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Obituary of Richard Johnson

Staff By Staff Feb28,2024

Richard Clark “Dick” Johnson, 95, of Great Falls, passed away on Wednesday, February 21, 2024.

He was born on December 25, 1928, in Eagle Grove, Iowa to Dr. Einer Charles and Lucille (Hinkley) Johnson. He attended public schools and junior college for two years at Eagle Grove. He attended Drake University in Des Moines where he completed his junior year as a Speech and Drama major with a minor in Music Education. Halfway through his senior year, Dick accepted an announcer/newsman position with KCID radio in Spencer. From there he moved to KVFD/AM/FM in Fort Dodge where he was a popular DJ.

In June of 1950, Dick married Gladys Wilson in Harcourt. To this union four daughters, Karen, Donna, Joan, and Martha were born. Dick and Gladys divorced in 1970. In June of 1971, Dick married Claudia Arnold of Fort Dodge. They lived in Rochester until moving to Great Falls in the fall of 1971 where he accepted a position with the newly formed Montana Television Network News Division. He was the producer, director, and anchorman for three years. They later divorced in 1993. After he had moved back to Great Falls in 1994, he began his retirement career as administrative assistant to John C. Swartz, CEO of Big Sky Foods Trading, Inc. to operate the US side of the business. John and Dick were also members of the “Bunkhouse Bums Quartet” that had started in the 70s. He married Billie Ann Johnson of Great Falls in February of 1995. She was a local business leader and State Department of Revenue employee.

Also in 1950, he began his long Barbershop Quartet career with the “Chord Huskers” quartet. He was a member of the SPEBSQSA, Inc since 1947. This was his first formally organized group that he sang with. They continued to entertain audiences all over the Midwest until 1971, when Dick moved to Montana. He went to Carroll, Iowa in 1953 as a specialist in program development at KCIM radio station. After three years, he moved back to Fort Dodge to work with Ed Breen at the TV station KQTV, later KVFD-TV. He held several positions, including artist/announcer, chief announcer, program director, news director, and special programs development. During this time, he wrote, directed, and starred in the “Uncle Dick’s Funhouse” children’s program.

Dick began a long association with world famous composer/conductor, Karl L. King and the Fort Dodge Municipal Band in 1957 that lasted almost four decades. He was still active with barbershop groups, serving as chorus director, arranger, contest arrangement judge, master of ceremonies, and script and show director. Many of his compositions and arrangements were performed on the international contest stage with some of the top medalist quartets. This included three international champions, “Happiness Emporium,” “Pitch Hikers,” and “Renegades.”

He had many hobbies as well These included hunting, fishing, camping, 4-wheeling in the mountains of Montana, Native American lore and dancing, composing and arranging music of all types, singing, mushroom and wild asparagus hunting, and flying. He would compose for concert band, barbershop, country western, and secular and church choir arrangements. He had a commercial pilot rating and was proud of his membership in antique aircraft groups. The EAA (Experimental Aircraft Association) and the OX-V Club. The latter only granted to pilots who flew (and survived) aircraft powered by the extremely unreliable single ignition engines, such as Waco-9 and 10, Curtiss JN4-D (Jenny) and the Curtiss Robin.

Dick and Billie Ann had many diversified and stock holdings in the Montana and Idaho Area. He was a Mason, part of the Royal Arch and Council Degrees. He was also a member of the Knights Templar and Elk’s Lodge. Dick was also a member of the First Presbyterian Church of Great Falls until his passing.

He is survived by his wife, Billie Ann Johnson of Great Falls; sister-in-law, Dorothy Johnson of W Des Moines, IA; children, Joan (Billy) Drewes of W Babylon, NY and Martha (Bob) Kersbergen of Fort Dodge, IA; grandchildren, Grace (Chris) Scheben, Amalia Drewes, Rose (Dan) Kelly, Scott McColley, Rachel McColley, and Matthew (Maria) McColley; great-grandson, Marshall McColley; and several nieces and nephews.

Dick was preceded in death by his parents, Dr. E.C. Johnson and Lucille Hinkley Johnson; brother, Guy Allen Johnson; and children, Karen and Donna Johnson.

Condolences for the family may be shared online at www.OConnorFuneralHome.com.

Staff
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  • Staff

    Our Staff account is used to publish submitted content. If you have content that was published under this account, and wish to have your name as author, please contact us at (406) 952-3021

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