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Ronald Glenn Johnson


1947 - 2015 Obituary Condolences
Ronald Glenn Johnson Obituary
Ronald Glenn Johnson

Born in Seattle on Dec. 13, 1947, Ron grew up in the Carkeek area and graduated from Ballard High School. He studied at the Manhattan School of Music with Fred D. Hinger, then came happily home to stay until his passing on March 3, 2015.

All Ron wanted to be when he grew up was a musician or a race car driver. Typically, he managed to achieve both. The Seattle Symphony Orchestra hired him into the percussion section while he was still a high school senior, and he became not only a much-respected musician and mentor, but a fierce defender of contract rights for his fellow players. After 48 years, many symphony goers know his ability to make sublime music with seemingly unexpressive instruments. Some may remember when he split the drum head wide open at the end of Ravel's Bolero. His way of making cymbals sing was unique, his artistry with the tympani was sheer pleasure, and many a concert ended on a soul-stirring fortissimo thanks to him.

It took him longer to start racing cars, however, as he first raced motorcycles for 20 years. He also studied kendo, played local championship tennis, took up golf, then achieved the rank of High Master in high-power rifle shooting competition in near-record time. Once he got around to buying his first race car, though, he found his true passion.

Simply participating in a sport was never enough for Ron - he always got elected to board memberships and club presidencies, making friends and leaving lasting legacies in his wake. His many trophies were not simply for winning - there were awards for accomplishment and singular acts of good sportsmanship also.

Curious and clever, with a splendid sense of self and style, Ron loved dogs, Japanese art, Baroque opera, bagpipes, World War I history, cooking, and traveling in Europe. His ability to entertain groups of any size sprang from his natural bravura and sense of humor. He was also gifted with a wicked ability at pool, poker and bridge.

Ron learned his honesty and generosity from his Swedish-born dad, but his musical ability came from his mom's side of the family. The Ronalds were a clan of entertainers, including a member of Sousa's band, an opera chorus member at the Met, a touring vaudeville act, the "first all-girl band in Montana", and Marjorie herself, who was a wizard at the piano. Ron's surviving brothers all carry on that musical gift. Gareth formed the one and only Blue Banjo Band; Randall is a professor of music at the U of Guam; Jeffrey is involved in musical theater back East; Barry was in the US Marine Corps Band; and Vail plays bass with Kenny G and is a solo artist as well. Ron's wife, Bonnie, has supported him in all his many activities and journeys. While he always knew the tune, she always knew the words, so together their song was wonderful!

Ron was preceded in death by his father, Gerhard Johnson; his mother, Marjorie Ronald Johnson; and his brother Brian.

No formal service is planned, as that just wasn't Ron's way. Those who knew him will honor him best by recalling his zest for life and passionate dedication to all he did. Thanks for all you gave to us, Ron - there's been no one else like you!

Remembrances are suggested to the Swedish Cancer Institute or to Providence Hospice, with gratitude for their care - they are truly exceptional.
Published in The Seattle Times on Mar. 8, 2015
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