Barry Johnson


JOHNSON, BarryJuly 4, 1937 - August 6, 2011Barry Johnson, a lifelong journalist, passed away very peacefully at the Vancouver General Hospital in the arms of his beloved wife Linda (Stieler) Johnson and with his sister Patricia Holland by his side after a courageous 18 month battle with cancer. He was 74. He is also survived by his son Dean (Toronto), friend Gerda (Vancouver), Linda's children Rick, Jill (Dan), Shelley (Sean) and his grandchildren of the heart, Leifer and Lucie, cousin Karen and many friends and colleagues as well as many nieces and nephews. Barry was, above all, an intellect. He was passionate about life, gentle in spirit, curious and interested in everything. He also had a wicked sense of humour and loved a good Scotch. His love of the written word included a bookshelf of dictionaries which he used only on the rare occasion when he didn't know the meaning of a word. It could be said that the love of the written word might have been assimilated when Barry and his family lived in the upstairs of Margaret Laurence's house in Neepawa, Manitoba for a year when he was a child. Barry was born in Neepawa, Manitoba, on July 4, 1937 and left home at age 17 to join the RCAF to become an airforce pilot. He completed his training, was awarded his wings and became an officer in the RCAF where he proudly flew T-33 Silver Star Jets. He trained in Gimli, Manitoba. After his stint with the Royal Canadian Air Force he jumped into journalism in the 1950s and went on to have a prestigious career in the newspapers, including The Montreal Star, The Montreal Gazette, The Globe and Mail, The Province, and in Europe, The London Daily Mirror. He used to say, A person needs to live and work in a city, in order to know it. He also used to say, Rewrite! Faster! Funnier! He spent two years each in Athens and Rome and where he did dubbing in foreign films and had a small part in a Luchino Visconti film. Barry was nicknamed Precious when he toiled on the night desk of the now defunct Montreal Star, circa 1975, because he was a meticulous grammarian. He inspired Douglas Glover's 1984 murder mystery, Precious, the tale of a world-weary former foreign despondent trying to restore his health and wallet by taking a job as a women's editor on a small-town newspaper. Barry and Linda were together for seven years and both said they packed many more years than that into their wonderous relationship. They had a memorable marathon drive across Western Canada after visiting Winnipeg, Gimli, Neepawa and Riding Mountain National Park. Even more memorable were their journeys to London, Iceland and Norway. Special thanks to the Doctors and nurses at The Cancer Agency, VGH Hospital and Inspire Health. Barry's very sharp editor's eyes were donated to the Eye Bank.In lieu of flowers donations, in Barry's memory can be made to the scholarship fund of The Writing and Book Camp For Youth. Cheques can be mailed to the Vancouver Public Library Foundation at 350 West Georgia, Vancouver, BC, V6B 6B1. Please indicate by an accompanying note that your donation is for `The Write Stuff' book camp. A celebration of Barry's life will be held at a later date. If you wish to submit a condolence please go to

Published in Vancouver Sun and/or The Province on Aug. 13, 2011