This morning, Donald A. Dee wrote a touching tribute to Bob Johnson and e-mailed it to Bob’s friends. I was so moved by Don’s words that I decided to post it on my blog. Thank you, Don, for sharing your memories of our great friend and colleague. Here is Don’s tribute:
Robert C. Johnson
August 24, 1935–March 2, 2016
Some years ago, on a warm summer day in August, two geeky, 17-year-old, recent high school grads were standing in line to register for their first year in college, at Wayne State University, not far from downtown Detroit.
My memory does not recall whether Bob was in front or I was, but one asked the other, “What program are you registering for?” The answer was “Pharmacy” and we agreed that we were on the right path. We started chatting and we never stopped. Until now.
The origins go back to 1953, nearly 63 years ago. I consider myself a fortunate man indeed to have held such a cherished friendship for that number of years. Few people can make a similar claim. Throughout that time frame, we spoke by phone, if not in person, at least every two to three weeks, the most recent time being only a few weeks before his passing, when he was still hoping to teach the spring term at the College of Pharmacy.
Bob and I pledged Phi Delta Chi Pharmacy Fraternity in the spring of 1954, spent a couple years in college together, then I went into the US Army, eventually to Germany. During my service years, without fail, Bob wrote to me regularly, demonstrating his trait of loyalty. In those days, it was with real ink and ink pens, not ballpoints, and those letters were much appreciated. While in the USA, Mary Jo and I had become engaged and she later came to Germany where we were married.
By the time we returned from the military, Bob had graduated and I was re-entering college with an expectant wife. Our first child, Ken, was born on Bob's birthday (8/24) and, in a twist of fate, Tina became his godmother, even though she was single. Bob was a bachelor, so we introduced them.
Fast-forward a few years and Bob and Tina were getting married. My reputation may have included some antics and I may have been suspected of wishing to do something at their wedding to create some mischief. Any such thoughts were squashed when Bob handed me the keys to his T-Bird and asked me to watch over it during the wedding. I ask you – how can a guy do a harmless trick like let air out of a tire when he is RESPONSIBLE for the entire vehicle? Such was Bob's ability to anticipate a problem and head it off.
Over the years, there have been numerous times when Bob mentored a number of others, but he also welcomed the advice of his close colleagues – so long as he agreed with it. On one occasion in the early 1990s, Lou Sesti, Tom Temple, and I sat down with Bob over a lengthy dinner. We were his brain trust/kitchen cabinet and he and we knew it. The outcome, with a unanimous shove, was for him to accept the top post at PCS in Scottsdale.
All through this, Tina is at his side. We saw them recently when we last visited Scottsdale. Her steadfastness does not waver. We continue to hold her among our closest friends.
Like a lot of things in life, Bob handled the end quite efficiently. He was in the hospital for four days and in hospice for three. Tina says he was free of pain and was comfortable. What more could one ask for, after years of suffering with a variety of cancers, surgeries, tests, and treatments?
His professional legacy? Most would agree that his greatest legacy was to leave every organization he touched in better shape than when he arrived. MSPA, CPhA, PCS, APhA, MedicAlert, Midwestern University College of Pharmacy, and many others.
Bob's memory holds the deepest respect of our friends and family.