Remembering our father, Les Johnson
Our dear father, Leslie James Johnson Jr., passed peacefully with family near his side in his residence in San Antonio, Texas, on September 19, 2018, at the age of 90. He was lovingly known as Mr. Les or Chief by his friends. Once he became a grandfather, we called him Pop.
Our father was born in Ocala, Florida, on March 14, 1928. A child of the depression era, he learned at an early age the value of education and hard work. He lost his father as a young man, which placed him in a caretaker role for his family, especially for his mother. Having spent his childhood on the Georgia and Florida coasts, he developed a profound love of the ocean and the great outdoors. He enjoyed spending time deep sea fishing, boating and became quite good at barefoot water skiing. His pride and joy was the “big one” trophy. The mythical sailfish that he fought long and hard to catch always hung proudly on his office wall.
At the age of 18, he enlisted in the Army and served with the First Calvary Division in Japan. An avid athlete, he played football while in the Army, but suffered a broken ankle on the field, dashing his hopes of walking on to play football at the University of Florida, where he studied under the GI bill. He graduated with honors, earning a degree in Forestry, and was also a gifted writer.
As a young forester, he met our mother, Barbara “Bobbi” Heisey, a flight attendant with National Airlines, who grew up in Rehrersburg, Pennsylvania. They eventually relocated from Florida to Monticello when the opportunity arose to scout a new location for the St. Regis paper mill. Once the mill was up and running, Dad was determined to start a company of his own and founded Deltawood in 1966. He led a successful business and continued to grow his family at their homestead in Hillview Acres, an idyllic place for children and later grandchildren to enjoy. An accomplished entrepreneur and mentor, he founded and partnered in other businesses including Howard Motors, Franklin Timber Company and Agreaux Organics.
Dad spent many evenings playing tennis and cooking out courtside. It always made us happy to see the lights on around the tennis court, smell the deer sausage from the grill, and hear people laughing and having a great time. His love of tennis extended to his support of the annual Atwood tennis festival.
There is nothing Pop loved more than spending time with his children, grandchildren, and his dogs in the peaceful pine forest of “the back 40”. He instilled a love and respect of nature in all of us. He created a wonderland of trails for 4 wheelin’ and go-cartin’ and a thriving pond full of bass, brim and catfish for row boating and fishing. As long as he was able, he took his dog, China, out for a ride on the Polaris to check on the land that was so important to him. Always a maker of things, he built everything from microwaves to a personal computer. He made his own yogurt, beer and wine from the muscadine grapes that he grew. His love of plants meant the end of our swimming pool when he decided to convert it to a greenhouse, but we didn’t mind because he cultivated most notably pineapples, kumquats and passionfruit using the organic fertilizer that he developed at Agreaux Organics. There was always a strange and delicious new fruit or vegetable growing in his magical garden.
Just as growing his own food was a personal passion, so was natural health and wellness. A self taught “medicine man”, he extended his knowledge and compassion to his friends and family. It was not uncommon to receive a bottle of supplements in a Christmas stocking. Our father was devoted to God and the church. He truly loved being a part of the congregation of the United Methodist Church and especially enjoyed participating in the adult Bible study.
We will always remember our loving, caring father as a quiet leader who was strongly rooted in the community, and devoted to family, friends, and the church.
A Fallen Limb
“A limb has fallen from the family tree that says,
Grieve not for me,
remember the best times, the laughter the song,
the good life I lived while I was strong…”
Les was preceded in death by his father, Leslie James Johnson Sr.; his mother, Mattie (Parrish) Johnson; his sisters, Edith and Barbara, and niece, Melissa. Les was the beloved husband for 54 years of Barbara and dear father of Jennifer, Mandy, Laurie and Marcus, and adored “Pop” to his seven grandchildren, Alex, Ian, Isabelle, Gayton, Cile, Ethan and Ella. He was also cherished Uncle “Bubba” of Erin, Kurt, Dale and Lianne.
All friends are welcome to attend a celebration of life and memorial service, Saturday, November 24, at 1 p.m. As an expression of sympathy, memorial contributions may be sent to The United Methodist Church. For service details, please see the Wilson Funeral Home website.
Remembering our father, Les Johnson