family interment will take place at a later date.

In lieu of flowers, please consider donating to Siloam Mission or Riverview Health Centre.

Is life a boon?
If so, it must befall
That Death whene’er he call
Must call too soon.