Ironwood Daily Globe from Ironwood, Michigan on June 20, 1998 · Page 3
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Ironwood Daily Globe from Ironwood, Michigan · Page 3

Ironwood, Michigan
Issue Date:
Saturday, June 20, 1998
Page 3
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THE DAILY GLOBE, Ironwood, Ml — inion Saturday, June 20, 1998 Page6 Son gives, up rich career to be with his dying father By LARRY McSHANE AP National Writer NEW CITY, N.Y. (AP) — At first, the father spoke to the son. He spoke of the family's migration north, and the hard times growing up in New York City. He spoke of driving a cab, and picking up celebrity fares: Humphrey Bogart, Gary Grant. He spoke of his own father, a hard-drinking raconteur sometimes seen in the company of . ex-heavyweight champ Jack Johnson. Father's Day '98 The., father was 82, lying in a nursing home bed, dying of lung cancer. The son, now 59, had quit a $750,000-a-yeaf. television'job to hear the father's tales, their two lives suddenly- intertwined by a diagnosis of one's impending death. "I had this moment of clarity: 'This is it. My. father is going to die,'" recalled John Johnson, one of New York's best-known news anchors. "I said, 1 can no longer just fit my father .into my schedule.' "So I excused myself." *T excused my self" — it sounds so simple. But Johnson teft a four-year, guaranteed contract worth $3 million. This was no leave of absence or extended vacation. There was no promise of any return. And he did not hesitate. On Aug. 8, 1997, Johnson did his last show for NBC's New York City station and abandoned its Rockefeller Center studios. He swapped his huge nightly viewer- ship for an audience of one: his cancer-Ptricken father. Four days each week, for the next nine months, he made the 368-mile round trip to a Long Island nursing home. When his father's condition worsened, Johnson moved into a nearby hotel to stretch their .dwindling time together. From Sophocles to Springsteen, writers have pondered the father-son dynamic. The man and the boy butt heads over turf, establish boundaries, bury their emotions. The boy becomes a man. And then, so often,' it ends: somebody dies, and the survivor is- left with a lifetime of words and sentiments unspoken. John Johnson would not'accept •that fate. "I didn't believe that I could go on living a decent life without having spent some time with my father," Johnson said, sitting in his secluded home north of Manhattan, surrounded by family photos. "I very much needed that." Johnson saw his decision as obvious. WNBC-TV Vice President Dennis Swanson, a longtime friend who accepted Johnson's resignation, understood. "Surprised? Not really," Swan- son.said. "You get to that point in your life where things take on a little different perspective. For John, his father became his highest priority. "There was nothing to discuss about that." Sometimes, the father and the son said nothing. The son would patiently feed the father, reversing the roles of infancy. He would provide one of the cigarettes that the father still craved, or watch as the father slipped into sleep. The son would remember waat he knew of the father's life. John Johnson Sr. was the son of a laborer who followed the dollar from Virginia to New York City, a father who died too young and left his family almost destitute. John Sr. met his wife while roller-skating through Harlem; he was 16, she was 13. They were later married, and stayed that way for 58 years. Their only child, John Jr,, arrived shortly before World War II. The family moved briefly to Washington, D.C., where the school system remained segregated. The education was abysmal; the mother taught the son to read and write. John Sr., with a high school diploma, was scrambling to support the family — "working two, three jobs," his son recalled. The family moved back to Brooklyn's Bedford-Stuyvesant section, where the elder Johnson was "a janitor, a cab driver, finally ending up in the post office," the son said. John Sr. was tougher than the times, tougher than the neigh' borhood. The father relaxed with a smoke or a glass of Scotch. He enjoyed fried foods and shunned exercise. He took care of his fami- 5y. ". - -. ••' .••• . ••••• "My father was away working all the time," the younger Johnson recalled. "By the time he had stopped working, I was well outof the house." And well on the way to a successful career. The son had inherited the father's work ethic. John Jr. started at the ABC television network in the late 1960s, assisting on-camera reporter Frank Reynolds in the documentary division. A Reynolds sick "day led to Johnson's first on-air appearance, and he soon became a New York-based network correspondent — one of the first blacks to hold that position. Johnson's first story was the 1971 Attica prison riots, and he quickly developed a first-rate reputation. Johnson's job became his top priority, even as he married twice and had four children — two sons, two daughters. "My television career took its toll on my family," Johnson said reflectively. "To be successful in televisionj you have to be married to the job." Johnson took care of his family. His children became college graduates, solid citizens. And he moved hia parent* out of Bed- Stuy and into suburban Long Island, setting them up in a nice home in a nice neighborhood where they enjoyed a bit of reflected celebrity. Their son had left the network for local television, and they watched him most every night. When Johnson's mother fell ill with cancer in 1994, he was in Los Angeles covering the O.J. Simpson case. Irene Johnson, her son's biggest fan, never missed a broadcast. When her son took'an anchorman's job in March 1995, she was extremely proud. And then, a few days later, she died. Johnson hnd a vague feeling of guilt, that he should have been around more. When faced with word of his father's spreading cancer, he moved to pre-empt a repeat of his mother's last days. "My father liked seeing me on television," Johnson said. "But in the end, my father liked seeing me ... instead of just watching me.". Near the end, the son spoke to the father. He spoke of the times when the father would roller-skate through Harlem, zigzagging recklessly without a care in the world. He spoke of the father's piece of the American dream — the house and the car in the suburbs. He spoke of a devoted wife and "a decent son," the love of a good family. He did not talk about the TV job he had left. The son had returned to his first love, painting, filling canvases with work influenced by the time shared with his father. Their nine months together changed 'the son's view of the world. His new vision does not include a 25-inch screen. Nor does it hold any regrets. "I made the right call," John Johnson Jr. said confidently. There's no doubt about it." Before cancer finally claimed the father's life on April 20, these were his last words: "I'm proud of my Bon;" . . ' ' "' The"feeling was mutual. At' his father's funeral, Johnson stood before the assembled mourners and delivered a eulogy. "I think my father did his job," the son told the crowd. "And I think I did mine." E4SKCTRALL Almanac & Datebook 1 K T W T f 1 M BASEBALL SOCCER GCC meetings open to public June 20, 1998 Today is the 111st day of 1998 and the 93rd day of spring. TODAY'S HISTORY: On this day in 1837, Queen Victoria ascended to the British throne after the death of her uncle, King William IV. On this day in 1893, a court in New Bedford, Mass., acquitted Lizzie Borden of killing her parents with an ax. On this day in 1993, the Chicago Bulls won their third straight NBA championship. TODAY'S BIRTHDAYS: Krrol Flynn (J909-1959), actor; Chet Atkins. U924-), guitarist, is 74; Anne Murray (1945-), entertainer, is 53. June 21, 1998 Special to The Globe The Gogebic Community College bonrd of trustees reminds the community the public is welcome to attend its monthly meet- Board policy provides for public comment and requires only that individuals and groups who wish to make a formal presentation at a board meeting file such a request in writing with the chairman oi' the board or president of the college at least one week prior to the meeting. The presentations will then be held in the regular sequence of Doonesbury the board meeting under the agenda item hearings and petitions. Members of the public may also inform the bonrd chair prior to the start of the meeting they wish to comment on a particular item on the agenda. Such comments will be allowed at the discretion of the chairman, with the usual limit of five minutes for each person. The GCC board welcomes public input and, in fact, places great value on staying in touch with the citizens of the college district, as well as the larger service area. The board asks that input in the form of public comment be presented in an orderly manner that does not alter the format of the meeting. The GCC board meets on the last Tuesday of each month at 6 p.m. in Room 313 of the Erickson Academic Building. Public notices of all meetings are sent out to all local media and posted at least 48 hours prior to each meeting. The agenda is also sent to all local media in advance of the meeting. Today is the 172nd day of J99* and the 94th day of spring. TODAY'S HISTORY: On Ihis day in 1879, Frank Woolworth opened the first 5 If 10 Cent store, in Lancaster, Pa. On this day in 19-18, Dr. Peter Cold mark of CBS demonstrated the playing record. On this day in 1977, Elvis Presley made his last appearance on television. He died less than two months later. TODAY'S BIRTHDAYS: Jane Kus sell (192J-), actress, is 77; O.C Smith (19330, singer, is 65; Wade Phillips (19<7->, football coach, is 51. BY GARRY TRUDEAU THIS 6KEAT Af*CH scene- ' DAILY WISCONSIN NEW3-'*r=fiH ASSN MiCuflAN PRESS ASSOCIATION Gary Lamberg Andy Hill Editor/General Manager Managing Editor Ralph Ansami News Editor Bouquets Ron Howard, Stone Container-Ontonagon plant manager, left, congratulates John Reid, who is retiring from the company. This week, The Daily Globe salutes-.' —John Reid, of Ontonagon, who is considered by many to be one of the finest private industry environmental supervisors in the country. He will retire from Stone Container in Ontonagon on July 1. Reid started at Stone Container in 1973 and worked his way up through the ranks until he was named environmental supervisor in 1982. In 1993, Reid received the Loring F. Oeming Award. He was nominated for the award by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. The award recognizes an individual who has "...demonstrated the do an outstanding job in an industrial facility by producing a good quality effluent from a clean, .orderly plant while interacting with fellow employees and other operators ... for the betterment of the profession." Steve Casey, Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, quoted Dr. Michael Richards, a nationally recognized expert on filamentous bacteria control, who said of Reid, "He's one of the top industrial operators that I have encountered while working in hundreds of plants throughout the country. Not only is he good, but he has a genuine concern for the environment. He not only tries to meet his permit limits, but does the best he possibly can. "Having worked \vith John for eight years, the last four monitoring Stone Container's compliance, I echo Dr. Richards' sentiments. John's cooperative, approach and his efforts towards making Stone Container's compliance record perfect have won the Michigan Department of Natural Resources' esteem," he added. Reid lias been an "outstanding example and inspiration to ail in environmental compliance. I am proud to say I worked with John," said J.R. Richardson, in charge of technical and quality control at Stone Container. - Holiday Station Stores throughout the Upper Peninsula have teamed up with the March of Dimes to promote a flag campaign. Patrons of Holiday Station Stores may purchase an American paper flag for $1, sign their name on it and put it on display at the store. Proceeds from the flag, campaigns will benefit the March of Dimes Great Northern Lakes Chapter. The flag campaign is a fun activity for consumers and it provides needed funds for the March of Dimes in its mission to prevent birth defects, low birth weight and infant mortality. Area residents are encouraged to stop and do their part to improve the health of mothers and babies at Holiday stores in Marquette, Harvey, Negaunee, Ishpeming, Munising, Newberry, Iron Mountain, Iron River, I./Anse, Hancock, Calumet, Ontonagon, Ironwood, Wakcfield, Escanaba and Gladstone. The flag campaign runs through the 4th of July Holiday weekend. For more information, contact Carl Fulsher at 1-800-906-3463.' Safety in the skies General aviation accidents "Hln 1996

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