Tuesday, January 24, 2012

A Tribute to a Dedicated Man: John Johnson. 1943-2012

John and Sue Johnson
celebrating John's
69th birthday in their
home in Newport
Beach, CA.
January 21, 2011
What is the measure of a man?

Is it the degree of devotion by his loving wife? Is it the respect and admiration of his grateful children? Is it the way his grandchild giggles when he kisses her plump cheek?

Is it the way he, despite great personal discomfort, soldiers on, driven by an unbreakable commitment to his family? Or is it the way he stands his ground - nay, moves forward -- into the killing zone of the beast, appropriately afraid, but resolved to fight to the last breath for what's right, what's fair, and what's good?

Of course, it's all these things. It's a rare thing when a man measures up on all counts. But, call it luck, call it destiny, call it whatever, I have been honored and blessed to meet such a man, and call him my friend. His name is John Johnson, an ordinary guy who did extraordinary things in his 69 years on this orb.

My friend John died today. And I am sad. I am sad for his family -- Sue, who stood by him, bathed him, fed him, cared for him, made him laugh, held him the way a mother holds a child, and, in the end, against every fiber in her body, had to let him go, had to say goodbye to the only man she's ever loved, the man who had become a part of her like an arm, a leg or a beating heart.

Moments after crashing with
one lap to go at the 2011
Masters National Championships
in Bend, Oregon.
Michael on the right
and his wife Nichole
in the green.  Mike and
I have dedicated
our 2012 racing
season to John Johnson.
I am sad for his sons Mike and Ronald. Mike, like his father, is an embodiment of both tenacity and tenderness. When his Dad was diagnosed with mesothelioma back in the summer of 2011, Mike, a bicycle racer, vowed to win the national championships in his Dad's honor. With a lap to go, bad luck struck. Mike crashed, along with his quest to bestow upon his father the coveted Stars and Bars jersey.

On Sunday, Mike and I went for a ride, a hilly ride in North San Diego County. John, after a massive surgery and 28 rounds of radiation, despite his grit to persevere, was getting weaker as the pain ratcheted upward. Mike is not a dramatic guy. He sort of whispered that this ride was for his Dad, sensing, I think, that the end was near, and he needed to appeal to something bigger than himself, to rise above limits, just like his Dad had done the past six months.

Mike felt the spirit, and had the ride of his life, and it was both wonderful and daunting to keep up with such a motivated man on a spiritual mission.

I am sad, but honored. It's not very often that you come across a man like John Johnson. His obit will say he was a US Marine who loved mountain bikes. It will say he married the love of his life, Sue, 46 years ago, and they fathered two fit and robust boys. It will say he was plumber and an auto mechanic who was exposed to asbestos. It will say he was diagnosed with mesothelioma in August of 2011, had two surgeries, was blasted with radiation, and never gave up hope.

John Johnson mountain
biking in Red Rock
Canyon, NV. 2010
I will remember him for these things, yes, but more than that: his capacity to endure pain for the love of his family. We like to say that the recently departed died with dignity and honor, we say these things because we don't know what else to say and it sounds right and reverential. But I am saying John Johnson died with dignity: I know it. 

On behalf of my partner John Caron, and everyone in my office who were privileged to work with John, we extend our deepest sympathies to Sue, Michael, Nicole, Ronald, Alexa and Noah. We lost a great man, but his legacy of grit with grace will live on, forever.

John Johnson, rest in peace.

Your Friend,

Roger Worthington
January 24, 2012

On Saturday, January 28, 2012 at 9 a.m. there will be a  Memorial Ride honoring John Johnson held at the Cottonwood Valley / Late Night Trailhead at Blue Diamond Rd/NV160 outside of Las Vegas, Nevada.

The ride is sponsored by the The Las Vegas Mountain Bike Group and is open for all level of riders:  beginner, intermediate and advanced.

Click here for more details.

Click here to view photos from the ride!



  1. I have the fortune to meet John and I can say that he was an inspiration to many.
    Rest in Peace.

  2. Sorry to hear the sad news MJ
    I lost my mom to breast cancer
    God only gives us what he knows we can handle and no more
    Your Dad could handle a lot more than most thats for sure
    Its going to be a tuff time for you and your family
    My heart and prayers go out to you and your loved ones
    God Bless you

  3. I love you Dad. You are my Hero, Best Friend and the man I will keep trying to emulate on so many levels. You taught me so much and I am going to miss being with you, sharing stories, family night and going riding with you! Love you son, M. J.

  4. I did a mtn bike ride this morning and found myself thinking about a man that I never met. Knowing his son (MJ) sums up the type of man that John was; and reading that he underwent surgery and 28+ radiation tx's just emphasizes the fight within the individual. My prayers are with the entire family during this time. Jerry