JOHNSON, Arthur Norman
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November 10, 1911 - December 13, 2011
Arthur Norman Johnson, called "Johnny" by friends and family alike, died peacefully in hospital after a few weeks of sickness. He had just turned 100, and as he used to say, "At this age, darling, something's going to take you."
Born in London, England just before the outbreak of World War 1, our father left school early to earn his living and see the world. In 1935 he traveled to India as an employee of the Imperial Tobacco Company, where he was later sent in a ship called the Rangitata to Rangoon, Burma. Ten years later, this same ship would bring our mother, Eleanor Jean Campbell, on her own pilgrimage from Canada to England as a St. John Ambulance volunteer.
But back in 1940, when Hitler invaded Belgium, still in India after five years of working and traveling in the region, Johnny enlisted and was assigned to 1st battalion, 3rd Gurkha Rifles. This was a formative experience. For the rest of his life, Johnny continued to speak some Urdu and to read about the events and developments in that region.
After several months of illness in India, he finally returned to England in 1944. Weighing less than 100 lbs and by his own description, "less than an ideal catch" he met our mother and the two were married on January 15, 1945. Our family moved to Ottawa, Canada in 1949 where Johnny learned the construction business from his father-in-law. The love between our parents was a huge gift to us as their children.
Our father was a self-taught man with a sense of wonder at the love and friendship in his life, and a persistent curiosity to see and try new experiences. Even in the last years of his life after the loss of our mother, he could savour an oyster and taste the difference between a good and better wine.
The son of the late George James Johnson and Gladys Mabey, he will be sorely missed by us, his two daughters Jennifer Brooks (Bruce Brooks) and Barbara Thomas (D'Arcy Martin) and his grandchildren, Karen Thomas (Doug Collier), Debbie Faulds (Sean Faulds), Janette Matta (Tony Matta) and Geoff Brooks (Thach- Thao Phan). His niece is Jean Carlyle-Lyon who lives in England, and has always maintained a close relationship with him. His great-grandchildren are Devon and Shanice Ellis, Hieu and Khoi Brooks, Braden and Jackson Faulds, and Abigail and Jack Matta.
At his 100th birthday a month ago, eighty friends and family gathered to celebrate his wonderful life and to tell him how he had contributed to theirs. We are grateful that we could toast him while he was alive and could drink red wine with us. Donations can be made in his name to the Canadian Wildlife Federation.
Pursuant to his wishes, a private memorial, for family and friends, will be held in the spring at the home of Bruce and Jenny Brooks.
Published in The Ottawa Citizen from December 15 to December 17, 2011