Mr. Marshall aviation will be missed
Perhaps Marshall Mayor Bob Byrnes said it best when it comes to Ray Johnson.
“Certainly, Ray will be missed. He was aviation” in Marshall.
Marshall lost its aviation leader when Johnson died Monday from injuries he suffered in a Wisconsin plane crash.
Johnson was a pilot, flight instructor and local business owner who founded Midwest Aviation in Marshall. His aviation resume is a long list of accomplishments.
He worked as a crop spraying pilot before starting his own aviation services business in 1963 — Tracy Air Service. After the business expanded it was moved to Marshall in 1973.
Not only did his business expand, but he helped aviation grow in southwest Minnesota. The Independent in 2013 reported Johnson’s induction into the Minnesota Aviation Hall of Fame in 2013. In that article he described how the Marshall airport started with a wooden structure with about 20 feet of space and fuel pumps outside. But as time went on, the facilities were expanded multiple times.
“The City of Marshall has been very good about upgrading its facilities,” Johnson told the Independent. “This is not a small airstrip anymore.”
Johnson’s biggest contribution to aviation, however, was his role as a teacher. He taught many teenagers and adults how to fly.
“Some of my students are commercial pilots now,” Johnson said.
One former student and friend of the family wrote a letter to the editor that was published in Wednesday’s Independent.
“Much of my work ethic that I have today was learned from spending time working for the Johnsons,” Skipp Wefald of Manhattan, Kansas wrote.
There is no doubt Johnson’s influence on aviation will continue to soar through the many people — young and old — he influenced.