Whole generation of pilots today that owe so much to Ray Johnson

To the editor:

I had the good fortune of growing up next door to the Johnson family just outside of Marshall. I became best friends with the youngest Johnson, Pete, right after moving to Marshall when my dad became President of Southwest State University. Pete and I spent much of our formative years working together for his dad at the airport, washing airplanes and mixing chemicals for his aerial spraying business.

Lessons were learned quickly around Mr. Johnson. He had a way of raising his voice that made everything around him come to a complete stop, and everyone in a 3-mile radius stopped and paid attention.

Much of my work ethic that I have today, was learned from spending time working for the Johnsons. I have so many wonderful memories of Mr. Johnson taking us flying and simple things like explaining how a piece of machinery worked. I was among the hundreds of folks who spent time with Mr. Johnson who decided to learn to fly and become a pilot. We all know that there is a whole generation of pilots today that owe so much to him.

The bigger picture however has nothing to do with the flying, it is how he lived his life and loved his family and friends. I have lived in Kansas since 1986, but I remember coming back for a visit a couple of years ago, and introducing my kids to the Johnsons. I am 47 years old now, and I remember thinking after I left that I couldn’t get myself to refer to him as Ray, only Mr. Johnson.

Let’s just say very simply that there are not many people in this world with a moral compass so fixed in the right direction as Mr. Johnson. This is just a note of thanks to Mr. Johnson for having taken the time to help me become a better person. I offer my condolences to his wonderful family.

Skipp Wefald

Manhattan, Kan.