On March 11, 2019, Dennis (Denny) C. Johnson completed his earthly journey and joined his heavenly family. He was diagnosed with a rare disease called Primary Progressive Aphasia. He valiantly faced the challenges of this progressive disease for several years.
Dennis was born in Tyler, MN January 16, 1941 to Clarence and Adelia (Jensen) Johnson and enjoyed helping his parents on the farm.
He graduated from Bethel College, St. Paul, MN in 1963 where he met the love of his life, Doris (Swanson). One of the first memories they shared was singing for President Kennedy in the Rose Garden, along with other Bethel choir members.
Dennis obtained his doctorate in Electroanalytical Chemistry from the University of Minnesota in 1968. He and Doris moved to Ames, Iowa where he taught at Iowa State University for 34 years.
He had an ability to develop a special bond with students, some of whom viewed him as a surrogate father – especially those from other countries. Dennis and Doris were unable to have biological children, but became the ‘significant other’ to many children, from infants to college age.
An ‘official’ summary of Dennis’ professional career is over 35 pages long, listing numerous honors and awards. In addition to receiving several teaching, advising, and research awards in chromatography and electroanalytical chemistry, he was honored with the Governor’s Science Medal for the State of Iowa, Alumnus of the Year at Bethel University, and recognized as a Distinguished Professor.
Dennis developed an electrochemical method of detecting all proteins and carbohydrates which has been applied commercially. In addition he developed a process to electrochemically incinerate hazardous materials. He lectured around the world and provided leadership for numerous graduate students in addition to his normal teaching schedule. Although he taught graduate level courses, he volunteered to teach general chemistry. He said, “Those are the people who will be our next legislators and community leaders. They need to understand science.”
He typically spent 60-65 hours a week teaching, advising research and interacting with students. He truly had an ‘open door’ policy. He particularly enjoyed research, he said, “We’re constantly finding things that God put there. And to be the first to find something that God had there all along is amazing.”
Far from a mere facts and figures man, Dennis was a talented musician, as a singer, but especially as an organist. As he said, “I get more thrill out of being part of a good church service than I do getting a paper published. Besides, we scientists like to use the other half of our brain so we don’t walk around with our heads hanging to one side.”
Dennis and Doris chose to retire early and moved to Red Wing, Minnesota in 2002. He became active in church worship music and gave periodic organ recitals. He and Doris were the ‘Red Wing Carolers’ at the Holiday Stroll. In 2017 they left Red Wing and moved to Waverly Gardens in North Oaks, MN.
Once when Dennis was interviewed, he stated “It is certain that if I could choose to relive my life, I’d choose to follow the same pathway; however, I’d choose to walk more quickly.”
Dennis was preceded in death by his Mother, Father, Sister, and 2 nieces. Surviving him is his wife, Doris (Swanson) Johnson, brother, Robert Johnson, and several nephews and their families as well as many cousins.
On Saturday, March 16, visitation will begin at 11:30 am with the Celebration of Life Service to follow at 1:00 pm. Both will be held at First Lutheran Church, Red Wing, MN. A special musical organ prelude will be offered prior to the Celebration of Life service, featuring some of the hymns arranged by Dennis.
Memorials can go to Bethel University-Music Department; Presbyterian Homes Foundation; or to a charity of your choice, in Dennis’ honor.
Courtesy of Mahn Family Funeral Homes