Richard (Dick) C. Johnson left his earthly life on July 18, 2014 in Las Cruces. He was born Aug. 19, 1915 in Las Vegas, NM, and graduated from New Mexico A&MA (now New Mexico State University) in 1936 with a degree in Agriculture (Animal Husbandry). He also completed four years of ROTC but did not receive his commission as a 2nd Lieutenant, Infantry until August when he turned 21 years old. He began working for the New Mexico Extension Service upon graduation and accepted employment with the Southwest Region of the U.S. Forest Service in February 1937. He was the first New Mexico Aggie graduate to receive a professional appointment with the U.S. Forest Service.
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While working in the Phoenix area, Dick, as he was nicknamed, and five of his co-workers had a blind date with six student nurses from the Saint Joseph's School of Nursing. That night Dick met a small, very pretty, girl with the prettiest red hair he had ever seen. She became the love of his life, and Dick and Evelyn Smith were married on Nov. 24, l937.
Dick was called to active duty with the U.S. Army in February 1942 first with the cadre for the reactivation of the 82nd Division at Camp Claiborne, Louisiana. When the Army started recruiting for a new Mountain Infantry Regiment, he was reassigned to the 87th Mountain Infantry, Ft. Lewis, Washington in August 1942. Dick spent the rest of his military career with mountain troops, first with the 87th Mountain Infantry Regiment, then with the Mountain Training Group at Camp Hale, Colorado, and finally with the 85th Regiment of the enlarged 10th Mountain Infantry Division. His overseas duty included the Aleutians and Italy. Dick was awarded the Bronze Star, with one Oak Leaf Cluster, for bravery. He was released from Active Duty in December 1945 with a rank of Major, Infantry and was later promoted to the rank of Lt. Colonel while serving as a reservist.
In December 1945 Dick returned to work with the U.S. Forest Service as the District Ranger at Lakeside, Arizona until February 1950. He held range management positions on the Santa Fe National Forest Feb 1950 – June 1952 and Range Management Division, Regional Foresters Staff July 1952 - Aug 1954 in Albuquerque. He then spent two years with the Foreign Operations Administration as a Range Management Advisor to the Cyrenaican Provincial Government in Benghazi, Libya, North Africa. He returned to the U.S. Range Management Division, Regional Foresters Staff. In March 1957 he became the Forest Supervisor of the Prescott National Forest in Arizona. His last position before retirement was as the Forest Supervisory of the Gila National Forest, in Silver City, NM, from March 1960 to his retirement in December 1973.
After retirement he remained active by giving back to Silver City serving as Chairman of the Grant County Commission in 1977 and 1978 and as a member of the Silver City Town Council from 1980 to 1982, serving as Mayor Pro Tem the last year. He was also active in several volunteer committees including the Southwest Services to the Handicapped, the Southwest New Mexico Area Agency on Aging, and the New Mexico Interstate Streams Commission. He received the 1990 Distinguished Alumni Award, College of Agriculture and Home Economics from New Mexico State University. In October 2007, Dick moved from Silver City to Las Cruces and lived at the Good Samaritan Village until his death.
Dick was preceded in death by his beloved wife of 67 years, Evelyn who died in 2004. He is survived by son Harry of Las Cruces, wife Marilyn and grandchildren Michael and Catherine (Missy); son Lee of Bixby, Oklahoma, wife Karen and grandchildren Richard and Heather; and son Jerry of Seattle, Washington, wife Joyce and grandchildren Jeff and Bill. He also has nine great grandchildren.
Cremation has taken place. A memorial will be held at 11:30 a.m. Tuesday, Aug. 19, 2014 in Baca's Funeral Chapel, Hwy 180 East at Delk Driver, Silver City. Please make any memorial donations to the Richard "Dick" Johnson Endowed Scholarship awarded to a junior or senior in animal or range science at New Mexico State University.
Arrangements have been entrusted to the care of Baca's Funeral Chapels of Las Cruces and Sunset Crematory 300 E. Boutz Road, Las Cruces, 527-2222. Your exclusive providers for "Veterans and Family Memorial Care". For online condolences logon to www.bacasfuneralchapelslascruces.com.
Baca's Funeral Chapels
300 East Boutz Las Cruces, NM 88004
Published in Las Cruces Sun-News on Aug. 15, 2014