C.R. Skip Johnson, a wonderfully unique, sweet, witty and irreverent man, passed away on Wednesday morning. Skip was a world renowned woodworker and a respected and beloved educator. In January, I posted a story by Doug Moe, about the cemetery Skip built on his farm. It consists of styrofoam monuments that mark the passing of things like 2 cent library fines, 5 cent beers, and Skip's neckties. And now I am saying goodbye to him.
Stoughton- C.R. Skip Johnson, former boy wonder, passed away at HospiceCare in Fitchburg at age 81, on Wednesday, September 9, 2009. He was born in Painted Post, NY on June 14, 1928, a son of Murray and Wilma (Reynolds) Johnson. Skip served his country in the Navy, where he met his wife, Joan Lage. Skip and Joan were united in marriage on December 15, 1951. Skip was one of the first three graduates of the Wood Program at RIT, and continued his education at many places, including the UW Madison, where he was a professor of woodworking from 1967 until his retirement. Even after retirement, Skip continued his role as an educator in all aspects of his life. He was a wonderfully creative man with a great sense of humor, and was loved by all who knew him. In addition to being a world renowned master woodworker and a master of hi-jinks, Skip enjoyed horse shoes, gardening, travel, curling, and beer. He is survived by his son, Christofer (Michelle) Johnson; daughter, Kari Jo (Tim) Radl; sister-in-law, JoAnn Johnson; and nieces and nephews. He was preceded in death by his son, Eric; wife, Joan; and brother, Don. A celebration of Skip’s life will be held on Saturday, September 12, 2009 from 3:00 to 6:00 pm at the Johnson Homestead. Memorials in Skip’s name may be made to Penland School of Crafts, or to public radio station WORT.
A funny thing happened on the way to Skip's obituary. His family gave me the choice of the three photos shown here to use in the newspaper. It took me about 30 seconds to decide that opening the newspaper to the obituary section and seeing Skip with his tongue sticking out, would bring a smile to his many many friends. Unfortunately, a hour after the deadline, I got a frantic call from the newspaper.
"My editor is having a heart attack over this picture! He says it's sacrilegious and disrespectful, and he will not run it under any circumstances. Could you please send us a different picture?"
So, Skipper, I'm sorry, but we wouldn't want to give a newspaper editor a heart attack would we? Instead, I sent in the handsome picture at the top of this post. I must say, though, that no one ever wants to be seen on the obituary page, no matter how handsome the picture is. I know that Skip didn't want to die, and none of us wanted him to die either. Quite simply, death and dying suck. And while sticking your tongue out at death won't stop it from coming, it can still make you feel a little better.
It is a difficult thing for an undertaker to care for a friend, but it is also a great honor, and a wonderful opportunity to perform one last act of kindness for someone you love.
Skip, I am grateful for your friendship, for your many gifts to this world, and for the opportunity to take you back home one last time.
October 14 update: Here is another article
about Skip by Doug Moe - "A toast to the man who kept a beer bottle in his back