Earl J. Johnson, 1911-2012: Educator started out in one-room school

Earl J. Johnson.
Earl J. Johnson.

GENOA — Earl J. Johnson, a career educator lauded for his attention to farming and conservation, died Sunday in Mercy St. Charles Hospital, Oregon. He was 101.

He was in declining health after a fall several weeks ago, said Grace Johnson, who was married to his late brother Arnold.

Formerly of Ottawa County’s Allen Township, Mr. Johnson lived at Genoa Retirement Village. He’d had cataract surgery since his last birthday so could continue to read newspapers.

He retired in 1979 after a decade as superintendent of Ottawa County Schools and 37 years after his first job as teacher at Allen Township’s one-room Thorpe School, where he presided over eight grades. He later taught at Rocky Ridge and Graytown schools.

In 1953, he became principal of Oak Harbor High School, although he taught math and geometry for half of each day. He became supervisor of secondary education for the county board of education in 1956.

He was on the boards of the soil and water conservation district and Farm Bureau. He served on the regional planning commission and the county community foundation board. He helped establish a 4-H endowment and sponsored scholarships for the county’s top high school students. As a farmer, he planted trees as windbreaks and improved the woodlots on his land.

“He had a deeply abiding love of land,” Ottawa County Recorder Virginia Park said.

To honor his efforts, the Ottawa County commissioners proclaimed Oct. 19, 2005 “Earl Johnson Day.” A rare weeping white spruce was planted at Schedel Arboretum and Gardens in Elmore.

He was unassuming, yet he “made his mark and influenced a great deal in the field of education and agriculture, without getting a whole lot of public recognition,” said Darrell Opfer, a former county commissioner and state representative whom Mr. Johnson hired as a Genoa High School government and history teacher. “He was very dedicated.”

Mr. Johnson was born June 7, 1911, to Mayme and Carson Johnson and grew up on a farm near Clay Center. He was a stateside Army veteran of World War II. He had bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Toledo.

He was a former trustee of what is now Owens Community College and was a longtime substitute carrier for the post office in Curtice.

He had no immediate survivors.

Services will be at 11 a.m. today in St. John Lutheran Church, Williston, Ohio. Arrangements are by the Robinson-Walker Funeral Home, Genoa.

Tributes are suggested to the church; Luther Home of Mercy, Williston, or the 4-H Endowment Fund at the Ottawa County office of the Ohio State University Extension Service.

Contact Mark Zaborney at: mzaborney@theblade.com or 419-724-6182.