William A. "Bill" Johnson
1933 - 2020
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William A. "Bill" Johnson

Madison - On Saturday, Dec. 19, 2020, William A. "Bill" Johnson, devoted husband, father, grandfather and friend, slipped the surly bonds of Earth and touched the face of God. Born Dec. 8, 1933, to Palmer and Imelda Johnson on a small farm in DeForest, Wis., extremely proud of both his Norwegian and Irish heritage, Bill lived a life with lots of passion and no regrets, marrying the love of his life, Joanne, in 1963, and was happily married for 57 years.

Bill graduated from DeForest Union Free High School in May of 1951 and attended St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minn., that fall. The following year Bill enlisted in the United States Air Force, serving during the Korean War. During his time in the Air Force, Bill was stationed at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas, and at Johnston Island Air Force Base, an island in the Pacific Ocean approximately 700 nautical miles west-southwest of Hawaii and less than one square mile in total size. Despite spending a full year on that tiny island in the Pacific Ocean, in keeping with the positive way that he looked at life, Bill did not explore the entire island until the day that he left, always wanting to leave himself with something to look forward to. After completing his service in the Air Force, Bill returned to St. Olaf College in 1956 to complete his Bachelor of Arts degree. Bill worked many different jobs while paying his own way through college and in 1959 was the first person in his family to graduate from college. In the fall of that year, Bill attended the University of Wisconsin where in 1960 he earned a Master of Science degree from the School of Education.

After graduating from the University of Wisconsin, Bill worked as a history teacher and guidance counselor at Lincoln High School in Wisconsin Rapids, Wis. In 1966, the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point hired him as an Admissions Counselor and later an Assistant Director of Admissions. In 1968, he became the Assistant to the Dean in the College of Letters and Science, later he was promoted to Assistant Dean, and finally Associate Dean before retiring in 1997 having served the university for 31 years. Bill accomplished a lot during his professional career, but to the day that he retired, and even beyond, what he was most passionate about was helping people figure out what they should be doing with their lives. Bill also served on the Stevens Point Area School Board from 1975 to 1978, including as Board President from 1976 to 1977.

Bill was a member of the same poker group for over 50 years. The group played on a monthly basis for most of that time, switching to annually in more recent years. Bill maintained and cherished those friendships forged over penny ante games of poker until the day of his passing. Bill also loved to golf, passing his love of golf on to his grandchildren, taking them golfing anytime that they visited and treating them to lessons during the summers.

Those that knew Bill will always remember his infectious laughter. He never really had a bad word to say about anyone. Bill earned everything he ever got and wanted for nothing. He loved to learn, knew a lot about a lot and was rarely wrong. Bill was always kind and honorable and could talk to anyone for hours, even a complete stranger that he just met at the grocery store.

In the year before his passing, Bill was honored to travel to Washington, D.C., as part of the Central Wisconsin Never Forgotten Honor Flight. Bill was proud of his Air Force service and the trip was very special to him. His family is grateful to the many volunteers and donors that made Bill's trip possible, and for those looking to honor him, one option is to support a local Honor Flight chapter.

Bill was preceded in death by his father, Palmer; his mother, Imelda (Welsh); his sister, Phyllis Williams; and his nephew, Jeff Williams. He is survived by his wife, Joanne; his sons, Daniel, Stephen and David (Angela); nephew, Tim (Nan) Williams; niece, Cindy Williams; and his grandchildren, Madison, Forrest, Nicholas and Lauren.

A visitation for immediate family was held on Dec. 23, 2020, at Gunderson Funeral Home in Madison, Wis. A Catholic funeral is being planned around Memorial Day weekend 2021 at St. Bronislava Parish in Plover, Wis. Online condolences may be made at www.gundersonfh.com.

For those grieving Bill's passing, take comfort in the following Irish poem, Remembered Joy (author unknown). Not sure if Bill ever read it, but if he were here to comfort us, these would be his words.

Don't grieve for me, for now I'm free!

I follow the plan God laid for me.

I saw His face, I heard His call,

I took His hand and left it all…

I could not stay another day,

To love, to laugh, to work or play;

Tasks left undone must stay that way.

And if my parting has left a void,

Then fill it with remembered joy.

A friendship shared, a laugh, a kiss…

Ah yes, these things I, too, shall miss.

My life's been full, I've savoured much:

Good times, good friends, a loved-one's touch.

Perhaps my time seemed all too brief—

Don't shorten yours with undue grief.

Be not burdened with tears of sorrow,

Enjoy the sunshine of the 'morrow.

To Plant Memorial Trees in memory, please visit our Sympathy Store.
Published in Wisconsin Rapids Daily Tribune from Dec. 30, 2020 to Jan. 4, 2021.
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14 entries
January 23, 2021
Bill and I met in 1973 while serving on a UWSP committee and would see each other around campus. But it wasn't until we retired that our friendship grew. We golfed together and enjoyed coffee, daily, at McDonalds. We became the best of friends! Bill, God bless you and I'm looking forward to seeing you when we're together again.
Bob Engelhard
Bob Engelhard
January 16, 2021
Recently learned of the passing of Bill. A kind and beautiful man who was instantly a friend to anyone. Great supporter of UWSP and the Rapids/central Wis. area.

Jack Bennett
January 13, 2021
I worked with Bill for 11 years in the College of Letters and Science Dean’s Office. Among Bill’s variety of responsibilities, there is no doubt he enjoyed working with students more than any other. Students coming to him for help solve a particular problem, almost always left with much more than a solution. Bill asked about their long- and short-term goals and, whenever appropriate, suggested other options they might wish to consider. Bill had a small, but very visible, desk sign on his credenza that I’m confident amused students, as it did me: “I said maybe and that’s final.” I think it subtly conveyed to students they had found a friend.
Howard Thoyre
January 12, 2021
Our condolences to Bill's wife and family - - both my husband Ted Roeder and I worked at the University for many years and since I was in Biology Bill worked closely with us on many budget items and was just an all around nice person to have in administration - - always with a smile or laugh. Betsie Graham
Betsie Graham
January 12, 2021
I worked for Bill when he was the Associate Dean in the College of Letters and Science. He was a wonderful person and I enjoyed working with him. He was very pleasant, always positive and upbeat. He was very helpful to the students and wanted every student to be the best that he or she could be. He was an asset to UWSP.
Carol Wake
January 12, 2021
Only man I ever met who understood double entry bookkeeping used in the college accounting). I was in the psych department and always thought of him as an excellent Dean. I remember him fondly and will miss seeing him on occasion on the golf course.
Tom Rowe
January 12, 2021
I knew Bill quite well. As a young faculty member at UWSP in the mid-eighties, my efforts, with Jack Holmes, to establish the Cognition Laboratory in the Psychology Department were successful in large part due to Bill's efforts at helping us secure funding from Dean Justus Paul. He was always kind and helpful, and to me, a person from another culture, he epitomized what I had heard and later experienced, as our Midwestern decency and kindness. A great man, all of his many friends will miss him. Sunt lacrimae rerum et mentem mortalia tangunt.
Dr P Sudevan
January 12, 2021
He was one of the most nice and supportive folks in the administrative wing of UWSP when I started in the mid 90's. His smile, glimmer-in-the eye and constant positivity will never be forgotten. Congrats on a life well lived. We need more folks like you here today!
Tony Timerman
January 12, 2021
Bill was a great colleague and friend. I enjoyed several years with the "penny ante" gang. My and Lynn's sympathy goes out to Joanne, Dan, Stephen, David and the rest of the family.
David Eckholm
January 9, 2021
I worked and played with Bill. He was the Associate Dean when I was on the faculty at UWSP. For years we had coffee at Hardee's and we golfed many more years. I liked and respected Bill. He cared about our students, our faculty and our community. I am proud to consider him my friend.
Woody Bishop
January 6, 2021
Bill was on my search and screen committee when I interviewed at UWSP. I will always remember his kind words during that very stressful time and upon me getting the job. I'm very grateful for his presence in my UWSP career. My condolences to his family.
Susan LeBow
January 4, 2021
We could not have asked for better neighbors. Truly one of the nicest people I have ever known. We shared many conversations over the years in our yards. I appreciated his wisdom and kindness. We will miss you Bill.
Karl and Allison Bancker
January 4, 2021
Going to miss visiting with you & Bob Engelhard around town..Allways a gentlemen with a great smile and appreciation of life .My personal best to your wife, Joanne & family Jim Lukowicz
Jim Lukowicz
January 2, 2021
He gave me some great advice many years ago.
Doug Moore
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