Oldest of Navy Yard victims had Pierce County ties

Tacoma News TribuneSeptember 17, 2013 

The oldest of the dozen people who died in a Monday shooting rampage at the Washington Navy Yard in the nation's capital had Pierce County ties, his family said.

Logistics analyst John Roger Johnson, 73, was perhaps most notorious for his bear hugs, his daughter said.

"Rib-crunchers," Megan Johnson said with a laugh as she remembered her dad Tuesday. "You didn't have to pay for a chiropractor."

The Derwood, Md., man graduated from Pacific Lutheran University in Parkland.

He studied mathematics, but he went into the field of reliability engineering, said Megan Johnson, third-youngest of his four daughters.

Most recently, Johnson worked with TWD & Associates, Inc., where co-workers knew him as "J.J."

"These were dedicated employees who cared about their work and their colleagues," TWD president Larry Besterman said Tuesday. "The senseless violence that claimed their lives cannot erase the memory of their friendship and contributions."

Johnson was an avid saltwater fisherman but, his daughter said, "could not cook to save his life." He had a place across the road from the ocean at Nags Head on the Outer Banks of North Carolina for more than 20 years.

Megan Johnson said her father was a "die-hard" Washington Redskins football fan. And while the former youth ice hockey player used to feel the same way about the Baltimore Orioles, she said, "I can tell you, he was switching to the Nats," referring to the Washington Nationals baseball franchise.

Colleagues have said Johnson would always greet them with a hearty, "Good morning, Buddy. How you doing?" His daughter said that made her smile.

"I think the key thing there was his jolly, happy-go-lucky self," she said. "An honestly great guy."

Johnson would have celebrated his 74th birthday on Oct. 7. He also leaves his wife of more than eight years, Judy, and four stepchildren.

Friends recall him as an outgoing fellow who was active in the Catholic church.

“He was very, very friendly,” recalled friend Dean Kalivas. “He was just a wonderful guy – very intelligent, very dedicated to his family.”

Kalivas said Johnson grew up in Tacoma and at one point worked for Boeing.

News Tribune staff contributed to this report.

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