Rudy Lee Johnson

Johnson, Rudy Lee
74, of Phoenix, Arizona passed away on February 4, 2014. Rudy Lee Johnson, born at home in Healdton, Carter, Oklahoma, December 3, 1939, passed away in Phoenix, Arizona, following a lengthy illness and surrounded by those who truly loved him. Rudy was a restaurant pioneer, former owner of Bill Johnson's Big Apple Restaurants, and current owner of Diana Johnson's Catering. He will be missed by many who passed through his life over 56 years of running his restaurants with his brother and wife. Rudy will be remembered as an adventurous soul, who loved working with his family and friends. His legacy will be continued with honor, through his wife, brother, and sister-in-law, as well as family, friends, employees, and past employees, who will continue to serve his favorite recipes: "Big and Small - We Cater them All," as he always said. Rudy was raised in Southern California, where he was a proud graduate of Compton High School. He was a feared poker player and avid hunter, who loved the outdoors, riding ATV's and motorcycles. As a young man, he competed in motocross, and he was always up to a trivia challenge (and usually won). Rudy was preceded in death by his parents, Bill and Gene (Golden) Johnson; and is survived by his wife, Diana, two sons Jay Cee Sr. and John, brother and sister-in-law, Johnny and Anna Johnson, their three sons, Rick, Donald, and Jarrett, his mother- and father-in-law, Louise and Jess Baragas, "Mama" Lou, and three grandchildren. Especially mourning his passing are his Son Jay Cee Sr , Grandson, Jay Cee Johnson Jr, Ted Giguere, Janet Emblin, and Sandy and Larry Mulholland, who were by his side in life and throughout his illness. Rudy also leaves behind his niece, Misty, who stayed with him every summer on her school break, and her daughter, Renee, who he has raised and served as a father figure and mentor. For decades, Rudy served as father figure and mentor to three grandchildren, as well as many others at the Big Apple Restaurants. His and Diana's home served as the neighborhood kids' hangout, where they all enjoyed both good food and funny stories. A celebration of Rudy's life will be held and open to all who loved and respected him. Monday, March 31, at 4:30 p.m., Gateway Desert Awareness Park, 38100 N. Vermeesch Road, Cave Creek, AZ 85331. Please come as you are. Rudy would have wanted it that way. There will be plenty of food (Rudy's favorites!), music, and beautiful outdoor scenery. Come with your memories and a story to share. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the Desert Awareness Park. "We still cry and we sure miss you And all the things that might have been but God needed one more cowboy And He felt you'd fit right in So He sent down all His ranch hands, An extra horse stood at their side, then he softly whispered to you "Saddle up, my friend, let's ride!"© (used by permission, Diane Tribitt)

Published in The Arizona Republic on Mar. 23, 2014