Wayne E. Johnson
Born July 17, 1921 – Died August 18, 2018
As those who knew him well would testify, Wayne was a continuous fountain of God’s love. He ran his race well, and ultimately ran into the loving arms of Jesus, his Savior and Lord, on Aug. 18, 2018, while surrounded by his family at Hospice House in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho.
Wayne was born to Walt and Linda Johnson in Wallace, Idaho, on July 17, 1921, and grew up in Prichard, Idaho. While growing up, Wayne assisted his entrepreneurial father in various activities, including log drives from Prichard to Lake Coeur d’Alene and preparing pack trains to supply the Forest Service. He grew up hunting and fishing and was an excellent outdoorsman.
When Wayne’s family moved to Carpinteria, Calif., upon his father’s retirement, Wayne participated in athletics, where he won awards in swimming and track. His greatest sport, however, was football, and during the spring of his sophomore year at UCLA, he started in the same backfield as Jackie Robinson and Bob Waterfield, who were both eventual Hall of Famers. Wayne’s football career was cut short with an unfortunate injury to his knee. He graduated with his bachelor’s degree from UCLA at the age of 20. Because of his humility, few people knew of Wayne’s exceptional athleticism.
When Pearl Harbor was attacked, Wayne immediately volunteered to join the military. While training to be a naval air pilot, he was severely injured as a passenger in a transport plane crash. After months of rehabilitation, he received his honorable discharge. He was offered lifetime disability but declined, because in his mind, disability was only for those confined to wheelchairs.
Around that same time, he was accepted into the first class of UCLA’s School of Medicine, however he declined this as well because he believed the demands of a medical education would be too hard on his future family. Wayne’s continuous love and willingness to sacrifice for others was one of his hallmark characteristics.
After his injury, Wayne married his sweetheart, Ruthie Olson, whom he had met and courted while home in Wallace during summer breaks from college. They were married in Austin, Texas, while Wayne was recuperating from his injuries, and then moved back to Wallace, where Wayne worked at what was then called The First National Bank of Wallace. He became manager of the Osburn branch and held that position for more than 20 years. During that time, Wayne averaged making more than eight loans a day, which was unheard of in the pre-credit card era. Through his remarkable discernment and his sincere love for others, which in turn produced in his customers a deep desire to make good on their loan commitment, Wayne never lost a loan during his 20-year tenure as a loan officer. His customers’ commitment to repay their loans was a beautiful demonstration of the effects of his great love.
While Ruthie worked as a staff assistant for U.S. Senator James McClure, Wayne met presidents and some of the most famous senators and congressmen in the U.S. He was offered jobs at major corporations and had opportunities to make substantial wealth in real estate and mining, but turned them down, either because he didn’t want to move his family out of his beloved Idaho, or because he didn’t want to gamble with his children’s education money. He received far more joy when his children graduated from college (two from medical school) than he would have from his own personal wealth or fame. Wayne was the ultimate servant.
After his tenure at the bank in Osburn, Wayne moved his family to Avondale in Hayden Lake, Idaho, where he and Ruthie lived for 50 years. He finished his career working 10 years for the Farm Home Administration in Coeur d’Alene. Wayne enjoyed excellent health and only in the last two months did his health care require the assistance of assisted living at Northstar before going to Hospice House the day before his death. He lived a long, happy, healthy and blessed life.
Wayne’s faith was deep and sincere. He committed his life to Jesus in 1974, but his humility kept him from speaking much about it. He would much rather be a living example of his faith than to talk about it. Everyone who knew him well experienced an amazing love that you could literally feel emanating from him. He passionately loved to learn the Bible from Pastor Bob at North Country Chapel. Our family has absolutely no doubt Wayne is with His loving Lord who welcomed him to heaven saying, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.”
Wayne was preceded in death by his father and mother, Walt and Linda Johnson and his sister, Eileen Langsdorf. He is survived by his loving wife of 75 years, Ruthie; his daughter, Linda (Paul) Mahlow; his oldest son, Dr. W. Kip Johnson and his youngest son, Dr. Duke (Tracey) Johnson. He also leaves behind 18 grandchildren and their families, 25 great-grandchildren and two great-great-grandchildren.
The memorial service and celebration of his wonderful life will be held at 1 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 8, 2018, at North Country Chapel, 2281 W. Seltice Way, Post Falls, Idaho. A reception will follow. All who knew Wayne are welcome to come and celebrate his life.