GALESBURG - Lyle Winthrop Johnson, 84, Galesburg, died Wednesday, Nov. 11, 2020, at the Knox County Nursing Home.
Johnson was born July 16, 1936, in Red Wing, Minnesota, to Arnold and Nina (Lamberg) Johnson. He married Gwendolyn Drewianka on July 14, 1956, in Red Wing.
He is survived by his wife and children Constance, San Francisco, Victorya (Gerald) Rouse, Cheney, Washington, Jeffrey (Delphine), Sterling, Virginia, Ross (Gay), Galesburg, Siobhan (Cody) Rogers, Illiopolis, and Daniel (Wanda), Red Wing; as well as 10 grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren; his brothers Dale (Gloria), Mesa, Arizona, and Roy of Maple Plain, Minnesota; sisters Sharon Nelson and Janet (Merle) Larson, both of Cannon Falls, Minnesota; and several nieces and nephews.
He was the host father of AFS students Charlotte Breuer, Germany, Marie Aude, France, and Jennifer Lim, Philippines, as well as Augusto Sampaio, Brazil.
He was farm program director at Pleasant Valley Farm, Woodstock, teaching outdoor education to inner city groups. During that time he became active in the civil rights movement, marching with Dr. King in Montgomery, Alabama, Chicago, Milwaukee and San Diego. He often spoke of his experiences to school groups and other community organizations. He served on the school board of District 200 in Woodstock for seven years.
He was executive director of HOPE HeadStart for 15 years, following 10 years as director in McHenry County. He was active at the state, regional and national levels of HeadStart. He was elected to the National HeadStart Board, where he served as treasurer for 12 years and testified on behalf of the program before Congress. In 2015 he was honored as one of the Living Legends of HeadStart in recognition of the important role he played in supporting HeadStart over the years.
In his retirement, he was elected to the Knox County Board, proudly serving District 1 for 12 years. His final term of office ended with the 2020 election.
He lived by the philosophy "there are no strangers here, only friends you haven't yet met." For 35 years, he and Gwen welcomed guests from around the world at the Seacord House Bed & Breakfast, the home they restored after moving to Galesburg.
Cremation will be accorded. A celebration of life will be held at a later date. Arrangements have been entrusted to Watson Thomas Funeral Home and Crematory, Galesburg. Memorials preferred to the ACLU or any food program. Online expressions of sympathy may be sent to the family at www.watsonthomas.com.